Today Abigail is four months old. I honestly can’t believe it’s been four months since I walked into the hospital in more pain than I could have ever imagined (childbirth is no joke). While the other months had their own unbelievable experiences, this month has been my favorite (so far). When I was pregnant, John and I kept talking about what we thought she would look like, her hair color, would she get his ears and my eyes, would she be tall like her father or need step stools like her mother. So many questions and daydreams, but the area that would always make me tear up as we discussed our future baby girl was hearing her laugh. I’m not sure why, but I just couldn’t wait to hear and see her laugh for the very first time, and this month we experienced it. She laughs with her entire face – her nose scrunches, her eyes open wide, her smile is huge, and the sound is impossible to describe but it is my favorite sound in the entire world. I wish I could record it and make it my phone ring tone (though that may be a little weird). I cried the first time I heard it – ok I still tear up when I hear it. Yea, I’m an emotional crazy mom – but I’m sure there are many of us. We need t-shirts and chocolate and wine.
So here are a few events that happened this month in the life of Abigail:
She laughed (as mentioned):
Her favorite game is being raised above your head with her face looking at you, as if she’s flying. No matter what is happening, she laughs in response.
Spent the night away from mom and dad:
Abby survived and so did we, though I think it was easier on Abby than us. We are so lucky to have a baby who has no issues sleeping in a foreign environment. Of course, I spent most of the time worrying and missing her, so perhaps she had a more restful vacation.
Rolled over from back to front:
Now it’s gotten to the point where each time she is put down awake on her back, she’ll roll to her front, then get frustrated because she hates lying on her stomach and is just too lazy to flip back. Oh my child. By the way, the first time I discovered this was when I put her down on the floor (on her lamb pillow), turned away to grab more laundry from behind me, and turned back to see her on her stomach. I didn’t actually see her do it until weeks later. She’s so sneaky.
Pooped all over Mama’s Swing:
This is more of an exciting event for me. Abby has pooped through her diaper on her car seat, crib, play mat, bouncer, swing, etc. Basically, you name it and we own it, she’s pooped on it. However, she had NEVER pooped on any of my mother’s items (even when she was staying overnight). I actually started to think it was something I was doing – were her diapers too loose, was I not changing her often enough, was I feeding her too much? So many questions. Then, she did it. We were at my mom’s house and Abby was in the swing for longer than we expected. My mom went to check on her and there it was, she pooped through her diaper, through her clothes and on the swing. Good job baby girl. You just restored mommy’s confidence.
Took her first dip:
Her first time in a pool was not pretty. She screamed when her toes touched the water, as if you were torturing her. But we kept with it and after a few moments she calmed and just studied the water. She spent the entire time staring at the water, no emotion on her face. The next time, she actually enjoyed it – kicked her feet, splashed, and smiled.
Wore baby overalls:
Ok this one is cheating, because it was really something for me, but I don’t care. We got these overalls as a gift and I just couldn’t wait until she could wear them. By the way, they are size 9 months – oh my child!
Interacted with the animals:
For the past months, our pup has claimed Abby as her own and our kitty has pretty much ignored the situation (I think she’s still mad at us for bringing the dog home) and Abby just laid there, not really sure what to make of this. This month, she petted Caffrey (the pup) on her own for the first time, and Caffrey LOVED every minute of it. And, in a twist, Mozzie (our cat) actually approached Abigail. It was a short-lived relationship, but I’m hoping it will grow.
Celebrated some first holidays:
Father’s Day, she pooped all over her outfit before we left. Independence Day, she waited to pee all over it until after we arrived. So, an improvement I think. We also discovered that she can sleep through fireworks. Our pup cannot. Poor pup.
I can’t wait to see what next month will bring.
So let’s talk about the one thing you’re never supposed to talk about as a parent, the one thing that, if your child is actually doing, you keep your mouth shut, get on your knees and thank God for this incredible gift because the first rule about parenthood is to not talk about it – that’s right, sleep. And giving that it is currently 3:30 am as I write this, I thought it only appropriate.
Shortly after Abby went on formula … (side note: I am truly thankful for all of the kind words and comments after sharing my breastfeeding vs. formula feeding battle. In my head I have thanked you in an unforgettable poetic fashion, however, it being 3:30 am, words aren’t flowing as easily. I promise to make it up as soon as my brain functions again – so probably in 18 years). As I was saying, shortly after Abby started drinking formula regularly, her nighttime sleep patterns were incredible! She would have a few large feedings in the evening hours, go down for bed at around 8:30 pm, wake up one time in the middle of the night, and then be asleep until morning. Then, after a week or so, she eliminated that middle of the night feeding. We felt like we had won the baby lottery. We were parents with a two month old who would regularly receive between 6-8 hours of sleep a night! After weeks of waking every 2-3 hours and basically walking through life as zombies, the change was exhilarating, to say the least. I was ready to pat myself on the back and brag about my advanced daughter who had sleep down before she could crawl. We were amazing parents – superhero status would be given to us, parades would be organized in our honor, the world would bow at our greatness.
And then, of course, I was knocked off my high horse into a flaming pile of …. well, you can imagine.
As we enter into Abby’s fourth month on this planet, and let our guard down, she has decided it is time to regress because she’s just as manipulating as she is sweet. At first, it was just once in a while. She had an unusual heavy diaper, or just needed to be held for second, or just a few ounces of formula to get her back to dreamland. And it would only take a few minutes to get her back down. Before long, she was back to waking up regularly in the middle of the night with demands, so many demands. Then she started fighting her usual bedtime. Before, 8:30 pm would come and she’d be fast asleep, and we would embrace what I like to call “grown up time.” And yes, this typically involved drinking a glass of wine, watching mindless television, or playing video games (or all three), before heading to bed to enjoy a night of uninterrupted sleep. As I’ve mentioned before, neither of us are very “cool” individuals. But, of course, our grown up time started diminishing as Abby had new thoughts on when bedtime would actually start. And, as this is all happening, Abby began fighting daytime naps, which means mom, who is still on leave, is never sleeping. Abby does sleep, but only if being held. If I even think about moving her to her crib, game over. How can such loud noises come out of a such a tiny person? It’s just not fair!
Welcome to month four where she devilishly smiles at you at 11 pm, refusing bedtime; wakes in the middle of the night screaming for a new diaper, bottle, to be held, and your entire savings (I swear, I’d give it to her if it would make a difference), and daytime napping is a fantasy. And yes, she will nap only while you hold her in one arm and chug as much coffee as possible with your other, while debating if you should take another sip knowing if you need to move her in order to empty your bladder she’ll make you regret it. And, of course, right now I should be sleeping since her nighttime feeding was completed at 2:30 am, but in the thirty or so minutes it took to sway her back to dreamland, my brain woke up and refuses to turn off. Imagine an energetic puppy who just realized it’s morning and is ready for breakfast and playtime. My dog is snoring as I type this by the way. I envy her. So, here I am, now 4 am, and awake. And by the time I do fall asleep again (hopefully in the next 30 minutes), it will be too late, because her normal waking hour is around 5 am and the routine continues.
No wonder babies are so adorable – to allow others something pleasant to look at as they advert their eyes from the zombie pushing the stroller.
Dear woman at the grocery store rolling her eyes as I make a bottle for my baby girl, cashier who mumbles about poison under her breath as she rings up my formula, and “friend” who asks me how breastfeeding is going as I prepare a formula bottle: Screw you! Why do you insist on judging me when you don’t even know my story? What gives you the right to assume I must not love my daughter because of my choice to formula feed? Why is it that we are divided mothers – those who breastfeed and those who formula feed? Why does it have to matter how one parent chooses to feed his or her child over another? I strongly believe that you have the right to feed your child the way that works for you. I will defend a woman’s right to breastfeed in public, as well as a woman’s right to cover up because she chooses too. I was out with Abby one day, and saw a woman breastfeeding in pubic. I smiled. She smiled. Then I went to make a bottle, and she rolled her eyes.
Yes, I formula feed Abigail. No, I do not think it’s poison. Yes, I have the (physical) ability to breastfeed. No, I do not supplement with formula – I exclusively formula feed. Yes, I know breastfeeding is free. And yes, I love my child despite your constant nagging about the benefits of breast milk and the dangers of formula. Also – formula is not dangerous and if you believe it is, please leave me alone.
Now yes, not all moms judge. Not all moms even care. Honestly, I believe most of us are just trying to get through the day in hopes that we will get just one hot cup of coffee. But when I encounter these types of scenarios continuously, it stings. Aside from all of those events, the worst is when you’re with a friend who sees you making a bottle and asks “So, you’re formula feeding? Why?” I know you do not mean anything by it, but it still hurts. Do you ask that of someone who breast feeds? I assume not. It hurts that you make me feel that I need to justify my choices.
During my entire pregnancy I had every intention of breastfeeding. I knew it would be completely normal, easy, and exactly what my baby girl would need. I had heard incredible stories of the bond you have when you breastfeed, and that there was nothing as magical as producing sustenance for your child. I was looking forward to that euphoric experience so much. Publicly I would say if I couldn’t breastfeed, I’d be fine, but privately, I knew that I would have no trouble. Why would I? I’m healthy, my baby is healthy, it should be a match made in heaven. And in my baby 101 class given at the hospital weeks before I gave birth when they spoke on breastfeeding, I asked, just to be covered “What happens if I cant?”, the response from one nurse was “No worries, we always make sure you can.” And when I pushed the issue, she gave no indication that formula was an option. So I again assumed it was the easiest thing in the world and I would do it perfectly.
Fast-forward to Abby’s birth which was not at all what I expected. But, at the end, I had my beautiful daughter and I was ready to move to the next chapter. In the hospital, we found out about her tongue-tie and warned that this may make breastfeeding difficult. Nope, Abby nursed like a champ. She latched instantly – even the nurses were impressed at how well we both did that first time. My milk was coming in really well, despite the notions that my c-section would delay my supply. I was told to be proud and excited because this usually isn’t so easy with new moms. I was told that I was doing a great thing by breastfeeding and that my baby girl would benefit from my breast milk. But I didn’t feel any of that. And when I mentioned this, I was told by nurses that those feelings would pass. I was a first-time mom, of course breastfeeding would be weird at first, but, in time, it would be magical. So I pushed forward and assumed as soon as I was home, in our own environment, things would be different. They weren’t. Then I was told that I was still recovering from surgery and the pain medication was messing with my emotions. So I stopped the medication and gave myself some time. Time did nothing.
I’m not sure you will ever fully understand my state of mind during those first few weeks, but I’ll do my best to explain. Breastfeeding became a chore, something I had to do, not want to do. Imagine being forced to do something you detest over and over again, like flossing your dog’s teeth or cleaning your entire bathroom with nothing but a q-tip (then multiple that feeling by 100 – that’s about where I was each time I had to feed her). Abby would feed every 2 hours, each time for 45 minutes at least. That was 45 minutes (at least) of me suffering. And because I’m just not comfortable being exposed in front of visitors, I’d leave the room to feed her. I tried covers, but Abby hated them and I found them near impossible to use comfortable. But everyone kept saying breast was best, so I kept going. Each time she fed, I’d hate it even more. There was no bonding, there was no euphoric feeling, there was just a hungry baby and me. And I felt completely isolated. My entire life was centered around being a food source and nothing more, performing a chore I hated. People would visit and she’d spend 45 minutes to and hour and a half nursing. And that would be my life. And I never slept, because she would eat constantly. Nighttime was the worst because I’d watch my husband sleeping as I suffered, knowing I was alone. Each time she would cry, no matter what time of day, I’d cringe. I started resenting her. She’d want to nurse and I’d be so annoyed. I loved holding her but eventually she’d want to eat, and my heart would break at having to nurse her. I loved looking at her, but my emotions would be in check because I never knew when she would want to feed. And every time I fed her, I saw that no one else would get her. Her father barely had time with her before she had to feed again. And I would cry. And yes, some of this may have been from hormones but even so, it was the worst pain I have ever felt – feelings of not connecting with your own child.
Three weeks went by in this life. Three weeks of cringing as she fed, resenting as she cried, and punishing myself for not feeling that magical bond I had heard so much about. John saw all of this and suggested we look into other options. But, I couldn’t give her formula – the world told me breast is best and by giving up, I would be doing the worst thing possible for my daughter. I told him that it was important to keep going and that it would get better. It had to get better. Because if it didn’t, I would be admitting my (what I viewed then as) failure as a mom. We tried other options to work through it – he’d stay awake with me each time I nursed so I wasn’t alone. I started pumping milk during the day so one of the many night feedings could be his responsibilities, hoping the extra sleep would make a difference. It didn’t. He convinced me by saying we would just try it, just to see what would happen. Just to give me a break. I heard every word, but didn’t want to. I was told breastfeeding was the best thing for my child. Breastfed babies grow up healthier. Breastfed babies bond better with their mothers. Breastfed babies succeed.
So, I said we would only do it one night, and I would pump so we were ahead and eventually I’ll pump enough so she would be bottle fed but with breast milk at least. And then I would pump every day to build her supply for the next day. I hated pumping, but it just seemed like a better option. The night came, the night we would give her that first drop of formula, and I kept resisting. I couldn’t do it. The studies, the articles, the friends who told me that breastfeeding was best kept racing through my mind. Finally, John took Abby and gave her a bottle of formula. She drank it without a second thought. I spent the next two hours watching her, convinced that I had officially cursed my child for giving her “the poison” I had been warned against. I finally went to bed, and at her next feeding, I asked John to make me do it, despite my resistance. I made her a bottle of formula, sat up in bed with her in my arms, and I fed her formula. Her eyes were fixed on me the entire time, until that last drop came and drifted her off to dreamland. And I stared back at those beautiful eyes, and I cried because it was the first time I had felt connected to Abigail. Despite my exhaustion, I spent the next hour just staring at her. That was the first night I actually felt that incredible feeling of love for my daughter, that bond everyone kept talking about, that euphoric feeling of being a mom. I stopped pumping the next day and Abby has been exclusively formula fed since. And every time I feed her, I feel that bond grow.
You see, that was the night everything changed. That night, I thanked God for formula because it gave me what I wanted. It allowed me the ability to see those beautiful eyes and feel that powerful love I yearned for. I have been told I should have just kept going instead of “giving up” so easily. But since that day, I have never once cringed at the thought of feeding, holding or being with Abby.
So yes, I formula feed my daughter. And yes, I have the physical ability to breastfeed. And yes, she was amazing at nursing. And yes, I’m so happy that breastfeeding works for others. I applaud those who love breastfeeding and for doing everything and anything possible to breastfeed because it makes them happy. But I also know that there are others who don’t love it or have no interest in it. I applaud those who recognized this and formula feed. And for that mother who can’t breastfeed and wants to, who has also told me I should thank God that I can and she can’t and I should feel terrible that I don’t, I know it is only because you are suffering. I suffered too, differently, but I suffered. I wish I had loved breastfeeding because I know there are those who can’t and desperately want to, but I didn’t. And I’m tired of people trying to make me feel guilty because of it. Continuing to breastfeed would have been the worst decision I could have made. So to all of you who pass judgement, I do not regret and will never regret the decision. I feed my daughter formula because I love her and I realized that in order to give her my entire love, a love she deserves, I need to be ok. Formula allows me to be the best mommy I can be. And she deserves the best of me. So, when you ask me if I formula feed, my answer is “yes, because I love my child.”
And to all of my moms out there, struggling, I know that you are doing what you can to be the best mom for your child, whether it’s breastfeeding, formula feeding or both. You are doing an amazing job! Feel proud! And the next time someone asks you why you chose to breastfeed, formula feed, or both, the answer is simple – “Because I love my child.” But of course if they are being rude or have an extra attitude, you can always add a sarcastic “Because I was told that you aren’t supposed to give babies wine and that’s the only other beverage I regularly have in my home.”