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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The F Word

So a funny thing happened last Tuesday night--my son started growling while he nursed. And he's done it every day since. Yup...he growls like a rottweiler with a bone to gnaw on. He grabs on with both hands, twists his sharp-nailed little fingers into my flesh, stares right up into my eyes and bitches. He's telling me something. And I'm pretty sure it's that he hasn't forgiven me for last Monday. See, Monday I was in the hospital having surgery, and my now-rabid little beast was only allowed to nurse once in about 24 hours--not at all up to his standards of whenever-the-hell-he-pleases.

So on Monday we visited the F word.

It's one of those words nursing women don't want to hear. Not because it's a horrible thing, but because we work hard to provide for the tiny humans from within our bodies, and having to resort to dipping powder from a can after everything we've done to get our bodies to work properly makes us feel like failures. I felt that way at least. And feeling like a failure bites. I mean, OW.

But things happen. The tiny freezer stash of milk I'd painstakingly built up slowly dwindled to nearly nothing--spills and sour milk, growth spurts and leaking storage bags. I couldn't find a donor because of my kid's dietary restrictions. There were complications during surgery, making it take longer than usual. They had to use more and different medications, which made the pump and dump time a little longer than it would have been. Though the hospital staff had assured us the baby could stay in the room with me so I could feed him when it was safe, the nurse on duty decided otherwise and sent him away after one little session, my wife with him. One bag of frozen milk lay forgotten and overlooked in the back of the fridge. Things happened--and so did formula.

It wasn't much. Maybe 6-8 ounces total. Apart from the gas and the upset belly and the gross diaper a day or two later, it was nothing in the scheme of things. I wasn't even there to see it (the formula, not the diaper...no, that diaper was all mine). But it still bites. I worried about the possibility of cross-contamination, about the formula making him sick--and it did a bit, but only because his body wasn't used to it. I worried he wouldn't eat it--he did. I worried he wouldn't want breastmilk again--no problem there but...have you tried formula? It's like paste. And yes, I felt like a failure.

For a day. Or a moment. And maybe again next month when it crosses my mind while I'm pumping early in the morning. I failed to feed my child what he was born to eat.

But then, every time I pump instead of feeding him directly, he's not getting exactly what he's supposed to. Every time I go to work, he cries because he wants me home with him. Every time I cry from exhaustion and hand over a bottle of pumped milk while I'm home so I can take a NAP, he's not getting exactly what he needs from me.

And that's okay.

It's not perfect. Sometimes it kinda bites. But it's okay. I have never once been perfect--I only hope to do the best I can from one day to the next. And last Monday, when the stored milk was all gone and milk from a donor who wasn't gluten-free would have hurt him a LOT more than anything else--on that day, formula was the best thing for him. He was hungry, and we fed him. And when I got home the next day, I fed him again in the way I love best. He growled and bitched at me the entire time for skipping out on him for 24 hours, but still--I fed him.

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