Mommy Guilt   2 comments

Before I had Millie people kept telling me that I would love her more than I’d ever loved before. I believed them. Even though I couldn’t fathom just how much I would love her, I understood that it would be a new, overwhelming love— it’s Mommy Love. And do you know what goes great with Mommy Love? A heaping serving of Mommy Guilt. Mommy guilt is a new, overwhelming guilt, unlike any guilt I’d ever felt before. Since becoming a mother, I have felt guilty for sooooo many things (and yes, the use of numerous “o’s” was absolutely necessary):

  • When we first brought Millie home from the hospital, I felt guilty when I asked Nate for help. Since I was on leave from work, I thought that I should bear the full responsibility of comforting and caring for Millie, especially during the overnight hours. I slept in the guest bedroom for the first week of her life so that Nate could get a full night’s rest before having to go into work. The first few nights, it was fine. I was running on adrenaline and love. But, after about a week, I was just plain exhausted. And I felt immeasurable guilt when I finally asked Nate for help in the evenings. It was so stupid, though. Nate was happy to help (he’d take the 9-11 pm shift so I could get some rest) and I would have had a breakdown if I’d gone much longer without sleep.
  • I felt guilty for going back to work. From the moment I found out that I was pregnant I knew that I would be a working mom. Nate and I discussed it thoroughly and we knew that this was the best decision for our family. However, that did not make it much easier when the day came for me to return to work.
  • Once I went back to work, I felt guilty for leaving Millie on the weekend so I could get my hair cut. I was gone for about 45 minutes and Millie napped for most of that time, but it didn’t alleviate my guilt. I left her for 45 minutes when I’d already left her for 40+ hours that week. Ugh.
  • And now, the biggest guilt-inducer of all—BREASTFEEDING. Part of me does not want to include this in my blog post, because I’m feeling sooooo incredibly guilty for what I’m about to say (type, whatever) but I’m hoping it will be therapeutic to write. Before I became a mother, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. Breast is best. If you’ve ever read a pregnancy book (from What to Expect to Babywise) you’ll recognize the phrase. And, since I wanted the absolute best for my baby, I was all about breastfeeding. There are so many benefits for baby and mother. Plus, everyone and every book says it’s such a wonderful bonding experience. Well, do you want to know about my experience? Breastfeeding sucks. (You have no idea how guilty I feel for typing that.) For me, breastfeeding has not been some magical experience. It wasn’t bad at the beginning. I’ve always been amazed by my body’s ability to nourish my baby. It’s pretty cool. But, it comes with some not cool side effects like leaking, engorgement, and–unless you’re one of those ladies who can just whip it out in front of anyone— it comes with a special serving of banishment every 2-3 hours (yes banishment… I always feel like I’ve been banished to a lonely bedroom when it’s time to feed Millie when we have company). While I was home on maternity leave, though, it didn’t seem all that bad. The leaking was annoying, but it was pretty much under control by the time Millie was 1  month old. What really sucks is pumping. I HATE dragging my pump with me on the bus to work. The seats are tiny and the 9 lb pump is bulky. I HATE pumping at work. It’s a major interruption and time-consuming (I have the same work load as everyone else, but I have to take 20 minute “breaks” every 3 hours). My hands are chapped, raw, and bleeding as the result of constant hand- and pump-parts washing. And, here’s the kicker, I’m just not producing enough milk.  While I am work, Millie takes 3 bottles that are between 4.5 and 5 oz each. That means I need about 15 oz of pumped milk to send to the sitter each day. BUT after 3 pumping sessions, I am lucky to get a total of 9 oz. This week, I haven’t been able to get more than 7. Which means I have pump multiple times in the evening after work. I don’t even get to play much with Millie when I’m hooked up to my good ‘ole Pump n Style for a “Power Pump”— 10 minutes on/ 10 minutes off for an hour— it’s intense. And, even after power pumping like a champ, I end up having to dip into my tiny, dwindling freezer stash, which means I start stressing, which means my supply problem gets even worse…. and all the while, I have this crushing feeling of guilt. It would be easier to just supplement with formula. Ah, but then I’m not giving Millie the best! BUT at least then I’d have more time to play with her (less time pumping at home means more time playing, right?). Ah, but remember mother’s milk is like liquid gold— I can’t deprive her of that! Then again, I don’t have the healthiest diet (vegetables are rarely— more like never— on my plate) so certainly my milk isn’t liquid gold… No, breast is best! Just think of the antibodies!… Still, I think I’d like to stop pumping… No, that’s just being selfish… But some breast milk is better than none and I’ve fed her for 4+ months!… Ah, but that’s not good enough! 6 months is recommended and the World Health Organization recommends bf-ing for 2 years! Do you see? I’m just scratching the surface here! Mommy guilt. It’s relentless. Have you read Bossypants by Tina Fey? She has a whole section of a chapter where she discusses nursing vs formula feeding and refers to some of the crazies as Boob Nazis (or something like that). There are people out there who liken baby formula to poison and some who think the FDA should print warnings on formula labels like they do on cigarette packages (I am not making this up… I googled “feeling guilty for wanting to quit breastfeeding” and I found 1 (ONE!) article on the subject noting that while breast milk is superior, formula is fine and it’s ok to quit nursing… the FDA-poison-warning-label-content was left by a Boob Nazi in the comment section…). Everyone I talk to says “Keep nursing as long as possible”— I think they mean into toddlerhood—- “it’s just so wonderful!” I hear a lot of “It’s all about supply and demand. You just need to nurse/ pump more often.” Apparently pumping for 30 minutes out of an hour isn’t often enough. Nate and I have talked about this a lot. He refuses to tell me what to do, but he did make a great point. “Julie, breast is best is a general rule, but we have to consider what’s best for our family, and that means all of us.” I called Millie’s pediatrician today (crying, of course… Mommy guilt— it’s rough!) and asked “what should I do??????” The nurse was an older woman. She first said, “Look, you need to chill out.” She continued “yes, breast milk is best if you can do it, but not everyone can. Lots of babies have some formula… lots have only formula! She will be fine if you need to supplement. More important than where the baby gets nutrition is just making sure that she gets it! And stop stressing! You’re not helping anything by stressing. You’ll be fine.”

I am not going to quit breastfeeding and pumping. In fact, I need to wrap up this super-long blog entry so I can pump and try to get enough milk for Millie for tomorrow!  But I am going to try to let go of some of my mommy guilt surrounding this issue. If I run out of frozen milk and I need to supplement with formula, I’m going to do it. Please don’t judge me! Just like  breastfeeding doesn’t automatically make me a good mother, giving Millie formula certainly won’t make me a bad one. Or will it? Oh crap, I’m feeling guilty again.


Posted September 9, 2011 by Nate and Julie in Julie

2 responses to “Mommy Guilt

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  1. Ok, my wonderful daughter-in-law, I think you are a fantastic mom, much better than I was and look how great your husband turned out (he he), so give yourself a break! Here’s a new saying for you: “Breast is best, IF IT’S NOT STRESSED!” Millie will never doubt your love for her. She will not come to you when she’s a teenager and tell you that you ruined her life because you didn’t breast feed her til she was ten. Not guilt necessary. We love you.

  2. You need to talk to your sister in law about this. She has much experience with breastfeeding and having problems, thus reverting to formula. You are not a bad person for using formula!

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