All mothers have guilt. I know. It's practically handed to you right after they hand you the baby. I know. But my guilt today feels mountainous.
I started supplementing with formula last night. I am truly so sold on breast feeding that it feels like a big fat failure to no longer be exclusively breast feeding. Every day of the past 8 weeks of breast feeding has felt like a major accomplishment, and if wanting to produce more milk resulted in it happening, I would be like Niagra Falls or Old Faithful or something that spews milk. Anyway, I was avoiding formula, avoiding it, avoiding it, and then I realized that I was basically letting Elliott go hungry because of my hang up with breast-only-policy and feeling like a failure. So now the buffet is really open...she's a breast-fed baby with a formula dessert (by the way I refused to buy enfamil though because I felt like the little bunny on the front was taunting me). I'm coming to terms with it...and it doesn't hurt that now she's going for longer between feeds (instead of every hour) and she's cooing a lot more (instead of screaming at a level to get us evicted from our apartment). I can realistically see that it was a practical decision but still...thar she is...the guilt.
Lots of mommies face that kind of guilt, I think, but then there's this...it's too much...I can't look it straight in the eye because it hurts too much and because there would just be no coming back...
I received a package in the mail a few weeks ago asking me to participate in a study about birth defects. I agreed to do it immediately because I definitely want for there to be more information about what causes birth defects so that they can be avoided--simple as that--I owe it to Miles (not in a burdened way but in a it's-one-of-the-few-things-I-can-do-that-feels-like-it's-for-him way). For some reason, though, I actually thought that they would be asking about my pregnancy with Elliott. I guess that the timing of it made me think, "Oh, the hospital told them that Elliott was born so this study is about her...she'll be an example of a baby who doesn't have a birth defect." Still I knew it would be emotional because of course I would again think about everything from my pregnancy with Miles as well and maybe they'd ask some questions about previous pregnancies. On the phone this morning though, they said, "We'll be asking you about environmental and behavioral influences during your pregnancy with Miles." Of course. Obviously it's important to study the mothers of babies who were born with birth defects...and that's me and Miles.
As required by all studies, they had to list the risks; the only risk, they said, was emotional distress for me. Well, duh, I guess. So it was a straight-forward one-hour interview about every little thing I ate, what medications I took, what stress I had, what exercise I did, what water I drank, how lonh my showers were, what factors were present based on where I worked and lived. It wasn't an accusatory interview; yet they are trying to figure out what causes birth defects...by nature, they are trying to figure out what mothers of babies with birth defects did or were exposed to or just what went wrong. It's important. But it hurts. With each question, there's just a feeling that one of those little things somehow killed Miles. Nothing we talked about was anything I hadn't already run through on my head plenty of times--trying to figure it out until the Mitch-voice in my head said gently, "Enough. You'll make yourself crazy. It's not your fault. It's just terrible."
Yes, the fact that something I did or was exposed to caused Miles' heart defect is too much to handle. If only I could turn back time, change that one thing--yet I don't even know what it is. It caused him to be gone, to not get to live his life. It's tragic and there's guilt with that even though I can say the main feeling I have isn't guilty...it's just heartbroken. If only. If only he could be here too.
And so a little formula truly isn't the worst thing. The worst thing was losing Miles.