The reality of our breastfeeding experience was markedly different than the one I'd dreamed of. Unbeknownst to me, just after Lucy's birth, I developed postpartum anxiety. Eventually I sought help, but not until nearly two months later when it became clear to me that something wasn't right. Coupled with this awful feeling and the newness of motherhood, our breastfeeding relationship went down the toilet in an ugly swirly of my snotty tears, pretty quickly. The pump followed soon thereafter.
I was overcome with an overwhelming sense of guilt, and failure as a mother. I couldn't do the one thing I wanted to do for my daughter. There were plenty of loving responses from friends who were mothers themselves, some of whom had successfully breastfed, others who hadn't. I was reminded that children are fed with love, whether from a bottle or at the breast. My own mom let me know she'd only breastfed for four months. It took me a long, long time to shed the guilt, and as my own personal vindication, I vowed to make all my daughter's food from scratch, from only organic sources, for at least her first year. There would be nothing processed, no sugar, no chemicals, nothing but the best.
So that's exactly what I did. Starting at four months, my daughter ate the cleanest food around. Every couple of weeks I'd stock up on organic produce, steam and puree my way into baby food bliss. She ate it all, and nothing pleased me more than to spoon the brightly colored foods into her little bird mouth.
Fast-forward a year and a half, and this happened. After a visit to the museum for a date with Lucy's beloved dinosaurs, we had to stop at the grocery store for a few things. Because it was running close to lunch time, I bit the bullet and we ate at the McDonald's right next to the grocery store. Lucy enjoyed a hamburger, a yogurt, and then her first ice cream cone that was hers alone and not one that she was sharing with me.
The organic, homemade food mama in me died a little that day.
Look, I grew up eating plenty of McDonald's. I once ate a Big Mac in five bites. It's my favorite burger from the place. The thing was, Lucy had never had fast food up until last Friday. I know, I know. I'm that mama. Strike that. I'm not anymore. One very important lesson I've learned as a mama is to never say never. Man how I used to let those never will she fly before said she was actually here. Now that my kid is a real-life person, times have changed. I've reneged on SEVERAL points of contention. Screen time? Hell yes. Calliou (that whiny asshole) saves my sanity when I need to get something done. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse helps get us through breakfast so that I can actually make something for myself as well. Pacifier? You betcha. She still sleeps with one, and she'll be two in October.
I've held my ground on other issues, but what it comes down to is common sense, what works for our family, and frankly - survival. Parenting is difficult on a good day. I love her to pieces, I do, but that doesn't stop me from wanting to throw her out with the bath water when she's being a jerk. At this time, I'd like to take the opportunity to thank Toddlerhood for introducing us to new levels of jerkhood.
While I grieved the loss of a breastfeeding experience, I was, and am incredibly proud of my efforts to give her the very best food that first year of life. We continue to feed Lucy a pretty healthy diet, although I've definitely lessened my stringency. She eats processed food once in a while and has sugar in limited quantities. While others may scoff at this, to the naysayers - this is the way we work: she's my kid, so I get to choose how to raise her and part of that is what's offered at dinner.
There is definitely a balance to be achieved. No sugar/processed, ever, is impossible. And frankly, I want her to enjoy the delicious treats out there. As with everything, moderation. If we have ice cream in the house, Lucy gets some. If our amazing neighbors bestow upon us slices of freshly baked blueberry cake - then by all means, eat up my darling.
Secondary to all this eating business, I've noticed that Lucy is stretching out. The protruding belly is slowly flattening out. The distinct tires of delectable baby fat no longer encase her arms and legs. As I sit with her in the evenings and we read books, I've become quite aware that this is a little girl sitting on my lap and not a baby. And sometimes I find myself hoping that she inherits Big Red's height and metabolism, because we all know it's a difficult world to navigate as a woman, especially when it comes to body issues. Then later, when I've had a moment to reflect, I get upset that I've wished away my own physique. Because guess what - if Lucy is built like her mama, then she'll be strong. Really strong. I have to remind myself that the same thighs I've rebuked, are the very ones that propelled me through the air as a goalkeeper. The same ones that helped earn me a scholarship to a division one program. The now matronly arms that wiggle more than I care to admit, are the very pair that have cut through lake waters in triathlons.
I revise my wish: let my daughter's body grow strong, and let her love both vegetables and ice cream, and fine - the occasional McDonald's burger.