In Someone Else’s Words

I’m still not over my feelings of anger and sadness about how my second, and last, attempt at breastfeeding failed.

It still hurts me to read about successful breastfeeding relationships.

It still feels like a slap across my face when readers are urged to keep trying, because it does get better and it’s so worth it to stick it out (and I absolutely KNOW that no one is slapping me across the face with that message, it’s just what it feels like when I read it.)

I still wish, every day, that I had that ultimate bonding experience with my son. That I were still enjoying it. That it were a part of our lives.

I think it will get better when he’s older and I can assume we would have stopped anyway, but at nine months, I think we’d still be going strong, had we ever got going at all. So the pain lingers.

There is never a day where I wish I’d kept pumping, but there is also never a day where I don’t regret that we didn’t get to breastfeed.

Sometimes it’s hard to articulate, how and why this hurts so much, why I feel like such a failure.

Then I read a post like this one and I feel such overwhelming gratitude that SOMEONE is able to put it into words so much better than I ever could.

I want to write about this more, hopefully on my public blog–because this is something I’d love to speak about publicly–but I’m not sure if I have the time for it. In case I don’t get my own message out there, I wanted to at least write this here. And link that that article. Because it says everything I wish I could say, better than I could ever say it.

Visiting my sister

On the last day of our trip I went to visit my sister. I put up that post and it probably seemed so simple, that I’d been there. That I brought a pinwheel, that I took a picture. But it wasn’t simple. It still doesn’t feel simple.

Somewhere out there
Beneath the pale moonlight
Someone’s thinking of me
And loving me tonight

In this community there are so many women who have suffered unfathomable loss. There are women whose families have been shaped by adoption. I am in a strange place because those experiences belong to me only peripherally. My life has been shaped by unfathomable loss and by adoption, but I was the sister, not the mom. I’m never sure what that peripheral position allows me to lay claim to. What am I supposed to feel about my sister dying when I was two? How am I supposed to feel about my sister being adopted before I was born?

My parents had gone to visit Stephanie before, without me. My mom mentioned it causally, with only the most subtle hint of despair in her voice. I found her easily, but I couldn’t find my mom, she related. I can never find my mom.

My mom’s is the life marred by tragedy and loss. My mom lays claim to unending pain and suffering. I feel that so fully that I’m never sure what of it belongs to me.

Surely there is enough to go around, and yet I don’t want to overstep my bounds. I don’t want to put my grubby, undeserving hands all over someone else’s suffering.

I’m not quite sure why I wanted to go. I love my sister. I wonder what life would have been like if she lived. I wonder if they would have been able to save her if she’d been born now. I wonder how the hole she left in my parents’ life affected the landscape of our family, of my childhood. But I remember very little of her. I was mad when she died, so angry to be denied my sister. I don’t remember those feelings but they’ve been relayed to me so many times over the years that I lay claim to them as if I did.

Somewhere out there
Someone’s saying a prayer
That we’ll find one another
In that big somewhere out there

I remember visiting her grave as a child, sitting in the back seat of the car singing, Somewhere Out There but knowing that she wasn’t. I remember thinking that it was all too big for me to understand, that I couldn’t really grasp the gravity of our family’s loss. Even back then I wasn’t sure what of that immense grief belonged to me.

I remember leaving pinwheels at her grave. I always positioned mine perfectly so the wind would make it spin. I don’t remember if my mother cried. Surely she did. Or maybe she didn’t. Maybe she held it in for me. We must have gone to visit her after the first stillbirth. And the second. And third. How must her grief have compounded after each loss? Was her experience at my sister’s grave the heavier for the loss of her sons? Or was my sister’s loss always just about her?

I will admit that I didn’t think a lot about my sister during my college years. She would float through my mind every once in a while, and every year at Christmas I’d hang her little pink angel, but mostly her presence was was rarely spoken of, though certainly not unfelt. I assume my mother thinks of her every day, that she always, always remembers.

And even though I know how very far apart we are
It helps to think we might be wishing on the same bright star
And when the night wind starts to sing a lonesome lullaby
It helps to think we’re sleeping underneath the same big sky

My sister is buried with all the other babies. So many babies. So many lost loves, lost dreams, lost hopes. Walking through them, trying to find the one that belonged to me, if only in some small way, I felt an immense sadness. So many lives carved by this grief. So much pain and anguish. How do they possible go on?

I thought of this community, and all the women I know who’ve lost babies. I wondered if I really belonged there, leaving a pinwheel for a sister I don’t think about every day. Part of me felt like I was leaving a tribute for my mom’s grief as much as a remembrance of someone I lost. Since I became a mother, her suffering has come into sharp focus. What was once just an amorphous haze around her now takes a shape and has a name. Her loss is a tangible ache in my heart, one I can’t fathom that she survived.

I’ve thought more about my sister in the last four years of my life than I did in the previous 30. Perhaps that is why I felt the need to see her. And yet, it took four phone calls to finally let it ring and ask my mother where she was. I couldn’t find her on my own, but the idea of asking my mother was almost impossible. We were leaving in two hours and I hadn’t even started to pack so she was understandably confused about why I was there. But she told me the section and the plot and I looked for a while, until I found her.

Somewhere out there
If love can see us through
Then we’ll be together
Somewhere out there
Out where dreams come true

And I cried, for my sister, for my mother, for all the baby loss moms.

And I left a yellow pinwheel, and quietly got in my car and went home.

It’s Over

Today Monito is six months old.

Today is the first day Monito will get no fresh breast milk.

There are still a few frozen bags that will be used over the next week, but they won’t last long.

Our breastfeeding relationship is over. I will never breastfeed again.

It happened rather unceremoniously. I didn’t even realize that the last double pumping session was the last double pumping session until the day after, when I decided to use a hand pump to relieve a little pressure. I’m glad I didn’t realize it was the last session at the time, because I probably would have cried. That might seem silly to someone who loathes pumping, but I spent a lot of time with that machine, it allowed me to give something precious to my son, something I couldn’t manage to give him on my own.

I hated it, but I loved what it did for my baby. I don’t know if that makes sense.

It’s a complicated relationship, and I’m glad I wasn’t forced to face those difficult nuances when I was actually attached to it the damn thing, lost in its rhythmic whirring.

Weaning has been going pretty well, mostly because of the sage (that stuff is POWERFUL). I’ve only been pumping once a day for a few days now, and today I barely pumped 2oz with a hand pump, just to relieve a bit of pressure. I don’t think I’ll have to pump at all tomorrow.

Mostly I’m relieved, but there are moments when it hits me, that we’re done, and I’m sad, sometimes desperately so. I grabbed my prenatal and DHA vitamins last night and it felt like a kick in the chest, the realization that I didn’t have to take them anymore, that I’d never have to take them again. My reaction to that was visceral. It’s hard to explain how it took my breath away.

I took them anyway. I just couldn’t not take them. Not yet.

Last night I bagged up all the pump parts, preparing them for a friend. I was also bagging up the smaller 4oz Dr. Brown bottles and parts because Monito is graduating to the bigger 8oz bottles. I felt so wistful, packaging up all these integral parts of his babyhood. I can’t believe we’ll never need these things again.

I am really quick to give stuff away. I am constantly adding to the bags that go to the consignment store, to friends with babies, to a resource center for pregnant teens. I’m constantly culling the stuff we no longer need, and preparing it for immediate removal from my house. Sometimes I wonder if I’m making a mistake, getting rid of it all so quickly. What if something happens to Monito and we try to have another? What if someone I love wants these things some day?

But I know I need to get rid of it. Every. single. thing. I need to clean it out so that I can heal. If it stays something deep inside will fester. I’m not quite sure what it is, but I’m afraid to face it, so I pack it up and move it out. And I don’t think too much about why.

Monito is no longer a tiny baby.

We are done breast feeding.

Mostly I feel relief, even some happiness, but there is also sadness, disappointment, guilt, failure, and regret.

I took my first med yesterday morning, and it felt wonderful. It really did. My post yesterday, and a conversation it instigated with a friend, pushed me to do some research on the medicine I take. I guess my shame kept me from doing that before, and I’m kind of shocked that I hadn’t looked into it more. Shame really is a powerful motivator, because not knowing what I’m putting in my body is not like me. AT. ALL.

Evidently the medicine I take is an anti-depressant (but not an SSRI) that is also used to treat ADD in children and adults. This makes sense. As I was trying to explain to my friend, I’m never sure how much it helps with my ADD symptoms, but I do know that I do better over all–I don’t have my high highs and my low lows. Even Mi.Vida has noticed how much more emotionally stable I am when I’m on it. When I’m not on something, I am constantly cycling in and out of depressive periods. You can read back through my blog and easily see the ebb and flow its dark, seductive hold on me. When I take this medication I don’t experience that at all. SSRIs have never worked for me, and I kind of quit trying to treat my depression when I started this, because, well, I didn’t feel depressed anymore. At the time, I thought maybe the alleviation of my ADD symptoms made me less depressed. Maybe it’s the opposite, maybe when I feel less depressed, I can handle my ADD symptoms better. Maybe it helps both.

Knowing that there is absolutely some aspect of my mental health that this is helping makes me feel better about taking it. I still plan on looking into long term, non-medicated solutions for my mental health, but right now I am very confident that I am taking this medication for the right reasons, and that it is the best thing for me now. And that feels really, really good.

So that is the big upside and I’m trying to let it buoy me up when the negatives try to pull me down. I read recently that only 16% of mothers in the U.S. breastfeed exclusively until six months. I did a good job. I worked really hard and I gave my son breast milk for the first half of an important year. I want to focus on what I have done, not what I didn’t manage to do. To look at our breastfeeding relationship as a success (because it was, in so many ways) and not a failure.

Unpacking Shame

So, Brené Brown. I’ve been listening to her series of talks called The Power Of Vulnerability constantly for the last four days. I’m totally obsessed with it. I want to listen to it ALL THE TIME. I also want to write about it, but I want to finish the set of talks before I try to unpack all that she’s saying. Plus, I’m pretty sure I can’t do it justice, so I may never even try to “go there.” In the meantime, I want to talk a little bit about shame, mainly, my own shame. Brené Brown talks a lot about shame and how it can’t survive being spoken aloud. I believe that to be true, and so I’m going to write some things now that are very true, and very hard to say, and make me feel really, really vulnerable.

Brené Brown talks a lot about shame. She says some really incredible things about it, about what it is and what it does to us. About how we live in a shaming culture, how we shame others to feel better about ourselves, how shaming ourselves hurts us, and ultimately keeps us from being our happiest selves. As I was listening to her speak about shame, I kept trying to identify my own shame. There were a few things I recognized in my life as shameful, but none of them seemed to be powerfully negative presences in my life.

Then two things happened. The first was that I stepped on a scale at my parents’ house (I don’t own one myself). The number read 167. I was 182lbs the day before Monito was born. I’ve only lost 15 lbs in 6 months, which is basically nothing, since those 15 lbs can be attributed to him, the placenta and water weight. I am officially still 22 lbs over my prepregnancy weight, the most I’ve ever weighed when not pregnant. It was a horribly sobering dose of reality.

The next thing that happened was my massage therapist thought I was pregnant. First he asked me if I could lay on my stomach, and I was a little confused, but I thought he was referring to my clearly gargantuan breasts. At the start of the massage he made another vague reference that I can’t recall now and then half way through he directly referred to “the baby in my belly.” Yeah. That hurt. A lot. In fact, it literally left me breathless.

The reality is I look pregnant. I’m still wearing maternity clothes. My stomach is a giant mess. I look more pregnant now that I did at 5 months, probably. I look big, and fat, and pregnant.

In the car, on the way home from my massage, I reflected back on how awful it felt when I realized he thought I was pregnant, and how angry I was that I hadn’t corrected him (I was so caught off guard that by the time I could think of the words too much time had passed and I couldn’t bring myself to just blurt it out, in the awkward silence). I started sobbing in the car. I was sobbing so hard that I had to pull the car over.

And then it all spilled out. I don’t recognize myself. I’m fat. I’m in credit card debt. I’ve failed at the two things that I was taught were the most important–looking good and being responsible with my money. I am a complete and utter failure.

That’s how I felt. I felt so much shame. Such incredibly, searing, self-loathing, that I could hardly breathe.

And then I sobbed even harder, because I was ashamed for feeling such shame. I was ashamed that I still care so much about how I look. I thought I had gotten over that. I thought I had changed. I thought I had done the REALLY HARD WORK of learning that being skinny didn’t mean being happy, and letting go of my obsession with my weight. I thought I was an enlightened feminist who understands how the media works to sell me lies about what other people look like and what I should look like. I thought I was over this and I wasn’t going to pass this horrible, venomous body imagine on to my daughter, like my mother passed on to me. I thought was more aware than all this, but it turns out I’m not. I’m as much a slave to how I look as I always was. And I’m absolutely going to fuck up my daughter, if I feel this way about myself.

Not only am I a failure in my mother’s eyes for being fat (she has not said this to me, or even hinted it, but I know enough about who she is, to know she feels that way), but I’m a failure in my own eyes, for caring so damn much about it. I’m actually more ashamed for hating how I look, than I am ashamed for the way I look.

I sobbed. And I sobbed, until I couldn’t sob anymore. When I finally stopped, I thought about all I had heard about shame in the past few days, and I realized: Holy shit. She is so right. This shit is poison. This shit will kill my very soul.

So I’m coming on here and I’m laying my shame out for the world to see. And you know what? Already it feels lighter. Already it feels less. And writing what I have gives me the courage I need to admit one more thing, a thing I have never said to any other living soul.

Here it is.

I worry that I take my ADD medicine mostly/only because it helps me control my weight.

There. I said it. And it’s the truth.

I’ve been writing all these months about how I can’t wait to go back on my ADD meds because it will improve my quality of life, and I’ll be able to be more present with my kids and better organized at work, and not a walking shit show every moment of every day. And all that is true. I think it does help with all those things.

But I’m not really sure how much it helps. It’s hard to measure, hard to know for sure.

What I do know for sure is that it suppresses my appetite, and makes me feel in control of the one part of my life that has always felt out of control. So yes, it makes me feel more present and less overwhelmed. It helps with the rampant distractibility, and the anxiety I feel that I’m always about to realize that I’m forgotten something monumentally important. But the real reason I want to take it, is so I’ll stop being hungry and start losing weight. I want to feel control over this part of myself that feels so incredibly out of control. And that is the real reason that I am desperate to take it again.

To put it another way, I don’t know if I’d take it if it didn’t help me control my weight. And I 100% sure that I would not take it if it made me gain weight.

And for that I feel ashamed. I’m not sure if that means I’m taking my meds for the wrong reasons, or if I’m abusing them. I’m not sure if that means I don’t even have ADD and that I just say I do so I can take these things. My shame about this runs so deep that I don’t know how to think about it objectively. I feel like a fraud, an impostor. I feel deep, abject, shame.

{And yes, I will be speaking about this with both my therapist and my psychiatrist, have no doubt.}

One of the things Brené Brown was careful to stress in her talk, was that we can’t just walk up to any old person and lay ourselves bare, for them to see. We should only share ourselves with the people who have shown up before, who have showed us that they can handle these dark parts of ourselves. When I was building up the courage to write this post, I wondered if it was a horrible mistake to write this here, to ask all of you to bear witness to my shame. In the end I decided it was right, because you, my core readers, the ones who comment, the ones I imagine myself speaking to as I write these things, you have shown up. You have demonstrated that you care, again and again. You’ve proven that you can be present with me in the dark places. You can come into my hole, and tell me you understand and give me tools to climb my way back out again. You have shown me empathy, not sympathy, even when you haven’t experienced what I have, and you’re not sure what to say. You have earned my trust in sharing my shame. And I feel very grateful that I have you now, when I need you most.

Thank you for reading this today. Thank you for bearing witness to me now, in my dark places. Thank you for not using my shame against me, and thank you for showing me empathy in my time of need.

More on What I Want

This post, take 97. (Seriously, I’ve been trying to write this, and three other posts, for a week now. And it ended up being super long and even more boring, so please feel free to skip it, and get on with what could still be a perfectly decent Tuesday.)

I wrote that What I Want post on Thursday night, while I was pumping. It was late, later than I had intended, and I got tired. I ended up falling asleep three times while I was writing it. When Mi.Vida got home from an event he scolded me for staying up so late and I sheepishly finished the post up and went to bed. It was for the best, it was getting late, and the post was getting long, and I was never going to be able to write all I had wanted to write.

But I did want to process a couple of specific situations that spurred me to write about this topic, to see if maybe I might figure some things out in the putting of words down on “paper.” That is what I’m trying to do today.

I’ve mentioned here before that I do some volunteer copyediting for the magazine that a very large mother’s group puts out in San Francisco. It’s a 40 page, color publication–very professionally put together, despite the fact that no one on the 30+ person staff gets paid a penny for their contribution. We have monthly meetings where we discuss the themes of up coming issues, brainstorm article ideas and determine writing (and photography) assignments. The copy editors have the first twelve days of the month to do first- and second-edits on the articles they have chosen to work with. Then two people have to proofread the entire magazine after the designers have put it together.

The first two weeks of the month are definitely a bit stressful, knowing that there are articles I should be working on. First edits really should be finished in the first week so they can get to second editors in time for the authors to check them over before the final deadline. We rely a lot on each other and I feel really guilty when I know someone is waiting on my second edits, or I know I’m not giving someone much time to do second edits on my pieces.

I also don’t think I’ve very good at copyediting. I’ve never had any formal training in it, and while I’m a stickler about certain common grammar errors, there are other rules I’m not familiar with at all. I’m a horrible speller and never know if a compound words should be separated, hyphenated or put together. I also struggle with knowing when it’s appropriate to make changes; sometimes I can’t tell if I word choice or word order is actually creating confusion, or I would just rather write it another way. Copyediting it actually really hard, and my lack of self-confidence makes it difficult work for me. At the same time I appreciate doing anything associated with writing, even the less glamorous toiling of a copy editor.

The best thing about working at the magazine is that I get to write articles. I’ve probably had over a dozen pieces printed and half of them have been features. I even wrote a feature about secondary infertility not long ago. It really is awesome to see my words in print and to know that thousands of women will read them (our distribution list is over 5,000 households strong). Readers have contacted me because of my writing and I even befriended a woman who saw (in my bio) that I live in her neighborhood.

The magazine requires a significant time commitment, and right now I don’t have a ton of time. Every month I consider telling them it’s my last. A lot of the women who were spearheading the effort when I started (almost three years ago, where does time go?!) recently retired. I like the women who are still working there, and I feel the magazine is in good hands, I’m just not sure I want to continue being a part of it.

Trying to determine whether or not I should stay has been a big part of my What Do I Want conversation with myself. Every month I go over why I might want to stay at the magazine, and every month I’m left a bumbling mess of I’m-not-sure-what-to-do-somebody-help!

What it basically boils down to is identifying why I might want to stay at the magazine and then determining whether I think the magazine can actually provide me with those things. Finally, I have to decide if those things are worth the time commitment required.

And this is where it gets muddled in my mind. I suppose I stay on the magazine for three reasons: (1) I would love to meet a good friend on its staff; It doesn’t seem too far fetched to hope that I might meet a woman I could be friends doing something that I love with other women who also love it. (2) I appreciate the opportunities to write for a larger audience, and under my own name; getting assignments that are sometimes outside my comfort zone force me to grow as a writer. I also believe that copyediting makes me a better writer, even if I don’t think I’m very good at it. (3) Finally I like that I’m doing something non-teaching related that I could put on my resume, if I ever decided that I really needed to leave teaching lest I lose my mind.

It took me a long time to compose that simple list. It was really hard for me to figure out what I wanted from this commitment. And I suppose it will take even longer for me to determine if the time commitment is worth what I believe it can give me.

At this point, almost three years into my commitment to the magazine, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to meet a good friend amongst its staff. While I’ve met many women that I like and respect, there hasn’t been one that I’ve felt I genuinely connect with (I’m beginning to think I’m really hard to connect with, that I come off as harsh and standoffish and that is why I have such a hard time making friends. I think people either really like me, or they aren’t interested in being around me at all). I’ve definitely tried to spark a friendship with a few women but none have seemed overtly interested (and a few have seemed overtly NOT interested–see parenthetical ruminations above). But new women are “hired” frequently, so I guess I’m stilling holding out hope that I might meet, “the one.” (Ha! Sometimes I think making a good friend is as hard to manage as finding the love of your life–seriously!)

As far as writing, I really do like writing for the magazine and I know I could get more assignments if I just spoke up and asked for them (I don’t because the time commitment, on top of copyediting, can be overwhelming; I only ask to write if I feel really passionate about the topic or if they request I write something specifically.) There is also a part of me that appreciates the copyediting and chooses to see it as a challenge and a way to hone my skills.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to use this experience on a resume, but I suppose it doesn’t hurt to have it in my back pocket. I haven’t determined whether it’s worth it to keep copyediting on the off chance I’ll want the experience some day.

So in the end, I’m not sure what to do. I don’t really think I’ll make a new friend on the staff, but I do like writing articles (and sometimes even copyediting), and I’m not sure if resume builder will help me some day. So the reasons I might stay are (1) most probably not valid, (2) mostly valid and (3) of uncertain validity. Do you see why I’m not sure what to do?

This whole situation is compounded by the fact that I just have so little time. Every night I want to do a half dozen things and I have time for one, maybe two if I sacrifice 30 minutes of sleep. When time is so precious, I want to make sure I’m spending it in the ways I want. And it’s hard to know what those ways are, when I’m not sure what the future holds. I’d hate to quit the magazine, and then want to make a major change in my life one day, only to realize that more years of publishing experience would have helped me.

I’m sorry to babble on incoherently about all this for so long. I’m sure it’s been a total bore. I just feel like this situation is representative of my What Do I Want? question as a whole. I would ask you all what I think I should do, but I know it’s hard to give advice in these kinds of situation. Still, if you have any words of wisdom, or can share a similar experience of your own, I’d be much obliged.

Feeling like a failure

Wow, it has been QUIET in the blogosphere lately. My reader is thin and no one is commenting. I’m trying to go out there and do unto others, as they say, but mostly the vibe seems to be… quiet. I’m sure it’s just people gearing up for the holidays. Around here it’s more about gearing up for be home alone with both kids for two weeks. Mi.Vida only gets Christmas Day and New Years Day off so I’ll be home alone with the kids for 8 days. I know this is what SAHM do all the time, but, well, there is a reason I’m not a SAHM. 😉 It’s definitely going to be crazy and I suspect we’ll be spending the night at Nana and Papa’s (my parents’) house at least once, if not more.

But that is not what I sat down to write about. Today I sat down to talk about breastfeeding… again.

I know, I know. ENOUGH already. But there it is, itching a certain spot in my brain, making me want to write about it.

You see, today Teo had his two month well baby visit. I didn’t realize there would be SO MANY vaccinations and I didn’t have a bottle ready–I had left them in the car to bring to his grandparents’ house. Of course after all the shots he was pretty upset. I thought popping him on the boob for a few minutes might calm him, so I whipped one out, the right one, the one we generally had better luck latching on.

And of course, it was a total disaster. A shit show of epic proportions.

He sputtered and gagged and smacked and pulled off and got milk all over his face. He was more upset AFTER the attempted breastfeeding that he was before.

And so was I.

The whole ordeal settled such a deep feeling of failure in me, I could barely smile at the nurse on the way out, and she had been so kind when taking Monito’s measurements, I really wanted to return her kindness. It has only been 2.5 weeks since we abandoned exclusive breastfeeding for exclusive pumping and I had already forgotten how BAD it made me feel. I wonder if I ever really realized how awful it made me feel while I was actually doing it. I think back then I was so close to it, so intwined in the guilt and self-expectation and personal desire to make it work that I didn’t realize the desponded feeling of failure it inspired in me.

I think I had an idea of it, when I watched Monito first take a bottle and I saw with my own eyes that the issues he has with eating are much more about him than me and my ability to latch him on properly. He has all the same issues eating from a bottle as he does from a breast, which means it’s not about getting him to latch on well at all. I think at that point I felt a huge weight lift and now I recognize that as the leadened weight of failure, of not being able to do that which everyone says I should be able to do, that which everyone says EVERY WOMAN should be able to do, if we just stick with it and work hard enough.

Except I did stick with it and I did work hard, we just had so many factors working against us, like both oversupply and overactive letdown, treatment-resistant thrush, mastitis (turned to sepsis) and a bad latch/suck. I tried so hard, I consulted so many professionals, I made it my mission to persevere and find a way. But there was no way, not for us. Not without constant pain and frustration and misery.

Watching my son struggle to find comfort in breastfeeding–and failing miserably–I felt guilty, but not for stopping breastfeeding. I actually felt guilty for continuing as long as I did. In the thick of it, when I wanted to make it work SO BADLY, I didn’t let myself see how miserable it was making not just me, but both of us. He was just as unhappy as I was, maybe even more so, but I was forcing him to keep trying to prove to myself that we could make it work, that if we just tried hard, and long enough, we would eventually be successful.

And who knows, maybe we would have. Maybe at month three, or four, or five, it would have clicked for us. Maybe the oversupply would have evened out and the thrush would have finally resolved and he would have learned to latch and suck well enough. Maybe, eventually, it would have gotten better, but at what cost? Would that really have been the best thing for him, or for me? For either of us?

I really truly believe the answer is NO. Continuing to breastfeed was NOT the right answer for us. For some people, refusing to quit is not appropriate, not for mother OR child. And I think that story needs to be told, because there are so many stories about perseverance leading to success. Sometimes perseverance just leads to more misery and while the decision about when to quit, or to keep trying, is a very personal one–a decision that women should be supported in making no matter what they decide–women should hear as many stories about how others have resolved their issues with breastfeeding as they can, so they might be informed when making their own choice.

I obviously still have a lot of processing to do about all of this. I never fathomed that breastfeeding could be such an important issue to me, I always thought I just didn’t really care that much about it, either way. It turns out I only felt that way because I was able to do what I wanted last time, at least I was able to do what I thought I wanted. I was able to feel successful. In the absence of that feeling of success, I had to redefine my relationship with breastfeeding, to tear down my assumptions and rebuilt my beliefs from the foundation up.

And I’m doing that, slowly but surely. It’s taking a while, longer than I expected. Just last night I read a post about a difficult breastfeeding experience that eventually ended up being exactly what the author had always wanted and I found it pressed a finger deep into a psychic wound that is not yet healed. I found myself telling my story, defending myself, even though I knew the author had been reading along and knew what I had been through (and had supported me all the way). Despite knowing I was understood there, I still felt the need to post my story, because I wanted to be sure that if someone else found that post and the sentiment that “if you just keep going it will get better” wasn’t what they needed to hear, I wanted to write a different account, one that didn’t end the way its author wanted but that still ended somewhere positive. I wanted to validate what I had been through by telling people that there is another way, because I so rarely heard those stories before my own struggle and I wish I could have known more about the other paths people take.

It turns out there are more roads than just “breastfeeding” and “formula feeding” and many women have forged their own paths somewhere between those well trafficked highways. We need to tell these stories, in all their messy complexity, more often. And we need to support women in whatever path they want to take, and ultimately in whatever path they end up taking.

New Goals

Over the last four and a half years, and almost 1200 posts, I’ve written about wanting a lot of things. And over the past four and a half years, I’ve achieved most of those things, at least the most important. On January 4th of next year I will get married and with that act I will be able to say that all my biggest dreams have come true, and I wonder, what does one do with her life when has everything she ever hoped for? What do you work for when it’s all been achieved?

I like goals. I like to strive for things, to plan strategies and then execute them. I like to look back on what I’ve done with a sense of pride. I am personally fulfilled by my achievements, they buoy me when times are tough.

I’m not really sure what I’ll do when I have all the most important things I ever wanted. I have a man that I love and we’re in a committed relationship (soon to be legal! Woot!) We have two beautiful children. We have a house in the city (this still seems insane to me, almost as insane as the second kid thing). We have the life we always wanted, or at least the life I always wanted. We’re living the dream. My dream.

So now, what do I do? I suppose I just live this life. This is why I wanted it, right? So I could live it? And that is what I mean to do. To live this life with gratitude and gusto. To never take it for granted. To find happiness in all these things my heart desired, because if I can’t find happiness in this life, certainly I don’t deserve it.

I can tell I’ll still need focus, something to strive for. Now that I have all the most important things, I need to decide what else I want. I think I have, too. I think I know what I want to do. Every year, I want to focus on one thing, to work on something, to cultivate it. This coming year, the first calendar year of my desired life, I want to work on patience. It seems the perfect focus for my first year as a mother of two and so that is what I will work on, that is what I will strive for. Patience.

I want to be more patient, with my daughter, with my son, with my partner, with myself. I need to be patient with this body that is so slow to return to its former shape (and may never look like it did ever again). I need to be patient with my daughter as she makes this difficult transition and struggles with feelings that a 3.5 year old doesn’t understand. I need to be patient with my partner as he learns how to be a father of two children, as he learns to live with even less time for himself and his pursuits. I need to be patient with my son, as he begins to assert his independence, as he figures out who he is and how he fits into this family that already existed before he was even born. I need to be patient with myself as I struggle to give my children the care they deserve while also caring for myself. I need to patient with my students who don’t understand what my life is like at home, or why I’m so tired or how much I crave just a little bit of silence. I have to patient with the person trying to parallel park when I’m in a hurry or the pedestrian meandering across the street when I’m late picking my daughter up from school. I need to be patient.

In being patient I will give myself space, I will carve out small moments of time for myself and my family, I will make fewer mistakes, I will regret fewer reactions. In being patient I will find happiness, I will be content, I will appreciate more, I will find acceptance.

And so now, on the cusp of the rest of my wonderful life, I choose patience, at least for this year. And next year, when I know what I else need to be happy, I will work on that. Hopefully, as I commit myself to being the person I want to be, I will better appreciate this life I’ve always wanted, that I’m so, so fortunate to have.