Recently a new mom reached out and asked how I was balancing everything - between my new baby, my business and my social life; she assumed that I had it all figured out based on some curated photographs in my Instagram feed. I've never been happier with my life and my family, but that doesn't mean that I haven't struggled since becoming a parent. In fact, recently I went through something that was far more challenging than I could have ever imagined and a lot of it stemmed (no surprise here) from pressure I put on myself.
While I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to breast feed and I took a course that explained the basics, so I wouldn't feel as overwhelmed when she arrived. Minutes after Sloan was born and I held her tiny body against my chest, she latched immediately. It was one of the most incredible experiences to feel that connected to her and from then on, breast feeding came really naturally. When people would comment on Sloan's chubby little thighs, I would beam with pride. At her doctor's appointments, when we were told that she was the ideal weight, it made me feel like I was acing some sort of unwritten test.
A few weeks later, everything changed. I began pumping during the day so that I could ease back into work and at the same time, Sloan started sleeping through the night. However, since I wasn't waking up every couple of hours to feed her, my milk supply began to plummet and I panicked.
I started taking a cocktail of herbal pills, special teas, rented a hospital-grade pump and obsessively kept track of how much milk I was producing throughout the day. The more stressed I became, the less I produced. I didn't feel like myself and when G would try to comfort me, I'd bark at him that he just didn't understand the pressure I was under. I was becoming a monster.
It was around that time that Sloan also started going through a growth spurt and was requiring even more milk each day. I almost found myself resenting her and when she'd occasionally need to be breast fed in the middle of the night, I'd panic about how that would affect the next day's supply. It was then that G and I talked about the possibility of needing to supplement her with formula. I felt like I couldn't provide for my baby and that I'd failed her. I envisioned the conversation I'd have to have with her pediatrician in which I'd tell her that she wasn't exclusively having breast milk anymore and I'd start sobbing uncontrollably. Regardless of the fact that our doctor fully supports using formula and I know logically it's perfectly normal, when I held Sloan, I'd whisper in her ear how sorry I was.
The next morning, after I'd been up all night attempting to pump and my breasts were bruised and nipples scabbed, G said something that really resonated with me. He said giving our baby formula was not an indication of the kind of parent I am, but rather I should focus on the amount of love I provide. And it was the first time that I decided to give myself a break.
That afternoon, we gave Sloan her first bottle of formula. She drank it with the same sweet, satisfied expression she always has and since then, we've given her one bottle each day to top her off at night. I hadn't fully understood the kind of pressure that I was under, from a societal standpoint and the internal expectations I'd placed on myself. Being a new mom is really hard, but it made me realize that there will be plenty of other difficult situations like this that I'll encounter, most of which won't have as simple of a solution. And that as long as I remember what's truly important - that Sloan is given love, our attention and kept safe, that I can rest easy knowing that I'm doing my best and that my best is good enough.