Friday, March 27, 2015

On Being Enough

So much has happened since I last posted here, and I mean really posted, that it seems ridiculous to catch everything up. Plus, I don't have time for that.

What I can say is that on December 3, 2014 many years worth of wishing, hoping, and praying came true when our little guy, Maxwell Robert, came into this world. Screaming and <seemingly> very tiny he has changed our lives in a way we couldn't have imagined before he was here.

And he had a rough transition to the outside world. Despite my best efforts to breastfeed, he would not latch. He was getting so frustrated. I'm not sure what it was, and perhaps if he had been a bigger baby I could have had the time to figure it out. But one night during his first week home he was bright read - verging on purple- from screaming so much. I was near tears. I told Charlie to go get my Mom, and we decided we needed to give him a bottle. And he sucked it down like he had never been fed before.

So I tearfully determined that I would pump and give him breastmilk that way. I tried to breastfeed him for a few days after that, but he was really not all that interested, and I did not want to have that argument with him, so I started pumping exclusively. And I researched and I pumped and I drank Mother's Milk tea (even though I hate tea) and I ate oatmeal and made lactation cookies. And after a few weeks I was able to get my supply to a place that I didn't need to supplement. And then I started putting some in the freezer.

I thought for sure when my Mom left I would have to stop pumping. And there were definitely some nights that Charlie and I were both on board with stopping. He was so colicky. Always crying, always crying. And we were ruining our knees bouncing, rocking, swaying. We become expert swaddlers. But he would not sleep. He hardly ever napped well and would only sleep a few hours at a time at night. Every book told us to avoid overtired. Maximize sleep and minimize crying. Whatever that meant.

But I was lucky to have a husband who was home with me for 8 weeks. And was supportive of pumping. And so we continued. I went back to work, and I pumped before I left, I arranged my schedule so I could pump mid-morning. I pumped at lunch and in the afternoon and after he went to bed. I pumped before I went to bed and got up in the middle of the night to pump. After he was 12 weeks old I started to drop pumps, and went down to 5-6 times per day, but kept the time constant.

After I went back to work, Max turned a corner. He started to suck on his hands about the time I went back, and at that same time he started to need to be put down to sleep. He didn't know he needed that, but he could no longer fall asleep on our arms as he had done since he was born. In our efforts to minimize crying, we had never let him fall asleep on his own, because that would have involved significant crying. So he just didn't sleep and he cried and cried and cried until Charlie was sure that he had ruined him somehow. So we started sleep training. And it went well. He started to sleep from 6-7pm to 7-8am with 3-4 feedings at night, which was a major advance for him.

And most of that nighttime feeding fell to Charlie. I had to work and I had to pump overnight. And I had to go to the OR. So he insisted on taking the brunt of the nighttime feedings. I always fed him at least once, because I love that time with him. But that usually meant I was up for an hour or more during the night.

And I continued to struggle with how much time I got with him. I was so happy for him to be sleeping better, but he went to bed so early, I barely had any time with him at all in the evening. So I started to get up early so I could pump and shower before he got up. That way we usually had 30-60 minutes together in the morning before I left for work and gave Charlie a bit more time to sleep. But I was sad to not help more at night and Charlie was getting pretty sleep deprived. I was very sleep deprived. I would get up at 5:00AM. Pump, shower, and get Max when he woke up. Go to work. Come home at lunch, go back. Get home at 5:00-5:30PM. Put Max to bed. Pump while Charlie made dinner, eat, then often work on charts from work until 8:00 or 8:30PM. Watch a little TV, pump, and go to bed by 10:00. Up at 1:00 or 2:00 AM to feed Max and pump, back to bed in an hour to be up again at 5:00.

So I started to thinking about weaning from the pump. We both needed more sleep, and Charlie needed more of a break, though he would support me no matter my decision. When I thought about stopping pumping, I felt like I was "quitting". Like I was making a selfish decision. What was a little sleep to me if it was better for Max? But, as Charlie pointed out, most women would not have even pumped this long. And most that had did not have my job. And it is two hours out of my day, time that usually comes when I should be sleeping or with  my son. There is more to being a mother than feeding your baby.

And the AAP encourages mothers to breastfeed for 6 months. This is based on research that shows significant benefits for babies who are breastfed this long. But when you read their stance, the vast majority of the benefit has been achieved by 4 months. And there are many babies who were not breastfed who ended up doing alright. My Mom, Dad, and Charlie for example.

So, for all these reasons, I am extremely proud of me and Charlie for pumping for Max this long. It was truly a joint effort, even if I was the one hooked up to the pump. But I am going to wean off of it. I don't want to come home at lunch and watch Charlie play with Max while I pump. I want to play with Max. And I want to be the one to get up at night and feed him while he wraps his little hands around my fingers holding his bottle. And I want to be able to sleep an extra hour or so because I don't have to pump in the middle of the night and first thing in the morning so that I can be better rested and I don't get run down and burnt out.

I still feel guilty. Mother's guilt is something terrible. We hold ourselves to a standard we would never hold anyone else. But all I can do is try to be the best mother and wife I can be. And I think that right now that means weaning off the pump so I can spend more time with my baby and take a bit off my husband's plate when it comes to caring for him.

1 comment:

Tammie said...

love this post! I hope you continue to post sort of regularly. Mother's guilt must be in our DNA....just know that you are doing an incredible job with Max. And remember something Marilyn Pugliese, my therapist when I decided to stay home full time with you and Augusta said: "Don't let guilt get in the way of being present to the kids. Your children don't want perfection they want to be loved."