"No thanks," I reply, arms tightening slightly around my daughter. "None of those supplements really worked for me."
"Maybe you didn't try the right one," she pushes.
"We tried a lot of things," I say, then change the subject. "Do you sell honey?"
E. is nearly seven months old now. She's still small, but she's gaining weight at a normal rate and is busy crawling, sitting, and working on walking. She has yet to get sick with anything more than a slightly runny nose. We've introduced solid foods and moved her into her own bedroom. I'm still breastfeeding, but I've recently reduced our daytime feeds so that I'm only breastfeeding at night. I have to have surgery sometime in the next couple months and won't be able to lift E. very easily for a couple weeks afterwards. I'm cutting down on breastfeeding a bit sooner than planned so my recovery won't be as much of a hassle. It was easier than I thought it would be. It only took a day or two for my body to adjust with each one, and while E. was not happy about switching her afternoon breastfeed for formula, since she usually uses the breastfeed to get herself to sleep (which is why we're also in the process of teaching her to fall asleep on her own), it only took a day or two for her to be okay with it.
My feelings about breastfeeding are so mixed up that I didn't expect to be sad about reducing feeds. I hadn't realized how much the bonding part of it had affected me. In those first weeks, it didn't feel like bonding. It just felt miserable. I started counting down to when we could introduce solids. I don't know when it became something more emotionally positive, but it did, to an extent.
My original goal was to breastfeed exclusively for six months. When that was derailed, I decided I would continue breastfeeding, along with the formula, for the six months, and see where it went from there. By the time we hit six months, I felt ready to quit most days, but E. didn't seem ready for it. Once I knew having surgery was a certainty, rather than a possibility, I decided it was time to cut down. And it felt stranger than expected.
Breastfeeding less has made me enjoy feeding her in the evenings more. It's easier to deal with her biting me with her brand-new teeth occasionally because it's not a constant battle. I don't get irritated from wearing uncomfortable nursing bras during the day (one gave me a bruise at one point because of the fit), my complexion is finally starting to clear up, and oddly, I feel more comfortable in my body. More like myself again. But once in a while, something reminds me of the hell of those first weeks of parenthood, and those emotions come rushing back.
I hate that incidents like the one above still make me feel bad. I know the clerk was just trying to sell me something and she took a look at me and decided that since I look like a crunchy mom, I'd obviously be exclusively breastfeeding. She didn't know my story. She just assumed. And it hurt. Enough that, while she and someone else in the store were chatting about natural vs. refined sugars, I pointed out that agave is pretty dang refined. I wasn't very catty about it, and it's true, but I said it out of my irritation more than anything else, and that wasn't right.
I still want to slap the people who come up with the really sappy sayings about parenthood. I enjoy being a mum, and my daughter is very important to me, but this is not the be-all and end-all (I remember saying something similar about sex once). Parenthood does not always bring out the best in me. Sometimes it brings out the worst. Sometimes I am frustrated and unhappy about it, and sometimes I am extremely content. Some days letting go of the grief that I have about parts of is harder. Today is a more difficult day, solely due to that conversation at the store, but as always, I'll find an equilibrium again and be okay.