Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the most painful hour of my medication-free labor while giving birth to my son, Gabriel.
There were no quiet moments for me to recover from the excruciating contractions, only the lonely truth that the waves of pain would keep coming and coming.
That was when I thought of the easy, synthetic solution: the epidural, a.k.a. the pain meds.
It was my goal not to have an epidural, but I was so tired that I gave up on myself and begged for one anyway. (They didn't give me one, though.)
It’s been that way this past week with breastfeeding.
Gabe is 4 months old, and he eats a lot.
And I’ve been begging myself to give in and give the boy the synthetic solution that will ease my pain: formula.
Sometime between last Monday (when my hunger and exhaustion caused me to call people by the wrong names) and this past Saturday (when unloading the dishwasher after nursing Gabe seemed more difficult than studying all night for a math final), I lost my resolve.
Gabe’s day care provider was among the first to suggest we consider this option—adding a little bit of formula in with the breastmilk.
Every day, she sees my face fall when she informs me how much of my pumped milk Gabe ate, and she suggested that this step would actually stop me from burning out and enable me to breastfeed him longer.
I posed a question on Patch about my wavering commitment, and, as I read the comments, I thought about it long and hard.
I initially decided to breastfeed Gabe for a full year, because all the research says that’s the best option for babies.
As one commenter wrote, the World Health Organization is among those that recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a child’s life.
In January, U.S. Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin said breastfeeding protects babies from infections and illnesses such as diarrhea, ear infections and pneumonia.
Breastfed babies are also less likely to develop asthma, and those who are breastfed for six months are less likely to become obese.
My baby has thrived on breastmilk.
The same can’t be said for me. I’m just so, so tired.
It seems like a lame excuse. And yet on some days, when I hold Gabe, I feel so lightheaded that I need to put him down—or I ask my husband to hold him—because I’m too weak to do it.
As I posed this question on the web, many of my Facebook friends confided that, as mothers who held full-time jobs, pumping and breastfeeding was especially difficult.
One commenter, a fellow reporter, said that while on assignment when her child was a baby, she would leave an hour early to cover the news just so she could have time to pump in restrooms, hotels, courthouses and convenience stores all across the state where she worked.
And yes, she supplemented breastfeeding—which she did for 13 months—with formula.
I work full-time (for Patch), but I work from home, so I have less room to complain—much less.
Even so, I find the situation very, very difficult.
I—like all journalists who celebrate the fact they have messy cars, messy desks and messy lives because we favor the task of chasing the story— have been having a hard time tearing myself away from the business of writing and editing news in order to pump milk.
It sounds so selfish. But it’s true.
On Saturday, I wandered over to the grocery store in my neighborhood and lingered in the formula aisle, thinking, really thinking, whether this was the right option for me.
The little containers were so colorful—and so expensive.
I took a minute to read the directions, which said that formula is a powder you mix with water.
Earlier that day, I had breastfed Gabe in the car in parking lot, and as my little family drove to our next errand, he cooed and crowed in his car seat.
I pulled out my phone, eager to see if any of the comments would give me more clarity.
A woman named Dara shared that she, too, thought about buying formula at the brink of her exhaustion, but that her husband encouraged her to wait just a bit, because this was only a phase.
“He has been right every time,” she wrote. “It is as if the stages of baby development are so in tune with what a parent can handle that they adjust and grow as our adult bodies are ready to max out.”
I hope she’s right.
Because I didn’t buy the formula, and I decided to exclusively breastfeed him for one more week before I make any decisions.
And I will be eating a lot more hamburgers and peanut butter sandwiches to boost my strength in the meantime.