More Humble Freaking Pie

This should be tattooed on my forehead

Well this has been a spectacularly awful day. Normally I try not to use my blog to just vent and whine (right, long-time readers? I never do that) but today sucked and I’m going to blog about it. Because it’s my blog, that’s why.

After Lincoln’s frenulectomy we had three beautiful days. Three days where I saw who my son could be, who he should be. He still wasn’t an overwhelmingly happy baby, but he was content. He wasn’t frantically trying to nurse every 30 minutes. Instead of taking one two hour nap in the morning and then dozing for 30 minutes in between fits of screaming and frustrating bouts of breastfeeding the rest of the day, he napped contentedly, ate happily, and spent his awake time cheerfully, in our arms or out of them.

Then it all went to hell.

I think the frenulectomy closed up. I know there are stretches to do so this doesn’t happen, but the ENT specifically told me not to do those because it could cause tissue damage around the stitch site. So I didn’t. And now his latch is worse than ever. It’s so bad that after an endless night of restless, angry nursing, I finally tried one last time to nurse him and he gave up three minutes in and just wailed. I felt so helpless and so desperate that I called my neighbor, who brought over formula and a bottle. Then another neighbor sent another bottle and more formula. But Lincoln wouldn’t take either bottle. I tried for hours. He went a solid five hours between the failed nursing attempt this morning and the moment around noon when I finally gave up, in tears again, and tried to nurse him. Maybe half an ounce of formula had dribbled into his mouth, but he’d spit most of it right out.

He nursed for about ten minutes and then fell asleep in exhaustion. I spent the next two hours alternately nursing him and soothing him when he got frustrated and crying myself. I felt horribly guilty about giving him formula this morning, but that guilt went right out the window today. At this point, I just want him to eat. Something. Somehow.

It isn’t like he’s underweight. He’s much, much thinner than my other babies were, and I know that my milk supply is about half what it usually is, but he’s still tracking okay on the growth chart. Or he was, three weeks ago. So he’s getting some calories at least, probably due to my ridiculously overactive letdown. But he’s never content.

We have an appointments with a lactation consultant and the ENT who did the frenulectomy tomorrow, so hopefully we will get some answers. I’m also going to borrow a pump so I can try breastmilk in the bottle. Maybe he’ll be more inclined to try it then. In the meantime…I dunno. I’m going to try not to actually go right over the cliff into total breakdown mode.

I said this on my facebook page this morning and I really meant it. I have never had enough sympathy for mothers who struggled to breastfeed. It was just always so easy for me, I didn’t understand how it could possibly be that difficult.

Well, fellow mothers, I’m sorry for being a snot-faced asshat who did her horrible part to perpetuate the mommy wars. Because this is terrible. It’s probably the most stressful experience of my life, and that includes drug withdrawals and living with my in-laws with three kids and my husband halfway across the country. This is so awful I can’t even put on a happy face when I see people on the street. It’s so awful that I didn’t even smile when the Ogre brought me home a bag of chocolate tonight. It’s so awful that I don’t even want to watch TV.

And I know it’s good that I’m getting my portion of humble pie, but I wish God would stop dishing it out so often. I’ve had so many humbling experiences with motherhood that there is absolutely no area left where I think I rock this shizzle because I’m doing it right, that’s why. Breastfeeding was the last holdout. I know nothing about mothering children. I have no secret abilities or innate gifts. I have no more grand delusions about how homebirthing or breastfeeding or cosleeping or attachment parenting will solve all those poor other mothers’ problems. Reality slapped those right out of me.

I get it now, God. Being a mother is a monumental task, and every mother is different, and every child is different, and no one-size-fits-all “your baby will be happy if you do X because RESEARCH AND STATISTICS” approach is ever going to work. Life has thrown me ridiculously thick frenula and a baby who can actually regenerate, probably because of my excessive gestational Doctor Who watching. The one thing I never worried about has ended up completely undoing me. I admit that I’ve been overly prideful about this one thing, and can only see that when it’s falling apart. I get it.

Please, though, no more pie right now. Let me get over choking this one down.

  • laura

    You know, I think that post sounds annoying, too. I’m just going to stop trying to write something now and just pray for you.

  • Sister Anne

    I was going to respond today to your post of a few weeks ago (just read it last night and couldn’t get you off my mind or out of my prayers), but I suppose that what I was going to say still holds true.
    It used to be that the religious were thought to be living a life of heroic virtue. Separated from the “world,” renouncing family and fortune, getting up at 2 a.m. to pray, living in some cases a “grand silence” that lasts a lifetime… That was the epitome of toughing it out for Jesus. But now I am convinced that in our society, we religious (well, those of us who are not Trappists!) are the wimpiest of Catholics. It is just too easy to adapt to a set pattern of life, show up for prayers, put up with community members’ foibles… Religious life can be a life of luxury, in its own way. It is the faithful Catholic parents who are living heroic lives of faith, hope and charity. Welcoming family, they simultaneously renounce “fortune” (!) and get up at 2 a.m. to feed or comfort the baby. That is heroism, lived day by day in the most apparently ordinary circumstances. Doesn’t look outstanding, but it is. And it takes outstanding grace to live like that for even a day. Your life, just as it is, witnesses to an incredible degree of involvement with the Holy Spirit. Your home is like a tabernacle of the Spirit, and grace is probably pouring out unseen from all four walls to the entire neighborhood.
    Naturally, a family like that is going to come under spiritual attack from the enemy of mankind. Ever since Eden, he has been stung by those words “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers.” We may apply those words only to Mary and her Son; I suspect that Lucifer applies them to every woman on earth. And families who structure their lives around the Gospel come up for particular attention. I have heard of couples who, upon converting from a contraceptive mentality, are suddenly faced with job loss, loss of medical insurance and other untimely problems that would tempt anyone to backtrack subito to the way things were. I can only repeat the prayer to St Michael: “Defend us in the battle!”
    In your post of a few weeks ago, I also recognized something St Ignatius of Loyola suffered early in his spiritual life, which caused him so much suffering he was tempted to suicide. At the time, he was living an intensely penitential life at Manresa. Basically, he was living in a cave, unwashed, unfed, scourging his body and torturing himself in any way he could think of (trying to imitate the saints he had read about, thinking “if they could do it, so can I”). At a certain point, he began to wonder: “How can I keep this up for another twenty years or more?”
    Naturally, he was quickly overwhelmed by the thought. That led to sheer desperation. Until he realized that no one was guaranteeing him another twenty or more years of anything at all. He began living (as a Jesuit hundreds of years later would put it) in the “sacrament of the present moment.” Later, he could say that in a worst case scenario (he specified that scenario, too, as the Pope ordering the suppresssion of the Society of Jesus), it would probably take as much as fifteen minutes of prayer for him to regain peace of heart. And toward the end of his life, that worst case scenario began to raise its head: Loyola’s “frenemy” Cardinal Caraffa, was elected Pope. Caraffa had continually tried to force the Jesuits to conform to the monastic prayer pattern of chanting the psalms in choir seven times a day–something that would not exactly have allowed the Jesuit mission to develop. Ignatius was at dinner when the news came, and witnesses say that all the blood drained right out of his face. He rose from the table and went directly to chapel. About fifteen minutes later, he returned: serene. Not even a spiritual giant like Ignatius of Loyola could face the dissolution of his life’s work without the help of extra grace, but that lesson from Manresa “bought” him the time he needed to go away, regroup before the Lord and commit everything into God’s hands. He didn’t *have* to face the dissolution of the Jesuits at the dinner table the evening the Pope was elected. (In fact, the Pope respectfully waited until Ignatius’ death to impose choir on the Jesuits, and when that Pope died, his successor immediately revoked the imposition.)
    I guess that’s a roundabout way of encouraging you not to live the next twenty years in one fell swoop. Anyone would be overwhelmed at that, as I know from my own experience of taking the lowest moments of my religious life and projecting them, unceasingly, to my old age. The alcoholics got it right (as did Ignatius before them): “One day at a time.”
    Continuing to pray for you and for all heroic couples: you are the light of the world!

  • Maggie

    I quit breastfeeding my oldest because it was SO HARD every time he cried to be fed I cringed and got sick to my stomach. The first time I held him pain free with a bottle was such a relief. I decided to try again with my second child and that went much smoother so I ended up nursing her for 10 months. But…the child who was formula fed never ever gets sick. My breastfed child is ALWAYS catching the next available virus floating around. So, that old adage that they need the breast milk to be healthy, well apparently that didn’t work out so well with mine. Every mother needs the freedom to make the best choices for each individual child free from judgement. Prayers to you!

  • Maggie

    That sounds horrible :( God bless you and your baby. I have nothing of substance to say but that this is a wonderful post and it’s absolutely true that sorrow brings wisdom. Not that that’s any comfort when you’re suffering. Praying!

  • Ashley

    As a type A The Lord is diligent in keeping me humble…children who still scream at me despite my best “when I’m a mother I will…” plans, bankruptcy, home foreclosure, etc. But nursing is número UNO. Four kiddos, three STINKY nursers. And each with a different problem so my “I’ve been through this and ill never have to struggle in this area again” future plans also fail. 12 months of combined pumping, infinite funds spent employing a lovely LC (love it that two of mine made her Worst Ever Nurser list), and a college degree that has proven utterly useless in this dilemma. I have finally accepted that my newborns suck at eating (50% of their job at that point) and this is my thorn-covered path to humility and compassion. :)

  • Jenni

    I tried to nurse my 1st, but it was incredibly painful and anxiety-provoking, so I gave up. Now I’m on my 3rd, all formula-fed, all healthy. DON”T feel guilty! Also, formula feeding makes tracking your fertility much easier. That’s not a reason in and of itself, just a silver lining if you have to use formula.

    I read an article soon after becoming a mom that said that perfectionism is one of the major causes of unhappiness in mothers. So I strive to not be a perfectionist. Anything I have to let slide in order to keep a calm, happy home, I let it slide. We have a baby-proof home, we eat healthy, and we go to mass every week. That’s my baseline. Everything else is an achievement. If I fold the laundry instead of shoving fistfuls of it into drawers, it’s a miracle. Really, if the clothes even make it into the drawers, it’s a miracle. My kids watch TV. Sometimes they eat goldfish for lunch. I don’t take them to the park. Big freaking deal. All they know is they’re happy. I haven’t read enough of your posts to know if that’s helpful advice for you, but I just thought I’d put it out there, because I’m in the toddler tunnel myself and I feel for you.

    Also, I saw you’re trying Marquette. Congrats!!! It’s SO much easier that sympto-thermal. Sign up for the online charting. There’s a forum where professionals answer your questions, usually within 24 hours. Also, Clear Blue makes another digital ovulation test. It shows a smiley face to indicate fertility. They call it the OPK and recommend it as a second check in the evening. (Don’t worry, it’s not as expensive as the monitor!) I don’t think it’s officially part of the protocol yet, but read through the forum posts to see what they say about it. Good luck and God bless!