On Being a Provider

heart in handsI recently gave birth at home to an 8lb 6oz baby girl who slipped eagerly into her papa’s hands as soon as she emerged into the world.

As the main income generator of our now 3-person household, I’m used to the idea of being the “provider” … the one who makes the money, pays the bills, brings home the bacon, etc. When I began breastfeeding it occurred to me that I’ve become a provider in a different way. I was literally built (or made, or born) to provide for this child by creating her most perfect food, something precisely calibrated for her needs, her immune system, and the growth and nourishment of her magnificent body and brain. I take great pride in this ability, as a woman and as a mother. How amazing are our bodies!? How magical this relationship we can have with our children!

But when the night came that, for various reasons, she refused both breasts over and over and hubby had to bottle feed her, my hidden feelings of inadequacy … uselessness … and helplessness relentlessly took hold. I felt broken, the wholeness of me reduced to a defect, a failure. This ability of mine to create and provide my child’s most perfect food had failed me. No, I had failed her. And it was an all-consuming failure.

Through no fault of my own, sure. And she WAS still drinking breast milk from the bottle, yes. But the thing about how my brain works, this brain with its depressive tendencies and dark, dark, scary corners I try to stay out of … the thing about this brain is that it’s blind to my many successes but quick to point out failures in their slightest forms.

Add to that the incorrect assumption that I AM what I DO, suddenly one tiny incident turns into a horrible declaration in my mind which screams, “I cannot breastfeed, therefore I am not a good provider … or a good mother. I AM a failure.”

It took me hours to call out all the fallacies that led me down this dark mental path into the sobbing, whimpering shell of a woman I became that night, to tear myself away from their cruel and bloody hold on me. Later, when the daylight came to scare away my darkest thoughts, I remembered … I can still provide love. And care. And compassion. And patience. And appreciation. To myself as well as to my daughter. I am still a provider. I am still a mother. Someday, I might even declare myself a good one.

Until then, I’m reminded of hubby’s kind and constant words … I am not alone as a provider, or a parent. We’re a team. We’re doing this together, tackling every strange and challenging moment that arises as it comes.

I had no idea my greatest challenge as a new parent would be the fight with my own demons. I should’ve known.

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The Mourning Year

In month zero
I mourned the loss
of a child I would never meet.

Then month three came
and I mourned the loss
of the first true home I’d seen.

Month six came
and we mourned the passing
of the man my husband called dad.

In month nine we
shared an anniversary
where we mourned everything we once had.

Month twelve came
and I mourned the death
of my beloved brother and friend.

Month thirteen has arrived
and I’m tired, so tired,
of this mourning that just won’t end.

I’ve lost all perspective
on beauty and hope
and my dreams being held at bay.

But I give thanks for the love
standing strong by my side,
month after month, easing my pain.

Despite all the hard
and the endless tears,
one thing for sure I now know.

This mourning year
gave me one great gift.
The knowing that I am never alone.