Triticum Turgidum

Lying Dormant and Waiting to Bloom Since 2005

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Location: The Prairie, Illinois, United States

I am a beauty-loving ambidextrous higher-order primate who learned transcendental meditation at 7, statistical analysis at 23, tap dancing at 30, and piano at 35. I tolerate gluten, lactose, and differences of opinion, but not abuse. Or beets.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Bonding or Bondage?

On Tuesday my little girl will be four weeks old. I can't believe I survived the past 28 days, let alone the labor and delivery.

I thought by now I'd be talking about being "hopelessly in love" with my daughter, but I'm not. Could I be failing the bonding test? I've experienced a craving for her that feels almost physical; when I haven't been around her for a few hours I have this intense desire to rush back. And I kiss her and sing to her constantly. These things all feel natural. But I don't feel "in love" yet, perhaps because I'm still so intimidated. Her most common facial expression is one my adult mind reads as a combination of vexation, disappointment, and skepticism, like she's just sized up her lot in life (assignment to me) and isn't too happy with the pairing.

I've been forced to supplement with formula because my cups runneth not over: I haven't been producing enough milk to make her gain weight, in spite of 10 feedings a day followed by religious post-feeding pumping combined with fenugreek, warm compresses -- all that "increase your milk supply" crap. I feel terrible guilt over not being able to feed my daughter 100% with my own body, and now it appears that I'm projecting my feelings about myself onto her. Poor little thing. Only four weeks old and her neurotic mother is already projecting adult feelings onto her innocent infant psyche.

Maybe this is to be expected, given that nothing in this birth went the way I wanted. I was committed to a natural vaginal birth and ended up with an emergency c-section. I was committed to breastfeeding exclusively and ended up needing to supplement with formula. I was committed to eating healthily after the birth and ended up consuming endless "family size" bags of M&Ms that only worsened the crippling constipation I've been experiencing since I came home. (The junk food overconsumption ends tomorrow, I swear.)

Occasionally she breaks into a huge dimpled grin. It's totally random and only happens when she's asleep, but it's emotional manna to me. Could I be that dependent on a smile to bond with my baby? Will she learn that the only way to win Mommy's love is to put on a happy face? God, I hope not. But I'll tell you, the power of a smile is nowhere more evident than during interaction with a baby.

On the up side: She's adorable, she smells great, she's healthy (knock wood), she's easygoing when properly fed, and she loves art. I know this because I have a Marimekko wall hanging over my bed that she just sits and stares at after feedings.

I am so lucky. I know this. So why can't I seem to relax and just enjoy this time with my sweet, warm, squishy little girl?

22 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awe Kris you have bonded that is it,what you are feeling ! And it will grow as she becomes more aware of things around her ,touches your face,lights up her whole face when she sees you . All this is yet to come ,all she knows now is you smell good, are a big blur of a face and have food. In a few more weeks she will be more aware. About your milk my Ped. said to drink a beer , it is great for relaxing you and increasing the supply. I know nothing about recovery from C-sections but I would expect it makes it harder for you. But to me you sound like you are doing just fine. How are the Blood Sugars all good again ? Pick up some Lactulose solution UPS at the drugstore and clean your insides out . That will make you feel a whole lot better LOL. YOU are doing just FINE,& how can I tell, well look at Fi's face she is a happy little baby. OX's Katie

9:03 PM, March 19, 2006  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

I was so tired when my son was 1 month old that I couldn't think straight anyway...so now I can't remember how "bonded" I felt. We had problems with feeding too. The only advice I can offer is: don't worry about it. Any of it. You'll be surprised how much better it all looks when you start getting some real sleep.

10:19 PM, March 19, 2006  
Blogger PFG said...

No advice on this one. Just a stray thought. Maybe this is like some of those other things in life, the ones that people don't always tell the whole truths of their own experiences about. Hence what the rest of us (who are going through it for the first time) have available as the standard might be skewed towards the ridiculously unbelievably "best day of my life" positive portrayal.

11:26 PM, March 19, 2006  
Blogger Urban Chick said...

never was there a concept as nebulous and ungraspable as 'bonding' or at least that was my experience

it is much talked about and vexed about, but i was never sure what everyone meant by it

my two were in hospital for a long time after the birth (having been premature) and people asked me if this meant i hadn't 'bonded' with them

i honestly did not have a reply, all i knew was i would start running as soon as i got through the hospital doors to get to their cotside (well, once i was no longer bent double from the section!) and craved being with them, despite the geographic complications

i too had to supplement very early on and the guilt, oh the guilt! what a wasted emotion! everyone said it to me ('don't waste time feeling guilty - enjoy your babies!') so i say it to you: please drop the guilt thing - it's a skill you need to acquire as early as possible in parenting because believe me, there is shedloads of the stuff yet to come!

your baby is clearly happy and thriving and you are still recovering from major abdominal surgery so cut yourself a little slack and just enjoy her - she's a little beauty!


UC

6:38 AM, March 20, 2006  
Blogger Urban Chick said...

sorry, that was long, rambling and, reading back over it, maybe a little preachy

i guess i just feel strongly about the guilt avoidance thing!!

:)

6:40 AM, March 20, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chin up - babies are rarely plan-friendly ;-) For that matter, pregnancies are rarely plan-friendly either. I think there's a big rubber band of 'give' that you should just allot to everything - and it doesn't make you bad or lazy, and it sure as all heck shouldn't make you feel guilty. And I think the instant love thing is probably not that realistic - but I also think not many women will probably own up to it, out of guilt. All things take adjusting, it's a rare thing in life to instantly fit to anything, why should this be any different? You clearly love her, and secretly, she'd probably give a day's worth of general naughtiness for some of those m&m's! She sure has a wary little stare, but hey she's probably thinking, 'hey mom, take a deep breath - it's all good here'

7:33 AM, March 20, 2006  
Blogger Anne said...

Why are you so hard on yourself? I remember having to supplement with formula for my first and feeling terrible about it. Now I know I just needed someone to tell me it's okay. The other kids were strictly bottle-fed. Doesn't seem to have made an impact either way. As to falling in love with your baby, how could it be an instant thing, when you've only just met? It's a process, not a one-time event, right? You need time to discover all the wonderful qualities of one another. Maybe it's difficult to relax sometimes because you are a very concientious person. You are so nice to everyone else. Please be as kind to yourself as you would be to a dear friend.
--- anne

10:21 AM, March 20, 2006  
Anonymous jonniker said...

If this were me saying all of this, you would clock me over the head so hard with the Frying Pan of Love my head would be spinning.

I can't say much other than what others have said, but I think, like PFG says, that this is one of those things that no one talks about. But I do know that the breast feeding guilt is legendary throughout women everywhere. And to this, I say: I wasn't breast fed. I adore my mother beyond all reason, and am also quite intelligent and well adjusted. So, bah to the BFG.

xoxo to you, G, and baby Fi. Yes, yes, you are lucky, but so is she. Very.

1:23 PM, March 20, 2006  
Blogger mreenymo said...

Oh Baby! This is all par for the course, darling, it really is. I can tell from your post that you are deeply bonded to this child and love her more than anything.

Everything you are going through, K, is normal. Babies never, ever get enough to eat, and sometimes supplementing is the logical choice. At four weeks, they are just getting used to their environment, but in a month or so, you will start to see more "awareness" on F's part.

It is all good, and you ARE a great and devoted mom!

Hugs and love!

1:54 PM, March 20, 2006  
Blogger cjblue said...

Oh, Kris - wow, this is a huge post and, like others have said, something I think is fairly common and rarely talked about. PFG hit the nail squarely on the head with that one. There are a great deal of expectations, perpetuated by people who are too guilt-ridden to admit to the way they *really* feel. I'm not saying there aren't moms who truly feel love at first sight, but I think for the large majority of us it's a process.

I remember my first month with my daughter. I was exhausted, in pain, leaking milk all over the place and for days on end I would only clean the important stuff - hands, face, nipples. I came to think of my daughter as a beautiful and tiny terrorist, who ran the house with her demands and desires and we could only acquiesce. Many times I cried in frustration, not knowing why this kid, who was clean, fed and not sleepy, was just screaming her head off endlessly.

I rocked her until my arms felt they would drop off, I fed her at all hours and lived in a big blur.

Of course, there were good times and I remember feeling also like I was missing a limb, when I was away from her. I had to supplement feeding my second daughter with formula and I too felt like a failure. Two c-sections (unplanned), and now I couldn't even feed her. There is definitely an upside to having your child be used to your breast AND a bottle, believe me.

The guilt will pass and you and your child will gradually get to know each other. You will fall in love. Don't judge yourself with unrealistic expectations, or by what you think you SHOULD feel. Your experience is your own. And let me tell you this: My daughters are now almost 5 & 8 and still one of my most favorite times to encounter them is when they are sleeping. Ain't nothing like a sleeping child.

You are loved, your daughter is loved. I guarantee she knows it. ♥

9:54 PM, March 20, 2006  
Blogger Jemima said...

It took me a long time to come to terms with (as I saw it) failing in my womanly duty because I had two sections. Now ten years removed from my last surgical intervention it seems insignificant. And after feeding my first from my overflowing breasts the guilt when my second didn't like feeding. Aargh.

Guilt is a natural feeling because you want to do your best and there's so much that doesn't fit the ideal plan. Don't, in the name of all that is holy, let it take you over. I'm sure my mother's paranoia over my feeding played a part in my eating disorder problems. If she has energy to cry, she has enough nourishment to thrive, be kind to yourself. (if for no other reason Fialka needs you strong!)

2:46 PM, March 22, 2006  
Blogger Bela said...

You're just tired. Give yourself a break. :-)

8:56 PM, March 22, 2006  
Blogger jane said...

Poor Kris! You sound like a tired Mommy, with maybe a little PP Blues thrown in. That physical craving is love. Don't worry. Don't expect 200% from yourself! However, PLEASE call a certified Lacactation Consultant for breastfeeding advice.It is actually quite rare to not make "enough" milk. Damn the pediatricians! Is she happy and gaining SOME weight? She should be little more than birth weight right now,as most babies lose in the week after.BTW, pumping milk does not stimulate milk production as much as actual breastfeeding. RELAX! Contact me of you can find answers locally.All is OK. In fact you are (gulp)NORMAL!

4:13 PM, March 23, 2006  
Blogger cjblue said...

Jane, I'm sorry but I have to disagree here. I'm no lactation specialist, but I am a mom and I know a heck of a lot of other moms. Just reading the comments here, you'll see exactly how common it is to have to supplement feedings with formula because of not producing enough milk. In the first six weeks, you and your baby are just getting to know each other and your body has just been through a tremendous shock, especially with a c-section. Give yourself time, and if you need to supplement, you supplement. Be glad we have that option. Kris, you're fine. Don't stress. It doesn't all come naturally (throughout history there has been community support to help women through times like this) but it does come.

R

5:17 PM, March 23, 2006  
Anonymous jonniker said...

Ditto R. I'm not a mom yet, but I would say 85 - 90% of the moms I know have gone through what Kris is going through. I can't believe it's that rare, and I'd had for K to feel like some sort of freakish anomaly in that regard.

7:33 PM, March 23, 2006  
Blogger WinterWheat said...

Thanks to all of you! I feel understood and supported.

Jane -- I appreciate your feedback. I've been visiting the RN LCs at my hospital's BFing clinic once or twice a week since the baby was born. I've been pumping 7-8x/day, taking fenugreek and brewer's yeast, using warm compresses, drinking lots of water, trying to get rest, etc -- in short, pretty much everything you can do short of taking Reglan, which I refuse to do. (Depression as a "side effect?" I think not.)

DD lost 17 ounces (!) during her first week home, so it's understandable that the LCs (who are pediatric RNs as well) suggested I supplement until my supply improved. Well, it's improved, but when I cut back on formula the poor baby actually loses weight. This concerns me (and the RN LCs) since brain development is going gangbusters now.

Finally one of them asked me about any health conditions I might have. Bingo -- Graves' Disease. I told 3 of them about it on separate occasions and they all said they'd run into several women with thyroid disorders who couldn't make enough milk, even though their thyroid hormone levels were controlled. (As you know, the thyroid is a key player in metabolism.) Since my 'roid was nuked as treatment for Graves' Disease, its role in my metabolism has been replaced entirely by supplemental thyroid hormone. But it's my feeling that the crude synthetic hormones in that pill probably don't replace the FULL function of the thyroid gland. If we knew everything it did, there wouldn't be continued research on it. That said, many women with thyroid problems can still BF just fine, but I would hazard a guess that most of them have at least a partially working 'roid. Unfortunately I had mine fried at the U of Michigan hospital, where the nuc med philosophy is "kill it so we don't have to do it twice." :-)

To make a long story short: I'm doing all I reasonably can to increase my supply. And I'm really glad I live in a time where there is some other option (formula) available for supplementation. Believe me, as a media critic I did NOT want to buy and use a product that's aggressively marketed and that's redundant with something that's available for free! But my poor little girl was crying and hungry, and weighings before and after nursings at the BFing clinic showed that she was taking in a max of 1.5 oz TOTAL during a 45-min feeding -- not nearly enough for a 1-month-old. So, I supplement. And continue to pump. And hold and kiss my little girl, who's finally -- after almost 4 weeks of not getting enough food -- content and well-fed. :-)

9:29 PM, March 23, 2006  
Blogger WinterWheat said...

p.s. (And there's nothing wrong with her latch. The kid can SUCK. I'm just a dribbling faucet.) :-)

9:33 PM, March 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heh. I sorta wondered if the heavens would open and I'd find EVERYTHING SO DIFFERENT and I'd discovered that I truly didn't know what love was until I had my baby, because isn't that what everyone says? Nope, it didn't. Everything was the same. I'll tell you what, though. It sneaks up on you. The first year is rough. Rough, rough, rough. I would cherish naptimes then feel guilty. Felt rotten like I wasn't one of those moms on the covers of books who were SO IN LOVE with their baby, their eyes spewing out godbeams of light as they gazed on their miracle. For me, it came as I got to know her, when her personality emerged beyond "FEED ME! I'M WET! HOLD ME!" She just turned five and the past year and a half, yeah, I catch myself just staring at her with waves of big love. Especially right now, when she wraps her little arms around me and says she loves me then draws me a dinosaur battling a Pokemon. Just...the best. I guess I just needed a bond that went beyond 'you came out of my body.' I needed to know HER. Bigtime love.
x
Marina

1:54 AM, March 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi K. You've received a lot of good advice and support here. It's been said so many times it sounds like a cliche, but it's true -- the first three months are the hardest. After the intial shock and sleep deprivation recede, things will seem less daunting, and you'll feel as though you "know" your little one better.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with giving your baby formula, either as a supplement or (gasp!) the major part of her diet. Both of my kids were formula fed (for a variety of reasons, breastfeeding didn't work out well for me) and they were perfectly healthy; in fact, they caught fewer colds/viruses than other babies in their playgroups. So please, please, don't guilt yourself over that. Even if it were simply your preference to bottle feed -- not because of a physical limitation -- you have a right to that choice and nobody is entitled to criticize it. Women should be supportive of other women's choices. What works for one may not work for another.

Your little girl is beautiful. You are doing all the right things. She is going to love you more than she loves anyone else in the world, even if it doesn't seem that way now. And I bet she'll wind up liking perfume as well :-)

Sue (MUA SuburbanSue)

2:20 PM, March 25, 2006  
Blogger Atreau said...

*shakes fist* Freakin' Graves Disease!

Jumping in to give you more hugs and let you know that Fi's got the best mom!

1:49 AM, March 28, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, I'm so late here, but I'll comment all the same, because when I was a new mom (both times!), I was literally starving to hear other moms' experiences. One thing I do know: no two are alike. And they're all OK. :-)

After my daughter, our first child, was born, I was literally freaked. I knew zip about babies (only child, never babysat, etc.) and all our family lived far away, and here was this little thing that screamed constantly (colic) and wanted to nurse non-stop (sometimes, I truly was topless for 24 hours at a stretch). I would sit and hold her and nurse and cry and think, "What have I done, having a baby??" And then I'd immediately hate myself and call curses upon my head for such a thought. And then, one day, it was different. The colic was gone, she slept four or five hours, I got to shower...and I fell hopelessly in love. And I continue to, 13 years later.

With my son, I was far more prepared, but it was no less traumatic and exhausting for all sorts of reasons. I loved him more quickly (gosh, it's hard to admit that) -- I think it's because I wasn't as freaked-out by his baby-ness. But him, I could not nurse. I just didn't produce enough milk -- he gained only 1.5 lbs. in his first 8 weeks. I was firmly in the grips of La Leche and committed to not supplementing, convinced that meant I was a "failure." Thankfully, I decided to follow my instincts and give the child some formula. He survived, and he's 10 now and completely normal, if not a little bit brilliant.

One thing I firmly believe: your hormonal dip after giving birth to a girl vs. giving birth to a boy is totally different. I am certain you can attribute some of your feelings to this. That, and your whole world has been turned on its ear -- plus, your body grew and birthed a Person. No small feat, that, and there are certainly far-reaching physiological and emotional after-effects. There is a lot of joy packed into those first few exhausting weeks, but it can be hell, too.

I sure don't know it all, even though I try to sound like I do! I just thought I'd share. Best of luck to you. I am sure you and your beautiful baby girl will be better-than-fine, and someday you'll help another new mom with the story of your experience. ~I'm HairMetalWoman on MUA. :-)

4:48 PM, March 29, 2006  
Blogger DryWellToHell said...

Everthing will work out. Love your blog. I read it with my morning coffee.
Keep your chin up girl :)

3:12 PM, July 22, 2006  

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