I don't know what it is about the formula vs. breastmilk issue that pushes me to emotional breakdowns, but for the second time (the first being in the first few days of Jacob's life), I ended up absolutely destroyed by this whole dairy-free situation yesterday. Friday night ended up being a rough one for Carter despite a dose of gripe water, so it became apparent that would not be the answer. On Saturday, I was pretty good early in the day, but in the afternoon I had to go to the library to return Jacob's books and figured I'd take out some dairy-free recipe books to try to give myself some ideas. I'd had a few Facebook friends give me some helpful suggestions, and I thought that if I could fill out a couple weeks' worth of meals, maybe we could just stick with that rotation and see how it went. Well, as I was paging through the books in the library, I just had this impending sense of dread that none of what I was seeing would work for us. Between the rather plain tastes in this house and the boys' hesitancy toward vegetables, nothing seemed like it would work. I took out the books anyway and drove home. On the way, it just started to get to me again. Carter's rough night on Friday (uncomfortable and extra spit-uppy) had me on edge, and the fact of the matter is that this diet has to be followed very closely to avoid relapsing to where he is now. In addition, a friend had explained how hard it is to eat out, and a scan of my kitchen was sobering. It all just started to hit me how hard this would be, and I broke down a bit while I was driving. It continued at home, pretty much for the rest of the day.
I was so pathetic that I sent the boys out for the night (even though they had been out Friday night, too) so I could cry it out without Jacob here. Being alone didn't sound too good in that state, but it was better than freaking out my older child. I cried a lot, did some research, and in the end I decided that I had to give up breastfeeding and switch Carter to the obscenely expensive formula. I decided that my mental well being was important, too, and I didn't want to spend the next year tortured by cooking dinner, frustrated by the food I couldn't eat, and worried that I'd slip up, even accidentally, and make Carter uncomfortable. It takes weeks for the protein to exit the system, so it's not just a matter of day or two of discomfort if something goes wrong.
I suppose part of this comes off as selfish. What kind of crappy mom am I that I can't sacrifice for my child? What will I do if this turns out to be a permanent thing (which it shouldn't), or he ends up with a real allergy to something else down the road? If I can't do this, what will I do then? I guess all I can say is that we'll cross that bridge when we come to it, but in this case there IS another solution that is perfectly acceptable, so why kill ourselves right now of we don't have to? The financial burden is tough, but he'd be having some of this formula every day anyway since I was never able to pump enough for a full day, and we'd probably be spending extra on replacement foods, too, which aren't cheap.. There's a chance our insurance might cover at least part of the cost, but I need to look into that further tomorrow. I know they often cover formula that's one step above what Carter would be on (I think that stuff is for kids with an actual allergy, not just a sensitivity), but I'm not sure if our insurance would do it, or if this level of formula could be covered. It is a bit of a financial hardship, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
So, yeah, selfish. This is something I could possibly do for a week, or maybe a month. I'd drive myself nuts in the meantime, but if I had to I could. The issue is that I don't know what to feed us for dinners, and I don't have the time or energy to make something separate for myself. Tonight I made pizza with Daiya "cheese" on my portion. It was sort of weird. Passable, I guess, but weird. But I can only substitute so much before someone's not going to like it. We only have a rotation of a few acceptable vegetables, and the lack of dairy-based pasta dishes (i.e., Hamburger Helper, mac & cheese, or creamy pasta side dishes) leaves me at a loss for sides. So many recipes in the books I got from the library were elaborate--lots of ingredients and very time consuming. If I didn't work full time, maybe it would be easier. But when I have about 45 minutes to get dinner on the table before dinner starts encroaching on Jacob's playtime (which he needs) and bedtime, I don't have time for fancy recipes. That's why we use so many processed foods as support for our dinners. And when time or energy is really short, we usually go out a couple times per week (maybe once during the week and once on the weekend). The dairy-free diet makes that really difficult because you need to know exactly how the food is prepared. I'll be honest--I couldn't fathom a year without take-out pizza or Taco Bell (which, as you recall, is my special place with Jacob), or birthday cake or summer ice cream. I couldn't imagine not eating real chocolate or mac and cheese. And this may seem counter-intuitive, but I think my lack of smell and taste made it even harder. You'd think that because I can't really smell or taste much, I wouldn't care about replacements that don't taste the same or not being able to eat certain foods. But in reality, I think I already feel that I've lost so much in that realm that giving up certain restaurants or foods that I like seemed like even more of a sacrifice. I like eating and this just seemed to steal my last bit of joy from that. Everything I'd see in commercials, on Pinterest, or in recipe emails I receive was full of foods I couldn't eat, and it broke my heart every time. Parenthood is hard enough without missing joy from that part of my life, and I didn't want to end up resenting Carter or parenthood in general because of it.
I had a couple moments during the worst of it where I questioned our decision to have another child and questioned my ability to be a good mom. When you get to that point, you really have to take a step back and think as logically as possible to find the best way to move forward. It almost felt like this plunged me into some sort of postpartum depression, where I felt detached and almost hopeless about the next many months, and I did not want to spend the next year wishing time away or getting frustrated when things didn't improve. Switching to formula seemed like the only way to ensure that Carter would remain healthy and I would maintain my joy and sanity, too.
I feel so terribly about cutting off breastfeeding so early, both because of the health benefits for him, and the bonding benefits for both of us. Jacob had that for 14 months. Carter is barely going to make six weeks. Breastfeeding is such a special thing, and for all of its challenges, I really ended up enjoying it last time. This time around has been a different sort of challenge, mostly because Carter has eaten every two hours for most of his life and it's hard to be trapped on the couch when you have a household to manage, including a four-year-old child. However, I was totally on board to keep going as long as we could (or until I thought we were risking having trouble weaning), because the way it ended with Jacob was so lovely. We worked ourselves down to only the night feeding, then did a short one on our last night, and that was it. No engorgement and no issues with Jacob wanting it again. We finished on my 30th birthday and his baptism day, and that was it. Perfect.
This time around I'm not even sure how to go about weaning. I'm trying to do it this week, just because the dairy-free diet is a pain and I'd like to be eating normally by the weekend, since it's Easter and there will be food temptations everywhere. And really, now that I've made the decision, I just sort of want to plow through and get it over with. I mean, I love breastfeeding and will be sad to finish it, but knowing that it hasn't been the most comfortable thing for Carter has been hard. I don't like the feeling of feeding him something that's going to make him sick. But it makes me sad that this is the end, that stopping breastfeeding is so final--it's not like I can change my mind once it's done. Anyway, we're trying to replace one more feeding each day with a bottle, which should get us up to about seven of nine-ish feedings by the end of the week, and by then hopefully he'll be so used to it that sneaking in one more here or there to officially transition shouldn't be that bad. We're just going to work our way down, and I will be pumping here and there to relieve my discomfort without pumping enough to stimulate production further. If I have to pump for a few days beyond the official transition, that's fine. Whatever leaves me with as little pain as possible...because God knows this is hard enough without that pain and the reminder of all that we went through to get breastfeeding up and running to begin with. It makes me sad that we won't get into the comfortable groove that comes around six months, that we won't have those moments where he smiles at me around the nipple or shows visible, conscious comfort when nursing. I'll miss my extra 500 calories a day and the crazy weight loss that hits within the next few months. I guess that'll mean I have to hit the gym more!
I noticed in the past couple days that I'm really dying to have Carter be a little more responsive and interactive. I'm waiting for the first real smiles and hoping for some sign that he knows we're there. I know he knows me, but there's just a certain point where you can dangle a toy or make faces and he gets it. Right now when he's awake and content, I'm not sure what to do with him. I talk to him and try to interact, but I just get a blank stare back most of the time. And now that we're not going to have breastfeeding as a special bond, I think I'm craving acknowledgment from him even more. I just want a way to interact and share special moments with him, to know that he still loves me. And yes, I know he does, but it's a crazy hormonal mom thing. Trust me.
This has been such a tough decision, and I know many people will question it. I'm sure our doctor will be disappointed, since she was a big breastfeeding booster. But formula is not the devil, and kids turn out just fine with it. Heck, as my mom reminded me tonight, I transitioned over to formula pretty early myself and I'm okay :) It breaks my heart on a lot of levels, but there are a lot of good things about it too, which I hope to outline in another post as a reminder to myself that this is not an entirely bad thing. All I know is that the torture I dealt with yesterday was more than I could handle and I couldn't keep myself in that place without it impacting everyone else negatively at some point. While it may not be the perfect solution, it is the best solution all around for everyone. And as important as Carter is, everyone else deserves some consideration, too. Myself included. Maybe this round of parenting is a little more selfish on my part, but perhaps I'm just more aware of the danger of losing sight of myself. I can't be a good mom if I'm not taking care of me, so for better or worse, this is just another example of that.
I'm sure I'll have more thoughts on this in the days and weeks to come, so stay tuned...