Nothing could have prepared me for parenthood. Nothing. In November 2014, my husband and I brought home a tiny human being that was completely dependent on us and neither of us had a CLUE as to what to do with him! I think most new parents have this same moment when they arrive home with a new family member. I vividly remember looking at Pete and saying, “Now what?!”
The first few weeks at home with Z, I was a coffee-soaked, sleep-deprived, zombie. I never knew what time it was or what day it was. I was in a constant state of feeding and/or pumping. Around the clock. Never ending. The problem was, I wasn’t producing enough milk. I met with lactation consultants during our extended stay at the hospital (Z had jaundice) and through their best efforts, I only managed two, yes TWO, successful latches and feeding sessions before they sent us home.
Z was tongue-tied, which made it nearly impossible to get a good latch. Even after he had his minor “tongue freeing” surgery at six days old, he was still unable to get milk from me directly. I was pumping all the time to try to get just enough to keep our baby fed. We were supplementing with formula, which was something we didn’t want to do initially, but it seemed necessary since I couldn’t produce enough milk. I was eating foods to stimulate lactation and I was drinking my body weight in water. Nothing seemed to work. My milk volumes were dwindling and the amount of formula we were feeding him increased. Soon, we were supplementing formula with breastmilk. Six weeks into parenthood, we decided to switch to a formula-only diet.
A few days after officially shelving the breast pump, I was at the grocery store. Z was snoozing in his carrier and I was just picking up a few things: dinner fixings, creamer for my coffee/IV drip, and formula. I remember entering checkout line 6 behind an older woman. She looked back at me, smiled, cooed at Zach and then glanced at the ridiculously expensive tub of baby formula in my cart.
“You know, they say the breast is best!” she said cheerfully. Sure, she was making conversation. Sure, she meant no harm. In fact, she probably thought she was just offering friendly advice to a new and obviously exhausted mom at the grocery store. I smiled and replied, “Yep!”
Inside, my chest was tightening. I continued to smile. Tears pricked at my eyes as I concentrated on filling my lungs with oxygen. I told myself to keep calm. The woman paid the cashier, smiled, and said goodbye. I waved with a fake smile plastered on my face. As soon as she walked out of the door, tears started streaming down my cheeks. I quickly unloaded my groceries and paid, while wiping my eyes frantically and trying not to make eye contact with the cashier. I raced out of the store and to my car, practically sprinting.
Once Z and I were in the security of my car, the waterworks began and I sat there, unleashing a flood of frustration, emotion, anger, sadness, and despair. How could eight little words unhinge me in such a way? This was the first of countless completely unglued parental meltdowns that would plague me over the next few years.
In one afternoon, my greatest fear had been realized: my fear of not being a good enough parent to this sweet, helpless little person. I don’t think I’m alone in this fear. In this age of social media and information at our fingertips, it is nearly impossible for parents to find good quality information about parenthood that doesn’t have at least a thin veil of judgment or superiority. “The breast is best” – I’m sorry, but in my opinion, keeping your child alive and fed is best. Doing what makes sense for your family and your situation is best. SUPPORTING ONE ANOTHER is best.
Let’s stop the Mommy Wars! Can we not just agree that we are all different: we come from different backgrounds, we have different cultures, we have different genetic makeup, we have different living situations, WE ARE DIFFERENT. There is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to parenting.