It was my vanity that motivated me to continue breastfeeding Eden the first few days after birth. I realized right away that I hated it. My first indication that I would hate it was in the hospital, when I learned that every time I tried to nurse Eden, I felt exposed and vulnerable. The feelings were likely remnants from a sexual assault that took place 13 years ago, an experience that has mostly been dealt with but still makes its occurrence known in these types of situations. I refused to nurse Eden anywhere but home, which kept me tethered to my house and unable to escape for more than two hours at a time. Even then, I couldn't enjoy a feeling of closeness to my daughter because I was so overwhelmed by the feeling of vulnerability, and the paranoid concern that someone could attack Eden or me at any moment, and I would be exposed an unable to protect us.
Still, I pressed on, proud that my daughter had never ingested a formed product, because I knew that breastfeeding was the swiftest way to lose my baby weight. As my belly, stretched by the weight of carrying a 9 pound, 11 ounce child, shrunk dramatically nearly day by day, I had all the incentive I needed to continue. After a couple of weeks, I began pumping in order to build up a surplus so that I could leave with Eden without worrying about getting back in time for her feedings. I was thus introduced to new horrors, strapped to a milking machine like a dairy cow. I hid from view, never permitting anyone but my unknowing infant to see me using the breast pump.
Then one day I realized that I couldn't hold my daughter without her wanting to nurse from me. She wouldn't cuddle without being fed first. She go from peaceful sleep in a strangers arms to a screaming fit when she was transferred to me, clearly wanting to nurse even if only for comfort. I'd wanted, during pregnancy, to be a MILF when it was all over, but I'd become a MILFF, a mom I'd like to feed from. I was just a human buffet.
I developed an aversion to breastfeeding, particularly at night. I grew agitated with Eden's feedings, and the more agitated I got, the longer she wanted to feed, probably because the more stressed out I got, the harder it was for her to get milk from me. I began to consider discontinuing with nursing and using formula. The idea would cross my mind frequently but waqs always dismissed. I was physically able to breastfeed, and I couldn't come up with a "good" reason to stop, especially knowing how many women struggle to breastfeed.
We'd had a box of prepared formula in our cabinets since before Eden was born, in case she or I couldn't nurse. I could see the box every time I opened the cabinet and would think about how easy it would be to just give her the formula. But I was stubborn, and proud. And suffering emotionally at nearly every feeding.
Last night, when Eden was 5 weeks old, I relented. I simply said to Marcos, "Let's try the formula." Marcos fixed a bottle for her, and I watched with tears in my eyes as he sat down to feed her. After having had only breastmilk for the first 5 weeks of her life, my baby was drinking formula, and I was sad and relieved at the same time. I couldn't watch for long, and went outside with my dogs, who still needed me.
There's a big cultural push these days for women to exclusively breastfeed, but I didn't continue to nurse Eden because of that cultural push. There's also a push to wear skinny jeans, drive a hybrid car, and abort anencephalic babies, and I don't do any of those things. I think I kept up nursing out of stubborn pride. I have always asserted that I can do anything for my babies, so I should be able to do this too. It finally occurred to me that stubborn pride isn't a very good reason to make myself miserable.
Today we have alternated between breastmilk and formula at every other feeding. I've missed our quiet moments, but I've enjoyed having her look me in the eye during her bottle feedings as opposed to having her face pressed against me in hungry indifference. I've been able to enjoy watching Marcos feed our daughter several times today, and I've enjoyed the freedom that has come with not being saddled by the obligation to nurse.
I love my daughter deeply, and have loved her since long before she was born or even conceived. I wanted to be able to give her the world. I'm going to have to settle for giving her my love, and hope that will be enough.