I realize it’s been over a month since I’ve posted anything on this blog. That’s because it’s been over a month since I’ve done anything besides eat, sleep, nurse, pump, work and sing “I’m a Little Teapot” ten thousand times in a row. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. Well, I am complaining but I’m not unhappy. Just busy.
Being a mom and having a second job outside the house is no easy feat. It’s sometimes fun, it’s sometimes exhausting, it’s often stressful – but it’s always worth it. The hardest part is the guilt. At work I feel guilty for not being with Mia. Her daycare provider heard her laugh for the first time – I still haven’t heard it. When I’m with Mia I feel guilty that I’m not being the best employee I can be. Not responding to emails quick enough, not hitting deadlines that need to be hit. (You can spare me the lecture on how everyone else will survive if I don’t respond to emails quickly enough….yes, I know the world will keep spinning, but my job will not, and it will make someone else’s job harder when I don’t hold up my end of the bargain.) I also feel guilty for not having enough time, or energy to be the best wife and partner. Do I want to cuddle on the couch and watch a movie with Dan? Of course. But I need to shower, make lunch for tomorrow, clean the breast pump, prepare the bottles, pack the diaper bag and get to bed before Mia wakes up and wants to be fed again. Sorry honey, next time.
Being a mom and a wife and an advertising executive is at once wonderful and difficult. Stressful and exhilarating. Frustrating and rewarding.
One of my coworkers had her baby last week and all the memories of those first few weeks at home came flooding back. When my life was just me and Mia – and nothing else. It was also wonderful and difficult. Stressful and exhilarating. Frustrating and rewarding. It’s easy to play the grass is greener – but I think maybe motherhood is always all of these things. Every stage brings new challenges – and new rewards. Like ear to ear grins and 8 hour sleep stretches.
This week’s challenge is nursing – more specifically pumping. I’m pumping 4 times a day every day that I’m working. I also pump on the weekends in between nursing sessions to try to augment my freezer supply. I get barely the 12oz in a day that Mia needs for the hours I’m away. Every day I get a little bit less. I’ve tried the teas, the cookies, the oatmeal – and I’m hanging in there but still, I can see this is not going in the right direction. And while I know she’ll be fine with a little bit of formula if and when she needs it – it makes me angry. Because it should be my CHOICE not my necessity to supplement with formula. It should be because it takes the pressure off of having to nurse all the time, not because a stupid breastpump doesn’t let my milk down the way a sweet, sleepy baby does. But I WANT to nurse all the time. I so desperately want to make it to that 6 month mark feeding Mia exclusively breastmilk. And yet – no matter how hard I try, how many times I pump – it’s starting to feel impossible.
I decided to dig a little deeper and found out that only 14% of moms are feeding their children exclusively breastmilk by 6 months of age – despite the fact that this is the American Academy of Pediatrics and World Health Organization’s recommendation. Despite the fact that an estimated 1000 lives and 13 billion dollars in healthcare costs would be saved each year if it were possible for 100% of mothers to reach this goal. But only 14% make it – because we have to work 9 and 10 hour days, pump in bathrooms, closets, in the car on the way to and from work – and we’re scribbling out emails while the breast pump whirrs away – yielding only a fraction of what our babies need.
As I perused the articles published on this topic, I noticed a disturbing trend. Many of the authors – themselves mothers – concluded that because it is SO difficult (almost impossible) for women who work full time to provide exclusively breastmilk for their babies, we should to change the medical recommendation that “breast is best” for the first 6 months.
I’m sorry, what?
These women believe that they are being set up to fail because doctors are recommending only breastmilk for the first 6 months and that’s very difficult to do when you have to work.
Now, I’m still a firm believer that if you feel formula feeding is right for you – more power to ya. But if you WANT to breastfeed, this kind of rhetoric is infuriating. How dare someone suggest that because our
antiquated barbarian absurd pathetic maternity leave policies make it almost impossible to achieve a standard of care that is medically proven to lead to better health outcomes, we should change the medical recommendation. That’s like saying that because it is hard to quit smoking, we should change the recommendation that pregnant mothers not smoke cigarettes. (Note: I am NOT by any means equating smoking while pregnant to formula feeding – I am simply making a point, rather dramatically, as I like to do. I think formula feeding is a great option for people who choose it. I also think breast feeding should be an option, even for moms who don’t have money to take 6 months of unpaid maternity leave.)
Now here’s a revolutionary idea: How about instead of throwing in the towel and changing medical advice to make moms feel better, we change our maternity leave policies to make it possible for more women to achieve their breastfeeding goals, and make it to that 6 month mark (which, by the way, is already a much less aggressive recommendation than you’ll find in other first (and second and third) world countries). I mean really, people. What the hell.
But I digress. What I set out to write in this post was simply that what I’ve learned so far, is that every stage and type of parenting (stay at home parenting, working parenting, new parenting, older child parenting – etc.) comes with its own challenges and its own miracles. Moments of stress and bewilderment, and moments of absolute, pure, unbelievable joy. This week’s challenge for me is pumping. This week’s joy is Mia reaching for toys, cooing when I sing to her, and smiling when she wakes up and sees my face.
When I attended my friend Margie’s baby shower 7 months ago, before Mia was born, I was asked to write a piece of “parenting wisdom” in a card for her. I wrote “Buy more wine.” A few weeks ago I was given the same opportunity to write in another friends’ baby shower book – and this time wrote with newfound perspective: “If you’re doing the best you can, you’re doing good enough.”
I am good enough.