**As a mother, there are many things I want my daughter to know and to learn. My series of 'Dear Harlow' letters are personal thoughts to share with her one day. They are my thoughts and opinions, which may cause judgement, but remember we are all in this parenting thing together.**
I have many things to write and say to you, but this one is important. It is short, but mighty. Always do your best. No one can ever faulty you if what you did was your best. Why am I writing this to you at 16 weeks old? Well, I want you to understand something about me: I did my best.
When I found out we were having you, it was a no brainer to breast feed you. That is, after all, “best.” I planned on doing for it one year and I planned on doing it solely, exclusively for at least three weeks so you wouldn’t get this thing they call “nip confusion.”
You never know what you are going to think or how you are going to feel until you are at that moment in your life where you can judge your thoughts and feelings. I thought I would breast feed you because I felt it was the right thing to do. And then you came into the world. And parenthood kicked our butts. All in a good way, but it kicked our butts. We were tired. I am diabetic; my sugars was chaotic for the first few weeks as my body readjusted to life without a wombmate. There were times when you were hungry and my sugar was low. If I fed you, I would have passed out. I am not the first diabetic to ever attempt to breast feed, I know that. I am sure there are many success stories out there; however, I am not one of them.
I received conflicting information about nursing and pumping. Some people said to pump to get my supply up, some said that I am crazy for pumping it is too much work. So being who I am, I did both. I nursed you and I pumped. And then one day, when you were two weeks old (it was Halloween), something crazy happened … we gave you a bottle … of formula. Gasp! You were screaming your poor head off, I didn’t know if you were hungry, tired, gassy or just letting us know you were there, but you weren’t quiet about whatever it was. I couldn’t handle seeing my baby scream and we did the unthinkable (sarcasm!), I put a nipple on a premixed bottle of Similac and your daddy fed you. And I had my own bottle, of beer. We were both instantly happy.
I continued to both nurse you and pump, but soon realized that pumping was a way to get a break. I could get some quiet, check emails, shut my eyes and have 15 minutes alone. So it continued. I wasn’t having much luck with the nursing piece because of things related to diabetes, but I was having luck pumping. I did my best. I was able to give you what is best. If breast milk is best, it didn’t matter to me how you got it, the important piece was that you got it.
Sure, we continued to give you some formula here and there, maybe a bottle or less a day. You started sleeping more and so did we. Our little family was slowly becoming happier and healthier.
As you approach your 4-month birthday and I approach four months of nursing/pumping, I have to tell you: I am at the end of my rope. I am no longer giving you my best. I am no longer giving your dad my best and he is unable to give you his best because of this. I am up pumping at all hours of the day and night; I am missing out on time with you because I am attached to a pump. I am stressed because I need to be home every three, four or five hours to pump. I am taking my pump to stores, sitting in the nursing rooms so I can be gone more than a few hours. I am worried about how long it will take to get home because I have fresh milk with me. I am worried that if I quit something will happen to you and I will never forgive myself. I am worried that if I quit, the struggle will be over and just that: it will be over. It is a chapter of my life that was only written because you came into our lives. You can’t just decide to make milk one day like it is a new hobby. It has been amazing to watch my body take care of you and your basic needs. I’ve never taken care of anything other than a cat and here I am being responsible for a human.
I am afraid that when I stop, a little sadness will come over me that this journey has ended, but as we know every new beginning comes from some other beginnings end. Breast feeding was a new beginning for me, but now that it is coming to a close, a new beginning can happen: We can sleep past 2 a.m.; we can shop at Costco again and fill our freezer with food again; mommy can have wine and not waste this precious liquid that keeps you nourished. I can give you a bath, bend over the tub and not cry out in pain. I can catch up with friends I’ve been neglecting because I have to pump every few hours. I can put you to bed without wondering what time it is and how long your little body has been in my arms. I can cherish our moments together without being stressed out. You are only little once and I already feel like I’ve missed so much.
One of the hardest decisions I will ever have to make it choosing to not give you something that is considered “best” or “nature’s perfect food.” Please don’t ever think that I made this decision lightly—you can ask you daddy or any of my friends how hard of a struggle this was and continues to be at this very moment. There is something else I want you to learn, Smushie, just because you didn’t fulfill a goal doesn’t mean you are a failure. I succeeded at feeding you. Every day, every drop of milk was a success, an achievement. Sure, it wasn’t the 365+ days I thought and hoped it would be, but everyday I chose to give you what is best was a choice. And I am continuing to choose the best for you. Right now, what is best for all of us comes from the freezer and a can. And you will have one happy momma!
As you go through life, baby Harlow, I want you to know that if you do your best, then that is all I will ask of you. If you don’t get a good grade, but you did your best with studying and doing your assignments, then it is ok with me. If you didn’t do all of your chores correctly, I will ask you if you did your best. If your answer is a confident “yes,” then that is ok with me. If you always do your best and give everything your best, then no one can judge you or make you feel bad.
One day, if you become a mother, you will be faced with decisions like these and I want you to know that as long as you do your best and what is best for you, then that is your answer.
I want you to know that I did my best and am going to keep doing my best. Right now, doing what is best is hanging up the flanges and enjoying my time with you and your daddy. Getting there is a slow process ... but we will make it. There are some bumps along the way, like when your pediatrician asks me if I can "stick it out" four more months. So many mothers struggle with not being able to produce milk for their babies and here I am choosing to quit. You have to be a strong woman to make a decision like this, Smushie. I hope that as you grow, you see me as a strong woman who does her best and makes decisions that are the best. And always know that you will get the best I have to give.