We’re not supposed to say that we’re glad to be done with breastfeeding. But I’ll admit it: My name is Jordana and I’m kind of, sort of, glad to be done.
Without question, breastfeeding is terrific when it works. But “when it works” is often interpreted as the simple: when you can get the kid to latch, for example, or have no problems with supply.
But what if it makes you crazy?
Not literally crazy, of course. I’m talking colloquially crazy. As in, “God, this is driving me crazy.” As in being perpetually stressed out, tired, and miserable. As in finding yourself screaming at your other kids because you are so hung up on making sure the breastfeeding is going OK. What about that?
My reasons for weaning don’t come without guilt. I feel bad, as I always do when I stop breastfeeding each child. I know that breast is best. I know that breastfeeding her would have been the best nutritional option I could have given her. And yet, I’ve opted to stop.
For each of my children, I’ve opted to breastfeed–and yet with each child, I’ve breastfed for less and less time. It’s not because I love each successive child less than the one before. It’s because my life has become more and more full and overflowing with each child. My days stretch from before dawn to well into the night, from midnight wakings to late night basketball games: they are exhausting. Being a mom to so many kids is harder and better than anything I could have imagined before having children. And with each kid, my time is stretched thinner and thinner. No matter what it feels like, there are only so many hours in the day (and night).
I am not with my baby all the time. I can’t be. I work. When I’m not working at the job that pays me (too little, of course), I’m working at the bigger job that doesn’t: being a mom to four other children. I am shopping for and preparing healthy meals for them. I’m coordinating carpools and playdates. I’m getting supplies for art projects and playing in the snow and schoolwork. And, most importantly and least measurably, I’m WITH them, talking to them, reading to them, hugging and kissing them, and trying to teach them how to be, by my example.
In my more self-flagellating moments, I think, “But what about those moms with 11 kids in the old pre-formula days? What did they do?” I’m assuming they breastfed. But I’m also assuming they weren’t responsible for driving the kids and their friends in the old horse and buggy to ball and talent show practice, Hebrew school, the pediatrician, and the ex-husband’s house. And maybe their expectations for themselves and their lives beyond being a mom were different from what mine are for myself.
For better or for worse, this is where I am. I’m sure there are some breastfeeding advocates who would condemn me for quitting. There are even some people out there who I’m sure believe that I shouldn’t have had as many children as I have if I can’t breastfeed them (in the immortal words of Michael Jackson, authority on all things parenting-related, “If you can’t feed the baby/then don’t have a baby”).
Do I think I can raise happy, healthy kids without breastfeeding them?
Yes, I do. In my case, maybe I can do it even better than I would do otherwise, by being my whole self, at peace rather than in pieces. I’m an advocate of women doing what works best for them in any context–and for me, that applies here as well. I am much less stressed out about the experience of feeding my baby–and even enjoy being with her more as a result of that.
I’m not Super Mom. But I’m good enough. And I’m finally at peace with that.