The choice I made about not breastfeeding is still difficult, though at this point the decision has been made and there is no turning back – I’m not producing any more anyway. But there are times when I hold Samantha that it’s hard, and I miss it. So I’ve taken to paying attention to the upside of not breastfeeding.
First of all, I’m suddenly not the only one who can get up with her throughout the night. This is by far the greatest perk in my opinion, though while we’re here I still wake up for those feedings. But I can actually hand off the baby and the bottle to Travis and lay down again for some of them. It’s nice. I had to deal with my frustration at waking up multiple times a night before all of this happened, and it wasn’t pretty. I do not do well when I’m sleep deprived.
I’m also enjoying the fact that in the future, I’m not tied to her schedule completely. So if I want to run to the store and it’s feeding time, someone else can take care of it. Not that this has happened very often, but it’s still available to me. Related to this is the ease of public feedings. I know breastfeeding is legal and allowed anywhere in public, but I’m a modest person and it was hard for me to wrap my head around the idea of trying to feed her in public. The times I had to I sat in the car, wedged between the door and her carseat with the motor running so we had air. It was downright uncomfortable. And I hated the cumbersomeness (is that a word?) of the cover-ups. I couldn’t have it in place and see well enough to help her attach. And without it I felt extremely exposed. I know these are things that would have gotten easier with time and practice, but right now I need some of these to hold onto to make me feel better about my decision.
One of the biggest perks of all is that we can work with a dietician to monitor her weight gain and plan for the specific amounts she eats. I have no idea how much food she was getting, and all of the stuff I read about breastfeeding and volume was frustrating and vague – “count the dirty and wet diapers, you should have this many per day,” or “monitor her weight gain. If she’s gaining so much per week it’s fine.” Except that I didn’t understand any of it and I thought we were on track. Turns out we weren’t. So this takes one more worry off the table for me.
Finally, truth be told, it’s nice to have my body be my own again. I’m not sore or uncomfortable and I don’t have to think about what I put into my body. This is actually a perk and a curse for me. I like knowing that I can have a drink (not that I’ve had any opportunity) or more than one and not worry about her. I can take whatever medicine I might need to, including switching to a new blood pressure med once we’re out of the hospital. The somewhat curse side of things is that I also am drinking caffeine like crazy, something I specifically limited for her sake throughout pregnancy and afterwards. Now that it’s just me, I indulge far too much in this habit.
Don’t get me wrong – none of these reasons were enough for me to quit breastfeeding. If it hadn’t been for our unique circumstances with this infection and the aftermath, I wouldn’t have quit. And I miss it every day, especially when I’m holding her. But I need to look on the bright side of my decision so that it doesn’t drive me crazy.
I find myself wavering between complete denial about the future and mourning so much of what we may have lost. Most days I can look at Samantha and assume that she will be completely fine. Right now she’s acting like any other baby. But little things haunt me, like when the doctors ask about her tracking with her eyes or responding to our voices. I know she can see because she reacts to light, and I know she can hear because loud noises make her jump. But how well these senses are serving her is still so unknown. Sometimes I see expressions on her face that make me think that nothing has changed. And other times I wonder if we’ll ever be able to connect with her. I don’t know enough about child development to know whether the things I see are “normal” or a sign of problems. And maybe it’s better that I don’t know all of it right now when so much is still unknown about her condition and what it means for the future.
I still find points of sadness, though. I spent a lot of time at the end of my pregnancy watching television since I was on bed rest in the hospital. Every Sunday I watched TLC’s show Say Yes to the Dress. I ended up watching one or two episodes while breastfeeding Samantha, and I would imagine us someday shopping for her dress. You see, because of what happened with Jonah, I didn’t allow myself to dream about the future with our little girl while I was still pregnant. I couldn’t. It was too scary. But once she was born, the dreams washed over me in waves. I remember looking down at her tiny body while feeding her, thinking about the circle of life and how someday she might be breastfeeding her own children. I imagined her learning to talk and turning to greet us when we walk in a room. I thought about her crawling and walking, and even somewhat dreaded her teenage years.
The hardest part about her diagnosis, about the tests and the doctors and everything else, is that we have this gigantic unknown before us. All of those dreams I just mentioned? They may all still be possible. Or none of them may happen. All I know is that I feel like I did when I was pregnant, terrified to let myself dream about her future because I just don’t know.