Several weeks ago when I had one of my doctor’s appointments to check the status of my gestational diabetes (GD), the OB was very pleased with most of my numbers. He tweaked my insulin doses a bit and encouraged me to keep working at it because I was doing really, really well “99% of the time.” I think he thought he was challenging me to shoot for the 100%. Ha! If he thought he was throwing out a challenge that I would be eager to rise to, it was completely missed. In fact, it impacted me just the opposite way. My thought was – “Wow! I’m doing great 99% of the time. That gives me a little more leeway than I thought I had.” If he had said I was doing well 95% of the time, I would have even been happy with that.
This is quite a change for someone who is a recovering Type A, First Born Perfectionist. I graduated with a 4.0 in high school and, believe me, it was not based on natural brilliance. While I have been blessed with natural intelligence, my GPA was primarily the result of compulsive work and drivenness. Thankfully, I am no longer that person. And while I still believe in the beauty of excellence, I (try to) no longer worship at the altar of perfectionism.
I think some of this change came with age and experience. I think some came from reaping the rewards of drivenness and perfectionism and finding they weren’t quite as satisfying as I thought they should be considering the price they entailed. And some of it is just the grace of God who saved me from myself.
I’m glad that this part of me has changed, especially as I anticipate becoming a mother in a few weeks. I’m glad I’ve learned that everything doesn’t have to be perfect and, in fact, I will never ever achieve perfection as a parent. Some days I won’t even achieve excellence and will have to be satisfied with very good or – gasp! – good enough. And I’ve learned to live peacefully with good enough.
I have not been a driven pregnant woman. I have tried to do well, but I have not been compulsive about following every piece of advice that is given out to achieve the perfect pregnancy. I still drink caffeine daily (although I have cut back quite a bit), I eat albacore tuna, I’ve forgotten to take my vitamins many times, I haven’t done Kegel exercises 100 times a day, I’ve eaten fast food more times than I will admit, and I’ve actually trusted my OB when he told me I would need a c-section from the very beginning of the pregnancy. So this has set me up well for not being a driven new mom. And that has made it (somewhat) easier to make the decision to…
…formula feed from the beginning.
I really appreciated the women who left comments when I asked about formula feeding last week. I mean it. I know this is a very controversial issue and I appreciate the women who left comments regarding their experiences, especially those who have blogs and might not have ever admitted this before to the blog world. I’ve been working through this issue since I found out I was pregnant and I’ve gone back and forth on it numerous times. However, I think always in the back of my mind was the conviction that I really did not want to breastfeed no matter how much I tried to talk myself into it.
So at the risk of becoming the posterchild of the blogging world for all that is selfish in motherhood because I’m not going to breastfeed, I’m going to write why I made the decision of choosing to formula feed. All of the other ladies who left comments did and I would like to show them the same courtesy.
Reasons for Choosing to Formula Feed
First of all, I’m not making this decision out of ignorance. I know some people will think I haven’t read all the information out there that breast milk is so far superior, yada yada yada. Yes, I’ve read it all. Many times. And I’m not even going to try to refute the idea that “breast is best”. Yes, God created a wonderful thing in breast milk and it is a truly amazing part of His creation.
But one of the things I’ve learned over the past several years is that most issues that are supposedly black and white are not that black and white. Yes, if I were to make my decision based solely on which is superior, I would have to choose breast milk. And for the past eight months or so, that is what I kept coming back to. And I felt like I would be the world’s worst mother EVER to deny my child that.
But every time David and I talked about the whole feeding issue, there were other important issues that came up as well. Relationship issues, home life issues, health issues, etc. And as so many of the women said in their comments, sometimes other issues come into play and they deserve to be considered and acknowledged as well.
Voices of Wisdom and Experience
One of the biggest issues was well-articulated in a comment I found on a forum. I think what this person wrote sums up in many ways what I feel is really important:
I watched many of my friends struggle with the same BF issues you’re describing. They were exhausted and felt ill and were really at their wits’ end, and then felt terribly guilty for “giving up” on breastfeeding. The first weeks (sometimes months) of their babies’ lives were consumed with the moms’ breastfeeding agony–pain and guilt and fatigue. Breastfeeding became the most important issue in their lives, at the expense of actually living. Since I am only planning to have this one baby, I decided to formula feed from the beginning. I didn’t want to spend one moment of this brief, magical newborn/infant phase miserable or resentful toward my baby, or too exhausted to enjoy her. A few of my friends breastfed with no trouble and loved it, but I didn’t think I’d be one of those. I haven’t regretted my decision at all. You have to do what you’re comfortable with, but don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about whatever you choose. I think a famous French pediatrician said something like, “A bottle offered with love is far superior to a breast offered with resentment.” Formula is nutrition for your baby. Your baby needs nutrition, love, and warmth. If you provide those things, however they come about, you are being the best mom a baby could want. Good luck!
I had been thinking a lot about this comment when the next day I found Kether had left this comment on my blog, which I saw as a confirmation of the final decision that had formed in my heart and mind:
I haven’t read the above comments, but I hope they were kind. I formula fed my precious boy from when he was born. He simply didn’t take to nursing, and I hated trying and it was causing such turmoil in me that I quit and chose formula. I took a lot of flack from the breast is best folks, but ultimately it made my motherhood more joyful. Trying to breastfeed was torment because my son hated it and I didn’t get to fully enjoy being a mother until I left that behind. It was my saving grace. Everyone was worrying about his brain, but formula is very good these days. He’s 19 months old now and knows every letter of the alphabet and counts to 9, so I’m pretty sure his brain is fine. Besides, when I found out that my mother-in-law formula fed my brilliant husband with the Physics degrees, I knew my son’s brain would be just fine. I think it was a great decision for us. It allowed my husband to feed the baby and establish a bond just as strong as I had with him. It was portable, convenient, and I was able to monitor exactly what he was taking in, which really helped me in those early days when I was so nervous. Whatever you decide I wish you all the best. May God bless you and your family.
Enjoying My Baby
The bottom line is that I want to enjoy my baby. I’ve made it my goal from the beginning of the pregnancy to try to savor and enjoy every day of it. I’ve waited a long time for this part of my life. And I think overall I have truly enjoyed my pregnancy experience. Yes, some of it was yuck – like the first fifteen weeks with almost constant morning sickness. But every chance I have had I have focused on slowing down, pondering and enjoying this experience. I know that this may be my only time to do this and I want to enjoy it. I am satisfied that I have met that desire and will be able to look back on this pregnancy with joy and satisfaction.
I feel the same way about Peanut’s early weeks and months. I simply do not want to spend it agonizing over breastfeeding. I know that I am writing off breastfeeding without even trying it and some people will think that is unwise. But I have decided that it really is best for me, my husband and my baby if we just move on to the enjoying being a family as soon as she arrives. I will have enough to do in recovering from the c-section. I do not want to spend those first precious six weeks trying to maintain my stamina and sanity because I am trying to recover physically myself from surgery while trying to do something else physically draining (breastfeeding).
Maybe part of it is that I’ve just accepted my physical limitations and know that I’m not 25 (or even 35!) anymore. I accept my physical limitations and know that I will be a better mom and wife if I am not completely taxed physically and emotionally for weeks on end when Peanut arrives. I will gratefully accept the help of my husband and mom during those early days which will allow me to heal more quickly and enjoy my long-awaited baby from the very beginning.
I suppose some people will see this as an incredibly selfish reason for making this choice and say that I am unwilling to sacrifice for my child. I know I probably can’t convince them otherwise. I just know that a happy baby will be a result of a happy mommy and a happy daddy and I don’t see happiness coming from struggling through the whole breastfeeding thing. So that is our decision. Today we met with the pediatrician we have decided to choose and he asked us about feeding. I told him that we were planning on formula feeding from the beginning. He didn’t even bat an eyelash which was tremendously important to me. He accepted our decision and gave us suggestions for which formulas to try first and which kinds of bottles to use. I was so thankful that he was willing to accept our choice and not try to pressure us into another choice. We also asked if he had any advice for us and one of the things he brought up was related to sleeping. What he said fit exactly with the conclusions David and I have come to and so I saw that as another confirmation that this was the doctor for us. We were thankful to find someone that we can be comfortable with on these important and potentially controversial topics.
So, many thanks again to the ladies who shared their experiences and words of encouragement. Perhaps like Lindsey said in her comment, I was looking for “permission” to make the choice I knew I wanted to make all along. I just know that while David and I fully expect that we will take some flack in the weeks and months ahead from well-meaning people, we are confident that we are making the choice that is best for our little family-to-be. And for that I am profoundly grateful.
Postscript: It was a blessing I made this decision ahead of time. It made the aftermath of my c-section much easier to deal with.