Before I became a mom, I used to hear about "Mother's Guilt" and think it was an absolutely absurd concept. After all, moms give us life. What we do with it is up to us. What in the world would the average mom have to feel guilty about?
And then I had a baby.
And I realized that pretty much every decision I make has a tinge of guilt associated with it. My baby girl S is 5 1/2 months old now. At 24 hours of age, she made the momentous decision not to nurse, and stuck to her guns no matter how I tried to entice, beg, and pry her tiny little mouth open to get her to nurse. After what felt like eons of torment, I agreed to give her a bottle just to get something into her system.
Having a strong commitment to breast feeding, I refused to be side-tracked by an infant and so began a month of alternating pumping and adamantly insisting that I would convince this kid to nurse. Finally, after 4 weeks I gave in and accepted that perhaps she was right. She would not nurse.
And so began my long, not so loving relationship with the milking machine I lovingly titled "Pumpy". Pumpy and I spent long hours on the sofa together, while Pumpy did the work that my daughter refused to do. 6 times a day, 45 minutes a shot Pumpy and I dedicated ourselves to the task of keeping our girl fed.
When S was 4 months old, I was diagnosed with a pretty severe sinus infection after experiencing extreme vertigo. After weighing the impacts to S, I finally decided to go ahead with the antibiotics. Two rounds of antibiotics later, my system was all out of whack, my sinus infection still had not left the building, and all remaining options to clear up my system would be pretty rough on S. I put off treatment for 3 more weeks while I stock piled enough milk to get us to that critical 6 month point.
So right now I am in the process of decreasing milk production. My long, arduous hours with Pumpy are decreasing, my tether to a pumping schedule is weakening, and with each ounce that I decrease in production, my guilt grows because I feel like I am short-changing my daughter.
No, it isn't the emotional connection that I fear we will lose because to be perfectly honest, from the beginning S has screamed during my long visits with Pumpy each day. And no, it isn't that I fear being replaced because from the beginning S has pretty much associated anyone willing to stick a silicone nipple in her mouth with meal time. I feel guilty because S will only be breast fed for 6 months and while that is a great minimum, I fear that perhaps there is a Harvard scholarship that she will miss by thismuch because mommy couldn't tough it out.
Yeah, I am sure I am over-estimating the impact that her meals will play in her overall success, but what if I'm not?