All those years ago, as I was sleepwalking through my new life as a mother, I would have never imagined that I would long for middle of the night feedings. Those quiet pockets of time, where it was just me and my baby, and I was meeting her most pressing need so simply. When I was in the thick of it, the very trenches of newly anointed motherhood I didn't understand just how precious and fleeting those moments were. It didn't occur to me how quickly they would end. At the time, it felt that I would be stuck in that chaotic place forever.
Motherhood didn't begin that way, there was nothing simple about it. Feeding my first born didn't come with ease. Even in her first few hours, trying to find her latch was proving impossible. Steeled by kind words from friends, books and articles, I pressed on as we went from hospital to home. Still the latch was elusive. I tried every trick, every hack, nipple shield, and breast pump. When my milk finally came in, pumping felt like a tortuous consolation prize to motherhood, and those measly four ounces did nothing for myself esteem. We, my daughter and I, went two weeks in a constant loop of nipple shield, screaming, crying, pumping, and finally a bottle of whatever came out in the pump. I was exhausted. I was devastated. More than that, I just knew I was failing as a mother.
Today, I can look back on that period and see that this was just my first hurdle in my journey as a new mom. As devastated as I was, this was the first big decision I had to make. Not the choice or crib or car seat, not the decision to swaddle or not swaddle, it was this very simple in theory, but very difficult in reality choice that I had to make.
What to feed this child? My child.
Back then I was too worried about that the "books" said. About what my friends said. Why was the most natural thing in the world, not the most natural thing for me? Listening to remarks about formula made it feel like a dirty word. This was supposed to be a joyous time, a simple time, when feeding my child was as easy as a bottle or breast. But this decision felt loaded, one wrong move and lives would be ruined... Or would they?
I was wrong about formula, and I was wrong about breastfeeding. In a time before "mom shaming" on social media platforms, I was internally shaming myself. It took me a minute to realize that this choice was all my own. A choice I had to make for my daughter, but also a rather importance choice for me.
I didn't realize we were starving. Her sharp cries at all hours were obvious evidence. My vacant stare as I tried to get her to eat, were silent screams of my own. New motherhood is both seductive and abusive. It entices with it's simple joys, breaks you with it's monotony. What had started as a small battle in my hospital bed hours after my first born's birth, forged into an all out war at home. Why couldn't I feed this tiny person? I was so unsure and self conscious for the first time since junior high. In the back of my mind I knew the answer, but the defeat I'd have to deal with paralyzed me. How was I going to fold on this first test of motherhood? I was scared I was doing everything wrong. My daughter was starving. And we both craved something bigger than both of us. We craved peace. We craved contentment. We craved ease.
Choosing to feed my daughter formula was the first big decision I made as a mother. It wasn't an easy one to make, and I still had miles to go to find my footing as a mother. Still, it was the first step in finding confidence and the first real step in finding that peace, my daughter and I both craved. I had wasted so much time worrying about what to feed my baby, and not enough time enjoying the miracle that was my baby. It was time to enjoy and embrace this new life as a mother. It was time to discover what kind of mother I was going to be, what kind of mother I wanted to be. So breastfeeding didn't work for me. The only person who noticed was me, my daughter was too busy eating to pay any mind to where we got her food. Scoop by precious scoop, we found the peace and ease we were craving. And to my surprise it didn't feel a bit like losing or giving up, it felt exactly right in my corner of motherhood.
I catch myself these days, longing for those middle of the night feedings. Usually when I wake up to go to the gym way before the sun comes up, I feel a little tug on my heart. In those quiet moments, where the entire house is asleep, I think back to those days when it was just the two of us in a rocker. The glare of the television, the sharp burp of contentment from a perfect tiny human. Those days when a bottle and the sunrise were our only company. I miss that simple pleasure of being able to meet that one and only craving, that most important need. Meeting her needs these day is rarely simple, as she is almost ten, and everything is of dire importance.
Some mornings, when I go into her room to wake her, I find myself crawling into bed with her. Reminiscent of those days long gone, it's just the two of us, and the tiny bit of morning seeping through her mini blinds. It's quiet, just her and I, no Dad, no little sister, no distractions. I indulge that craving of a simpler time for me, and her constant craving of having mom all to herself for her. We find that peace and ease that we are still always craving from each other.
One ounce at a time.