I am about to pour my heart out. You are officially forewarned.
There are certain feelings I try to keep at bay. Feelings of resentment, feelings of being robbed and cheated out of "normal". The normal pregnancy and infancy I missed out on with Marissa. The normal toddlerhood. The normal anything. And the normal she has missed out on too. I try to keep these feelings at bay not because they are not real or valid, but because dwelling on them takes my focus off the positives in my life. Namely, that Marissa is here, happy and thriving.
But these feelings are very real and very valid. And they bubble to the surface periodically and unexpectedly.
I had a dream that brought all these feelings up once more. In the dream, I had just given birth to a baby boy. I was so in love and the feeling was compounded by being able to have my little family all together in the same bed. The hospital said it was a new concept they were trying out to have the whole family (father, mother, new baby, and siblings) in the same bed so everyone can bond. I liked it. No, I loved it.
I was able to breast feed my new son. Oh, the feelings of pure joy and deep love I felt! Heart soaring. Soul flying. Indescribable.
At one point, I looked at my baby boy, cradled in my arms and saw an all too familiar look cross his face. All of a sudden he projectile vomited. The nurse came running in and said, "Oh my, that's not just spit up. It looks like he threw up everything you fed him. And it looks like way more volume than his little tummy could handle. I'm not sure he knows when he is full. He may not be able to regulate his own feeding, so I recommend you start pumping and feed him by bottle so you can monitor how much he takes in." Great! I already had a kid who I couldn't breast feed because she never learned how to eat by mouth. Now I couldn't breast feed my new little one because he didn't know how to stop eating! My heart dropped to my toes. I was distraught.
And, all of a sudden, I was no longer in the hospital with it's cozy soft lighting and family bed. I was at home now, and lights were dim. I had left the hospital and was actually talking to the nurse over the phone. Once she said I would need to pump my breast milk, I looked at the clock on the wall and realized it was late in the evening. The lactation department at the hospital was where to rent pumps and they were probably gone for the evening. I started to feel desperate.
I also felt sickeningly inadequate. I could not provide for my baby like I was supposed to. I had failed. Again.
I tried looking up the number for the hospital's lactation department but the lights were too dim for me to read the phone book. I grabbed my babies up, strapped them in the car, and told Jeremy to just drive me to the hospital on the off chance someone would be there to rent me a pump.
This is where my dream ended. I distinctly remember actually feeling the pain of engorgement as I was waking up. It was the strangest yet familiar feeling.
Obviously, I was unable to breast feed Marissa. The guilt and sadness that brought on was overwhelming. I was lucky enough to have a strong supply of milk, so I did feel like I wasn't completely failing her. I was able to pump for Marissa for five months. I had about another month of milk saved up in the freezer for her. I loved that I was able to provide the nutrition God intended for her but it had just become too much of a task to sit and pump every three hours, 20 to 30 minutes at a time with a little one that I had to suction, hook up to a feeding pump and do cares for, above and beyond the "normal" newborn stuff.
I became seriously depressed when I stopped pumping. I had always known that I wanted to breast feed my babies. It is not only the most nutritious, natural, and beneficial option for the baby, it is a bonding experience like no other. It is the one thing only a mother can do for her child. It is for this particular reason that I actually took pride in the fact that I could provide breast milk for Marissa. The doctors and nurses may have saved her life, even more than once, but they could not do what I could do.
The fact that she could not actually nurse cut into me like a knife. Unbelievable pain. When I made the decision to stop pumping, the knife went deeper. Deeper still when I came down to the last bit of frozen breast milk. I actually wanted to hold onto that bag forever, like a badge of honor that I could have showing how I physically loved my baby.
I haven't thought much about this whole breast feeding thing until today, after that dream. I realized today, that aside from being overly tired, stressed, and hormonal, I am still not healed from the trauma of not being able to provide "normal" for my baby. Not sure I will ever be. I do feel cheated and robbed. And I do feel guilt. I pray there is at least one more chance at normal for me, one more chance at redemption. Either way, I do know that I did the best I could for my baby and, someday when she is old enough to hear about it, she will understand. And I pray she will love me for it.