This evening, while sorting through some video I have of baby O, I was transported back in time to when he was really just a cooing, smiling, slobbering, blob of baby goodness. How in the world was it as hard to take care of him as I know it was? In the videos he's just a lovely looking little bit of innocence. What could have been so hard? What did we do all day? I don't remember, and I guess that's a good thing because, well, the species must persist, as they say. I wish I could jump around in my son's lifeline, just for moments, to hold the itty bitty baby again.
Last night I had to wake K up at 1am. I was thinking of breastfeeding and regret and the immovable past. I stopped nursing O when he was about 5 months old. He was very sensitive to dairy in my diet and it seemed that no matter how hard I tried, somehow, the dairy sneaked in. I am also a vegetarian and hypoglycemic. Those factors, combined with a very fussy, screaming all day cause of the dairy, baby, led me to question whether my continuing to breast feed was a selfish act. My baby was suffering, I was not well nourished during the days while I was alone because I couldn't manage to cook for myself. And I was loosing my mind. Several voices in my life urged me toward the opinion that I'd "done enough" and implied that I should give it up. Every time I came to the brink to deciding to leave nursing behind me I got intensely sad and felt as though all the cells in my body were crying out for me to not give up. Again, I felt I was being selfish. Eventually I did quit altogether. I hated it, but I thought it was the best thing for O.
Several months later a doctor told me that what might have been irritating O was prescription I was taking (it was absolutely safe for O and absolutely necessary for me to take). "Oh joy," I thought, "If it is the medication then there was nothing I could have done and choosing to stop nursing was the right thing to do." Several more months later, once O was eating solids, we gave him cheese. Again came the crying, clinginess, and spitting up. It was not the medication. It was the dairy.
Since then I have been inconsolable with regret. I think about what it was like to breastfeed everyday. I think about how much I miss it everyday. I am confronted with breastfeeding culture everyday, and it is like a punch in the stomach, everyday. About once a month the emotions build to the point that tears are necessarily and, like last night, I cannot sleep.
I feel such a deep sense of loss. I feel regret like never before. I wish I'd known how to ask for help. I wish I'd been strong enough, or thoughtful enough, to keep seeking out help from lactation consultants and pediatricians until I got the solutions and support I needed.
I use to think that when I have another child, and I breast feed that child for just as long as we both want to, that I would be healed and my regret would go. I don't think that will really happen tho. I will never get back that opportunity to be close with and nourish my baby O.
I know it's not the end of the world, and I am very grateful that everyone in my life is healthy and relatively happy. I'm grateful that O was not suffering from sensitivities to my diet for any longer than he did. I also have never in my life done something that I so clearly regret . Most regrets come with a shinny happy side that one can focus on. Usually there are some positive outcomes, or some sense that the best choice was made from those available. In this case, had I been stronger, listened to my own voice, sought help relentlessly, I could have continued to nurse O to our mutual benefit. There is no shinny side, positive outcomes, or recognition that it was the best choice at the time. It was absolutely the wrong decision and I don't know how to live with the sadness that brings.
On a lighter note, look who still fits in his sling!!!