It’s pretty trite to say when you bring home a new baby for the first time, your life changes. I knew OUR life would change — that collective life my husband and I share — forever. I knew there would be less going out, there would be less time for each other, there would be less of everything (except, obviously, love.) What I somehow didn’t expect was how much MY life would change. I forgot to consider my life as an individual. Sure, I’d thought about how it meant putting off getting settled in my career and shelving the idea for a Ph.D. for some time, but the concept of minute-to-minute changes was foreign to me.
The most startling change came as a result of deciding to be a nursing mother. (Now here I say I “decided” to be a nursing mother, as though it was 100 percent in my control, and fully admitting there was a lot of luck involved. Any of us who has nursed or attempted to nurse a baby knows it isn’t always that simple, and I’m very grateful I had that opportunity.) Because I was nursing, I was the one who soothed her when she cried, who tended to her in the night, who felt as though I was the only one who could care for her properly. And I resented it. A little bit. Because while I was attached to the baby, my husband was at work, living the exact same life he had lived just a month prior.
[At this point, I feel I need to point out that this was NOT the case at all. Matt is an exceptional father. He makes me look bad in comparison, honestly, and he’d have Vio in his arms every single moment she wasn’t nursing. But he still couldn’t NURSE her, and that was the only difference my sleep-deprived-baby-blues-addled brain needed to justify the resentment.]
At the hospital, I passed Vio off to Matt as often as I could. She needed to suckle almost constantly, so he would let her suck on his fingers for an hour so I could get some rest. She was mildly jaundiced and slightly dehydrated, and looking back on it now I blame that “laziness” in the hospital. (Which is slightly ridiculous, but HI AM MOTHER GOTS GUILT.) As soon as Vio hit three or four weeks old, or however old I arbitrarily determined she would no longer confuse my nipple with the one on the bottle, I started pumping so the feeding duties could be spread out. This gave me such tremendous relief, knowing not every drop of her food had to come at the expense of my ability to move about the house freely. But. This created another problem.
I am GOOD at getting things done that need to get done, but I really only shine when I know I have to be the one to do them. I always dread my husband’s business trips, but I feel I come alive when he’s gone, knowing I have to rely on myself and no one else. The chores that would be bothersome to me when he is here become part of What Must Be Done, and I take pride in pushing through it all.
Once I knew I didn’t have to be the one to feed her all the time, it became MORE of a chore to feed her if someone else was around. Why was I having to be tied to the baby when she could be given a bottle? I still loved to nurse her. I treasured every one of those moments curled up with her on the couch or snuggled in bed late at night. But if I wasn’t the only one home, I wanted nothing to do with it. (There is a whole story here about Vio’s reflux and how I had to stop nursing and switch to pumping when she was around 4 months old, which SHATTERED me, but that is neither here nor there in relation to this post.)
Fast-forward two years later when Roo was born. In the hospital, I nursed that little baby just as much as I could. If she needed to suckle, I nursed. I nursed and I nursed and I nursed. And she wet diaper after diaper. (But she was also jaundiced. Actually moreso than Vio. This did not kill the aforementioned Guilt, however.) When we got her home, I just kept nursing her until my milk came in, and I relished the moments in the middle of the night when she would stay latched for hours.
What made it easier for me to put myself fully in charge of Roo’s needs was the existence of Vio. Matt still had to be a dad, EVEN when I was nursing. He was the one to fetch the 900 morning snacks and build the Duplo towers and read Horton Hears a Who three times in a row. Nursing Roo was actually a BREAK, a chance to sit on the couch and catch up on blogs. I remember sitting there and taking it all in, and it boggled my mind to think that nursing had ever felt like a chore.
We still offered Roo a bottle, this time a bit later. Not until she was five or six weeks old. But I dreaded it, honestly. I didn’t push it at all. I pretended to be excited at the possibility of a break, but, truth be told, I didn’t want one. From the get-go, I knew if that little baby needed to eat, I had to be the one to do it. Bottles just are not an option with her.
So I maintain the WOE IS ME persona and pretend life would be easier if she took a bottle, but I know the opposite of that is true. With Roo, I savor each nursing session, even the ones in the middle of the night, that still sometimes come every. other. hour. at nearly nine months. This one is all mine, and I’m not letting go until she’s ready.