The other week, I was nursing my baby at 10 PM in our living room and watching TV as my husband lay on the couch, snoring. He was so loud I couldn’t hear what was happening on House Hunters.
“HONEY! YOU’RE SNORING!” I announced, which did the trick.
“Hey, you woke me up!” Dave responded.
“Listen, I’ve been alone with the baby for the better part of the day and would appreciate some company,” I said.
“Well, I went to work,” he pointed out, reasonably. Which is when I blurted, “Why don’t YOU try breastfeeding a baby ALL DAY LONG?”
Just as soon as I said it, I felt awful. “Sorry,” I mumbled.
“Sweetie, I couldn’t breastfeed the baby,” Dave said. Right, he was.
Was I being rational? Of course not.
Was I a tired, fuzzy-brained, hormonal new mother who was burned out from sitting around with her shirt half open and her boobs hanging out? Oh, yeah.
I like breastfeeding because of the nutrition benefits and the bonding, but it has never come as effortlessly to me as it has for other women I know — not for kid No. 1, not for kid No. 2, and not for kid No 3, Ben. All of my babies have taken a long time to feed, and no expert consultation has helped. Ben also has reflux and he spits up a lot. People always say that the amount of spit up a baby produces looks like a lot more than it is, but it pours out of Ben like lava during a meal, right afterward, and even a couple hours later. And so, the poor little guy gets hungry again fast.
This baby takes all that I give him and I can’t pump extra milk, so Dave can’t yet feed him with a bottle. I am hardly anti-formula; I alternated it with breastmilk for my other kids. But I did that only when I went back to work, and I’ve wanted to do the same for Ben although I may not be able to hold out much longer.
It isn’t just that I’ve found nursing to be a lot of work or that the responsibility of being the sole person who can feed our baby has weighed heavily on me, I’m also struggling with the loss of freedom. To be sure, having two other children means I can’t take an impromptu trip to, say, Tahiti. These days, though, I can barely make a break for the drugstore as the baby naps at home; if he wakes up and cries, I have to dash back to feed him. I resent that my husband can make a Starbucks run without worrying about a text that says, “The baby is hungry.”
Having a baby means getting sucked into a vortex of feeding, burping, changing diapers and clothes, and doing laundry (especially if you have an infant with reflux). If you’re on maternity leave, it means you shift from a world in which you spend daily time with adults you like (hopefully!) doing productive work (hopefully!) into a world in which your 10-pound boss has no schedule, and wails when he needs something, and even taking a bathroom break feels like a luxury.
Of course, there are incredible job benefits of new motherhood, the top one being: A BABY! I am besotted with Ben, who has a dimple the size of a moon crater, chubalicious arms and legs, and the sweetest smile.
I’ve also enjoyed hanging with friends during the day, something I can’t do when I’m at my job. But you can adore your baby and motherhood and still miss your previously scheduled life, and maybe moms don’t generally like to admit this, but I am. It’s the reason why, when my husband heads out to work in the morning, and I am sitting there with a damp burp cloth on my shoulder and Ben on my boob, and I smell like Eau de Spit Up, that I feel a bit jealous of him and his ability to simply walk out the door.
I feel guilty about the flashes of resentment. Dave is a great husband and a loving dad who’s always ready to burp and change Ben and care for our other kids, too. It’s not his fault that he doesn’t have boobs and we can’t purchase them at Buy Buy Baby.
I am counting on the passage of time to help me deal. Ben is 3 months old now. He’ll start sleeping more at night, soon. I’ll start working again and supplementing with formula, soon. This weekend, I succeeded in pumping milk in between feedings so Dave could give Ben a bottle. I literally did a happy dance, right before I ran out the door to Target. I felt giddy, like I was headed to Tahiti or something.
Occasional treats help, too. Recently, as I once again sat on the couch nursing Ben, Dave returned from running errands with a smoothie for me. He’d gotten my favorite — orange, pineapple, and mango — and he held it to my lips. I sipped from the straw as the baby drank from me, and I tasted sweet relief.