“So. When does the crazy stop?”
I tried to smile, tried to be light-hearted. But the question ended with a frown and a sigh. We had discussed this when I was still pregnant, my history of anxiety, panic attacks, mild depression. He told me he used to get panic attacks in med school, he understood.
So when I showed up at his office 5 weeks after the birth of my daughter trying to be funny about the fact that my world was shattering into bits, he started asking questions.
“Are you feeling joy in every-day things?”
The most stock evaluation question I’ve ever heard. But it was enough.
“Well…yes? But… I think… well, wow, joy is a really strong word, don’t you think?…”
I didn’t have to say anything else. I knew this was the wrong answer. But the word “joy” had hit me like an anvil. I started jabbering about how I’ve been in my own head a lot these days, and how I thought a big trigger might be breastfeeding, that my overactive letdown chokes her on a regular basis and then she screams and cries and gets hysterical, which eventually leads to me getting hysterical, and that I have such an awful, painful, oversupply problem that I can’t pump for fear of making even more milk… and I was about to go on about our multiple, expensive visits to the lactation consultant when he interrupted my way-too-fast-and-getting-panicky ramblings.
“Breastfeeding. Just stop. Unless it’s really important to you, stop. And don’t feel guilty about it. Before we even talk about meds, I think this is step one. It really helps a lot of women.”
I stared at him, catching my breath and trying to gather the tears that were suddenly threatening to escape.
When I didn’t respond, he continued.
“My wife stopped at 3 months with our first and 6 weeks with our second. Formula these days is fantastic. In fact my kids ate everything – whatever was on sale that week.”
He repeated his original statement – “Is breastfeeding really important to you?”
I shrugged. I had been formula fed, and I turned out just fine. Most of my peers had the same upbringing, formula was popular at the time, and none of us have octopus suckers or pointy eyeballs. But breastfeeding was what was drilled in to me, what is told to every pregnant woman these days. BREAST IS BEST!! But was it important to me? No. Not really, anyway. What was really important was my happiness. And in a not-so-round-a-bout way, her happiness.
I walked out of his office that day feeling confused, but liberated. A professional who spent years and years in med school, and who I had recently trusted to do the right thing for me in what ended up being an emergency situation – was telling me it was perfectly ok to stop. And not only that, but that he did the same thing. That even after years and years in med school and learning how to weigh pros and cons of “healthy” things, he still felt comfortable, positive enough to make this decision.
So, two weeks ago, I started mixing formula feeds in with my normal nursing schedule. One week ago, I fed more formula than I did breast milk. And two days ago, I stopped nursing all-together.
I am happier than I have been since she was born. The anxiety has reached brand new levels of low. The horrible visions have stopped. I’m feeling free with the knowledge that someone else can feed her if I need to do something or go somewhere. I’m sleeping better (when I manage to get some sleep). The dreaded pump is collecting dust, and I am smiling.
And as a result? She is smiling. She isn’t crying and screaming with her mouth full of bottle like she did with my breast. She is staring into my eyes when she eats and is grinning at me.
I made it to 6 weeks. I am proud of that. But now, thanks to science, I don’t have to have a crying match every 3 hours and everyone (including my husband) is lightyears happier. And I will never feel guilty for that.