Just a quick note for the start of this post – I’m going to be totally honest here and not the cheeriest Amy. Not that I’m not usually honest you, friend, but I’m working through some pretty frustrating things here and am giving myself a pass for a bit of a pity party before I try to get back into ‘glass half-full’ territory. Oh, and a pass to swear as much as I want to.
And I’m really not writing this for pity or anything from you. If anything, what you’re giving me is the space and audience to share how I feel and that’s all I need from you. Truly. Nothing more. So thank you and here I go.
For fuck’s sake.
I had been a bit smug and high at the end of the last visit from my health visitor. Jenson had put on 400g in 2 weeks – pretty badass for someone so little who had struggled so much to put on weight. We’d been doing a pretty hardcore regimen to increase his weight (as I’ve shared here) and had continued on the same lines, with a little bit of a decrease in efforts with some things. Because of exhaustion, because of not having enough hands to express milk and hold a baby at the same time, because I thought we had built momentum up and believed Jenson would continue to build up his weight.
And then the health visitor came today and Jenson had only put on 200g in 3 and a bit weeks. I could go into all the positive reasons why this might be the case (and there are reasons – he’s more active and so is using up more energy, it’s still a good sign of progress to put on weight…blah, blah, blah) but I don’t want to. He only put on 200-fucking-grams in 3 and a bit weeks and I feel so disappointed about it. Sat here in my weird maternity bra expressing milk I feel like screaming and crying and stamping my feet in a tantrum.
All the effort for so little gain.
He’s still in the 9th percentile, the health visitor wasn’t overly worried but I feel furious with myself and so sad that I can’t produce enough milk for his needs.
But then again he hasn’t been crying at my breast in want of more milk than I can give him. He feeds until satiated and tells me again when he wants to feed. So is it true that I’m not giving him enough milk?!
And so it goes around and around in my head. Sadness that he’s not put on more weight, thinking about why that is, recognising that he doesn’t seem to be going hungry (and when he does, it’s usually after I’ve expressed some milk and taken what he would have got from me), then feeling frustrated that if this is the case, why is he putting on so little? Then I ask myself why I’m so anti-formula – because I don’t judge anyone else for using formula.
- It’s because I’m pig-headed stubborn and want to be able to do it myself. I want to be able to produce enough milk.
- It’s because I don’t want to chain myself into the frustration of sterilisation when I’ve got a baby who wants to be held so much and who leaves little time for this faff.
- It’s because Jenson, Gregg and I are travelling to Cambodia and Vietnam in June and Jenson will rely on my milk to be immunised against any nasty bugs out there.
- It’s because I love the experience of breastfeeding and want to keep doing it as long as possible. It makes me feel womanly and strong and powerful and like a provider.
- It’s because I want the breastfeeding to help me get back to my pre-baby body
There, I’ve said it in the last one – something I’ve thought a little on my list of ‘whys’ but felt shamed to admit. Breastfeeding allows me to feel like I’m getting back to me and takes away the stress of thinking ‘I shouldn’t eat a piece of cake each day‘. Because I need the extra calories to feed Jenson. And, sleep deprived with a slightly prima-donna baby, I sometimes just need the piece of bloody cake. And then I judge myself for feeing this way when I feel it’s my life’s calling to be compassionate and kind to people who struggle with comfort eating.
Surely this compassion and kindness should extend to myself? And if it doesn’t, who am I to try to help others?
And I feel really shitty because a good friend confronted me today. She’s been my biggest cheerleader on this breastfeeding path and I shared with her that Mr Perfection was beating me up emotionally and putting so much judgement on me.
You’d have seen more weight gain if you’d have done more. If you’d sat up to feed Jenson in the night and made him take more milk in. If you’d expressed every day. If you’d eaten oats that morning instead of the toast you wanted for taste and convenience. If you hadn’t forgotten to take your supplements three times during the three weeks.
My friend told me that I was such a good mother but her words were meaningless if I was going to measure myself against the unrealistic bar of perfection.
She was spot on.
And it made me think about why I beat myself up with perfection so often. Why is that my continual go-to? It makes me fucking mad.
Because I know that I did my bloody best on all those occasions. I did my best in the dead of night when I was feeding my little boy, despite him not having every single last drop of milk out of me. I did my best to express when I could and when I didn’t, it was because Jenson’s immediate needs (as he was crying) were more pressing than the time it takes to set my silly expressing machines up. I did my best to eat porridge 95% of the time. I did my best to take my supplements the 68 other times.
I did my best.
So when can I fucking put down the perfection standard? For all it’s doing is hurting me.
I did my best and Jenson gained 200g. I did my best and it kept him in the 9th percentile. I did my best and I have a happy, headstrong and chubby-cheeked baby who giggled properly for the first time today.
My best has to be good enough because I want him to know that his best is all I’d ever ask of him.
So there you are. There’s not much more for me to say here. It feels good to get this out in the open. To express how I feel without holding back and to accept that things are what they are and that maybe I need some support to drop the perfectionism. Because I can’t help thinking that life would be a lot better without it.