Eight months old!
Oh, my little boy. You seem more and more like a big boy every single day. It makes me happy and sad all at once. I remember when you were so tiny in my arms but couldnâ€™t do many fun things, and now you make my arms ache from your heft and can do so many neat tricks. Youâ€™re growing up SO FAST!
Weâ€™ll start things off with a quick fitness/body update and then move onto the topic that been weighing on my mind â€“ breastfeeding.
Overall, Iâ€™m feeling great! Much like last month, not much has changed. Iâ€™ve been taking it easy since my last half marathon, achieving 3 â€“ 5 workouts a week. But to be honest, Iâ€™m not putting in that much effort. Itâ€™s kind of nice to â€˜phone it inâ€™ and just exercise to maintain the habit. Iâ€™d like to rev things up before triathlon season, of course, but Iâ€™ve got a little bit of time. And Iâ€™ve got a lot of other stuff going on.
Can I just say that weâ€™ve been sleeping SO WELL lately?! Three cheers for sleep training. Best thing I ever did. I look back on the Month 1 â€“ 4 pictures and think that I look like I was hit by a truck. Sleep is so amazing.
Onto the â€˜mindâ€™ updateâ€¦
This is a big month for me. Iâ€™ve decided to stop breastfeeding. I am extremely proud of myself for making it eight months, especially considering that I exclusively pumped for six of them. In total, I have pumped over 1,000 times, producing more than 5,400 ounces of breastmilk. Five thousand and four hundred ounces! DANG! I have pumped five to six times a day for the last 180-odd days of my life. For 180 days, pumping has been the first and last thing that I did every single day.
I cannot wait for it to be over.
There are lots of things that I want to say about breastfeeding, so forgive me if this becomes jumbled. First, I want to say this: when I was pregnant, I had no idea what breastfeeding entailed. Of course, I had heard that breastfeeding can be hard for some women. But I never thought that it would be hard for me. I never thought that physically feeding Henry would be difficult; I never thought that I would find public breastfeeding to be awkward (our physical issues made it logistically difficult). I didnâ€™t understand what sleep deprivation did to a person; I didnâ€™t understand how badly I would need Kristien to give the baby a bottle every now and then (or, um, every night).
Breastfeeding is a huge emotional and physical commitment, and although it is easy for many women, I really think we should give a HUGE round of applause to every mom who breastfeeds â€“ no matter for how long. I would never want to discourage other people from breastfeeding because I know that so many of you love it and donâ€™t feel like itâ€™s hard. But even if itâ€™s â€˜easy,â€™ itâ€™s a commitment, and for that reason alone, everyone deserves major kudos.
I felt a lot of pressure to breastfeed. I run in â€˜holisticâ€™ circles; most of the moms that I know breastfed. At my natural birth classes, I dared to ask about formula feeding and was given a huge stink eye for it. I read the literature and many books; I knew that doctors consider breastmilk the best option. I saw not one but two lactation consultants after Henryâ€™s birth. I read the books. Truthfully, I was not enamored by the idea of breastfeeding the way some people are, but I wanted it to work for numerous reasons. So when physically breastfeeding became too hard and too complicated, I switched to pumping. I pumped for six months. Sometimes, it was okay; something it was not. But by the end, I honestly hated every single day of pumping. I stuck with it because I felt committed, I felt like â€˜I had to,â€™ and I felt like I would be failing if I stopped.
Funnily enough, I never judged non-breastfeeding moms. I never felt like other moms â€˜had toâ€™ do what I felt like I â€˜had toâ€™ do! After all, the one thing that Iâ€™ve learned since becoming a mother is DONâ€™T JUDGE OTHER PEOPLE. Ever! Everyone has a reason for doing what they want to do, and no one can be â€˜perfectâ€™ all the time. Even if you do one thing â€˜right,â€™ thereâ€™s a million things you apparently arenâ€™t. Dressing baby in fire retardant-laden clothes? Feeding them non-organic food? Letting them chew on icky plastic instead of pricey wooden toys?! GASP! Youâ€™re doing it wrong! I recognized this very early on in my journey, so I didnâ€™t judge anyone else . But for some crazy reason, I judged myself. On one hand, I acknowledged that no one could be perfect. But on the other, I rated myself as a mom by how close I felt to â€˜perfect.â€™ It doesnâ€™t make much sense, but thatâ€™s how I felt about breastfeeding.
Due to this attitude, I couldnâ€™t give myself permission to stop. Even when the thought of pumping made me sick, I would berate myself into continuing. I would guilt myself into staying on the path. At the end of the day, the pressure was really all my own; the guilt was my creation. After a while, I realized how negative my rhetoric about stopping was: â€œIâ€™m a bad mom if I wean â€ or â€œI donâ€™t want to quitâ€ or â€œIâ€™ll feel like a failure if I stop.â€
Quite honestly, it ended up screwing with my head a lot. It made me really unhappy as time wore on. I am sure that other moms who have pumped can relate to how hard it can be â€“ itâ€™s so emotionally and physically taxing in a way that breastfeeding just isnâ€™t (so I hear).
It took a sobbing session at my therapistâ€™s to realize that 1) I really do want to stop â€“ I want my breasts back, I want my time back, I want my freedom back; 2) Saying I want to stop doesnâ€™t make me a selfish person; 3) I need to extend myself the same courtesy that I do to other moms; 4) Really and truly â€“ no one can be perfect! and 5) I need to focus on the positive. Iâ€™ve started to say things like, â€œItâ€™s okay to stopâ€ and â€œIâ€™ve breastfed for eight whole months! DAMN, I rock!â€
One of my â€˜homeworkâ€™ assignments to process stopping was this: I made a list of all the things that I want to do to be a â€œgood mom.â€ My list includes things like: engaging Henry in creative play, reading books to him every day, always being positive when he wakes up in the morning (I feel like this is a really great life habit), exposing him to other children, encouraging him to interact with safe adults, etc. At the bottom, I wrote, â€œYou made it eight whole months â€“ congrats!â€ I put the list in my closet and read it every day. There are lots of ways to be a good mom besides how I fed Henry. And I do think that Iâ€™m a pretty good momma. Henry seems to like me.
As you can tell, I am a perfectionist. Itâ€™s not always a bad thing; I have used that aspect of my personality to do some awesome things. But perfectionist is a double-edged sword, and I never felt it attack me quite the way it did when it came to breastfeeding.
I know this sounds strange (considering that I keep a very public blog), but I am actually a relatively private person. I feel like I have a lot going on â€˜under the surfaceâ€™ that I only share with a few people in my real life; the topic of breastfeeding and pumping has become very loaded for me lately. But I wanted to share my thoughts publicly because I know that so many of you can probably relate. Even if you never started to breastfeed or found it to be easy as pie. Even if you arenâ€™t a mom! And I donâ€™t want others to feel alone.
We all have expectations for ourselves, our careers, our relationships that donâ€™t always work out. And if you are really stuck on an idea, it can be hard to change your ways without feeling like youâ€™re failing. But none of us are failing â€“ weâ€™re just changing. I think reframing your internal conversation to be more positive is such a powerful way to go about the change. Thereâ€™s no reason to tear yourself down just because you are changing.
I am proud that I made it eight months. But I am very happy to be in the process of stopping and switching to formula. This experience taught me a lot about myself. I learned about strength, sacrifice, balance, self-preservation. But most of all, I learned that while I may be able to force myself to do something, but I really cannot berate myself into happiness. And my happiness matters, too. If something isnâ€™t working for me, itâ€™s just not working for me. Thatâ€™s okay. Very often, the vision we had is different than the reality we experience.
Life is complex. Parenthood is complex. But I guess I wouldnâ€™t have it any other way.