I 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.