Lately I am feeling challenged around the personal growth required by mothering. There are things I want to be as a mom: patient, understanding, accepting. And as I navigate the new demands of this time period – returning to work, busy summer – I am finding a severe lack of these qualities.
Today exemplified my lack of patience and perspective. Nursing has reemerged as an emotionally charged issue for me. I am determined to maintain my limited milk supply and keep nursing baby as long as she wants. Circumstances, however, are problematic. Reframed (ah yes, the mediation course is definitely useful!), I would say that I have the opportunity to develop creative solutions to new situations. Opportunity means that I’m not there yet.
You see, baby is not simply an extension of me who does whatever I want done when I want. She is remarkably independent and not into external controls. Really, in general, I would say that it’s not possible to make a baby do something she doesn’t want to do. And unless we’re in a familiar, quiet setting with few distractions or people around AND she is also hungry AND not super-involved in another activity, she won’t nurse. Won’t. I pick her up repeatedly, twist and turn her, but her mouth will be nowhere near my breast. And even if I could force that connection to happen, if she doesn’t want to suckle, she won’t. So I don’t push it. Result: if we’re visiting friends, or out enjoying the town for the day, or I’m visiting her over my lunch break, I might as well not even bother trying to nurse her. Even if I can tell she’s hungry, she will rarely feed on me.
This is where my stress comes in. For those unfamiliar with breastfeeding, let me summarize: once you get fast the first month or so of breastfeeding, milk supply is essentially a supply and demand proposition. The more you take out of the breast through breastfeeding and pumping, the more your body produces. Breasts that are full with milk signal your body to slow or eventually stop milk production. Over time, breasts that reach and stay full more will reduce milk produced, sometimes dramatically. One friend had her supply drop off hugely after just one workday without a pumping session. In general, it’s noted that women who only pump have a drop-off in milk. Given my already limited supply, I’m particularly concerned that I empty my breasts at least every 4 hours; preferably every 3 during the day. And practically, I haven’t figured out how to do this when she nurses less and my pump takes 25 minutes and I’m rushing around to work, etc. So I get afraid that too many long stretches without feeding or pumping will cause my supply to drop and that the fall-out from that will be even less nursing and lots more work.
These negative thoughts drive an immature emotional response: angry, sulky, resentful, negative. Not pretty. Also not conducive to milk production. I would like to transcend this.
Tonight as I was feeding her I was singing some prayers. I started to tune into one line about God as the remover of all difficulties and I realized that once again, I am trying to control things that ultimately are beyond my control. I can’t control my daughter’s choices, even at this young age. I can’t control my body’s milk production, even though I can try to pump more often. All I can do is the best I can do. And negative thinking will ultimately negatively impact my relationship with her and her sense both of me as a mother, and of herself as a worthwhile being. It really is my choice. And yes, I’m still resentful of and angry about the problems I’ve had with breastfeeding. But all I can do is the best I can do and move forward. Though my actions today don’t really show this, I would rather a life filled with acceptance and happy moments than negativity and misery.
I hope tomorrow will bring some perspective and maturation. And possibly the purchase of a faster breast pump.