These dreams were stupid, and I knew it. Still, my subconscious refused to let it be. I started feeling obsessed with the decision, and it was coloring the latter half of my pregnancy. I felt like the guy in Spike Lee’s 25th Hour, just a day away from starting his prison sentence, which of course made me feel guilty. A few of my friends were also pregnant with their second kids, and they all kept talking excitedly about tiny newborn clothes and sleepy newborn cuddles. I wanted to puke. I wondered if I was just missing the maternal gene.
Considering the bulk of parental responsibility for a newborn consists of feeding it adequately, it made sense that I felt defunct. According to all of the medical literature, all the websites, all the popular social media, I had failed to feed my first child correctly. It didn’t matter that breastmilk made him sick; there was no way a human could be allergic to its mother’s milk--I just hadn’t cut out enough foods from my diet. It didn’t matter that he couldn’t latch; if I’d forgone the bottle of formula to treat his jaundice, he would have breastfed successfully. It didn’t matter that he was tongue-tied; a quick snip should have fixed that, so I probably hadn’t tried hard enough to counteract his aversion to my breasts. It didn’t matter that I was drowning in depression and anxiety; breastfeeding should have improved my mood, and even if it didn’t, I should have pushed through for my son’s sake. It didn’t matter that he thrived on formula; that was simply good luck, and of course, there was still time for the repercussions to develop. And most of all, it didn’t matter that I felt with every bone of my body that formula was the right choice for our family. That made me selfish, ignorant, and irresponsible. It made me a bad mom.
It had been easy to brush that all aside once my peer group stopped breastfeeding, and once Leo grew and gave me a million reasons to feel proud of my parenting. Once my daughter was born, though, it was all going to start again, and this time it would be way worse. This time there were no excuses. If I chose to formula feed from the start, it wouldn’t be for her benefit. It would be for mine.