Friday, May 20, 2011

A Woman in her Thirties Meets. Her... Goals?

Meet Diana:
Diana was the baby L and I had during our 'Breastfeeding and Newborn Care' Class while I was eight months pregnant. It was with Diana that we learned how to swaddle, how to care for a belly button, and the various positions for breastfeeding.

Diana was a trooper. She napped. She sat quietly during the lecture. She pretend-latched perfectly. So even though there was a part of me that was worried about breastfeeding and knew it was going to be challenging, Diana made me feel at ease. I felt as ready as I could be; as ready as a woman in her thirties can be for anything. I gave myself a goal of breastfeeding for six months. Where did I get that goal? I pulled it from the clear blue sky. But I had it, nonetheless.

I am tempted to spend the next three hours writing a Bible-length diatribe about my breastfeeding woes, but many of you reading have already heard them. I won't bore you. I will just say that between blisters, engorgement, lopsidedness, twice-weekly visits to the lactation nurse for three months, pumping (then not pumping), supplementing, mastitis (on my birthday- awesome), gallons and gallons of tears, and pain that I didn't think could be possible outside labor, I can tell you that breastfeeding tops a short list of the hardest things I've ever done in my life, including putting myself through college and learning Chinese.

Anna B. is now six months old, and I am still breastfeeding. H says that I deserve a parade. Many people have commented on how happy I must feel for sticking it out. The woman in her thirties in me who has read all the hype about how breastfeeding is best and blah blah blah agrees... kinda. In some ways, I'm glad I stuck it out.

But in some ways, some major ways, I'm not.

(Gasp! Shock and awe! What kind of a mother would say such a thing?)

I have been thinking about this a lot over the last few weeks. Shouldn't I be proud of myself? I did it. I met my goal. A woman in her thirties sets goals and meets them. But there is something untrue about that statement, at least in this situation. Because while I had a goal of breastfeeding for six months, I also had a goal of enjoying my perfect baby girl in her first six months of life. I might not have verbalized it, but part of that goal meant being confident in my ability to feed her (something that didn't come for a long, long time). As it is, I cannot look at pictures like this:And this:And not get a little sad. So much of that time was spent begging for some relief from advice nurses, explaining that every time she needed to eat I felt like I was preparing to get punched in the face, that I forget what she felt like then. I can't remember what her cry sounded like. But I sure can remember what mine sounded like.

That was not part of the goal, and it is a heavy price to pay for being the stubborn woman in her thirties I am.

I do believe that a woman in her thirties should set goals. She should work her ass off to meet them. But she should also put them in a larger perspective. Would I do it again? I honestly can't answer that question right now. I guess I could say that about many things in my life. Maybe that's part of being a grown up-- experiencing, reassessing, and re-setting. And then, with any luck, experiencing smarter next time.


  1. Oh honey, no one remembers the first 6 months... I don't know if we're supposed to. Just got to live in the moment. :)

  2. 6 months is AWESOME!

    YOU are AWESOME.

  3. We ALL look at pictures over our tiny (or not so tiny) ones and feel a little sad. You SHOULD feel proud! 6 months of pain is a LONG time! By next time you'll be a pro ;)

  4. The notion of maternal bliss is poppycock. Having an infant is tough stuff, despite what dewy formula and diaper (and toy and cleaner and I could go on) commercials suggest. The transition into parenthood, especially motherhood, is fraught with exhaustion, self-doubt, intense emotional highs and lows, hormonal shifts of the seismic variety, and a complete overhaul of your sense of self. My advice? Don't second guess. You are wasting the now living in the yesterday.

    And anyway, if you are lucky/crazy enough to do it all again, you will be certain you have scarred your first AND second children for lack of full attention to either. ;)