Thursday, May 17, 2007

What is it about food?

Dear J and L,

It's important that you understand that from day one of knowing that you were inside me, knowing that I was sustaining you, I have tried to do everything right. From the first bite in the morning to the last bite in the evening and all of the tastes in between, I wanted you to have a good start in life.

I wanted so much.

Lucky for me, I didn't suffer from many odd cravings, and I didn't eat too badly either. In fact, I would say I ate the best in my life when I was pregnant with you. And, when I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, I ate even more food than what I thought I needed and wanted because that is what I was told to do. Meal, snack, meal, snack, meal, snack. It was a whopping diet, one that I also took seriously.

So it was no wonder that I wanted to breastfeed you. I wanted you to have that more than anything else. But, things were out of my control. First, there were two of you and only one of me -- an imperfect one, at that. And then there was the stitched up wound in my stomach that left me in so much pain for those first couple of days. I wasn't prepared for it. I barely could move. I wanted desperately to snuggle with you. It was impossible. There were two of you, and only one of me, and an imperfect one at that.

With so little support that had any knowledge of breastfeeding, and after learning that a prior decision in my life that was made purely out of cosmetic dreams, I was not able to produce the kind of milk production needed to sustain one of you, let alone two. We tried. You lost weight. I felt immensely depressed. I cried. A lot. Over and over. I don't remember an hour without tears, without fears, without extreme hatred for myself. There were two of you, hungry, crying, and only one of me, and an imperfect one at that.

A little more than a week into breastfeeding, I decided to pump and supplement with formula. I write that sentence with such ease because my fingers know this keyboard so well that my indentations make up its presence. It was far from an easy decision. I fell into deep depression. I felt ruined. Like I was ruining you. I wanted desperately for you to have the best start in life, the best possible nutritional intake. I felt the pressure from myself more than society, but I know now that society is who put it there on my shoulders in the first place.

For a time, I knew it would be best to put you on all formula as pumping was not going as smoothly or producing enough to justify the time constraint it was putting upon me. Instead of napping or resting, I was pumping. Instead of making me feel better about myself, all it was doing was bringing me down more.

Eventually, after many internal debates, it dawned on me that I was raised on formula, as was Da! and every single other person that I know because that is the way it was for our mothers and grandmothers. When realizing this fact, and knowing that I turned out OK and so did so many other intelligent, thoughtful human beings, I decided formula was our answer.

Even bottle feeding and formula feeding didn't bring ease, but I was much better as a mother at that point. You were both diagnosed with reflux after long bouts of lots of crying, arching and low-intake. It was not easy, but we survived.

When baby food and, then, solids were introduced, life got easier and easier. You have been sustained on a diet of whole milk and regular food since you turned 13 months old. I still have many internal battles, though.

Which is what led to this post, actually. This past week, I surrendered some control and we ate at fast food restaurants for the first time. The first, which was planned, felt good. I knew I was doing something right by allowing you some indulgences, by allowing myself to let go a little of the meal preparation stress.

The second time was out of emergency because we were running behind in our schedule due to yet another spontaneous decision on my part, which I do not regret. Still, when your Da! dumped a packet of salt on your french fries I nearly had a conniption.

Behind all of our eating out ventures this week, as well as my ability to let go a little, I had one person, one blog, one idea in the back of my mind. Momfidence. She preaches letting go of the world of stressful mothering and doing what is convenient for a mom, including allowing some non-healthy foods into your diets. While I do not believe everything she writes, I think she is getting to me.

But, my eagerness to keep you nutritionally sound with good fats, fresh vegetables and fruits and low salt and sugar is not out of society's pressure, necessarily. It's to keep my own body images and weight challenges as far from you as possible.

You see, I struggle. Even if I don't eat anything bad, my weight hardly fluctuates. I'm not a huge fan of vegetables, either. I like many, but would much rather have a heaping helping of a carbohydrates like potatoes or bread, or some protein like chicken or fish. And, I'm a sucker for ethnic foods, none of the healthier versions either.

I recall as a young girl, about 10, being told by a relative that I was fat. I remember hiding outside after that and crying, thinking why on earth did that person need to tell me that. I was never fat as a girl, just so you know. I now realize that this person was just a mean person. I was never the same after that. I dressed in baggy clothes. I felt ashamed of my body.

In many ways, I am still that little girl, hiding, when it comes to my body and my weight. Imperfect.

And, that is why I want you to eat the best possible foods.

Yet, those times when you won't touch a thing I've made for you, I want to force you to eat. I worry. I stress. I wonder.

And, I know, that nothing I can do can make you eat if you don't want to eat. I do not want that, anyway.

I do not want that.

I'm learning to let go of some of those earlier wants.


HipWriterMama said...

Rule #1 in Motherhood: Don't be too hard on yourself. You're doing a best job you can.

Rule #2: New motherhood is overwhelming with 1 baby. I can't even imagine twins...consider yourself a saint.

Rule #3: Girls see messages in food so early. Just take it easy and feed your girls the healthy stuff. They'll eat when they're hungry.

By the way, it wasn't until babies 2 & 3 that I got the nursing thing down. It was so hard with baby #1. The important thing is that you put your babies first and gave them the nutrition they needed. So no guilt required.

Lovely post.

Mary P. Jones (MPJ) said...

Food is so fraught with issues! Mama is supposed to be the nurturer, and when we can't nurture with food the way we want or expect to, we feel disappointed and hurt and inadequate and guilty. Bleh!

You'd think feeding kids healthy food would simple, but we bring so much of our own baggage and the kids bring their own issues. My son has autism and is very rigid in his eating, and I feel like I spend most of my days thinking about nothing but food and nutrition, and usually feel nothing but bad about it.

Bless you for trying to breastfeed twins. I am in awe of the ability of moms of twins to simply survive each day. Pat yourself on the back. :)

Jess said...

Two kids, two years. Tried to BF, and I will say, honestly, without fear (because of the breast nazis, you know): I hated it. I hated pumping because I didn't produce much milk, I hated not being able to feel happy about being a mom becuase feeding my child was too hard, and I hated the fact that I hated it.
So I stopped torturing myself, used formula, and it was ok. My 3 year old is infinitely smarter than I, and ridiculously healthy. My son had the lovely reflux/colic/soy&lactose intolerance problems, but now he's 2 so it's ok too.
Breathe. Take pictures of their messy, donught-y faces, and smile. It goes so stinkin fast.

Mama Zen said...

Oh, can I ever relate to this! When my preemie wasn't gaining weight, I absolutely tortured myself with images of her being hungry and me "failing" her as a nursing mother. Three years later, I still tend to obsess a little over what, when, and how much she eats. And, she's still skinny!

kim said...

You are an awesome first-time mom, who is getting better at this thing every day. So don't be so hard on yourself. What works for one may not work for you. Enjoy this time with the twins as much as you can, to include the once in a blue moon, no other choice, stop at Burger King!!! I like the comment made from one of your "bloggers" who preaches letting go of the world of stressful mothering and doing what is convenient for a mom, including allowing some non-healthy foods into your diets...I agree. Be good to yourself during this period of having the little ones under your you know, it goes by so very fast. The twins will eat when they are hungry and probably will not like everything they are given, but they will, and so will you be fine.

Anonymous said...

I think I am finally learning. I do always read your blogs though. I enjoy them

MomMom said...

I cannot believe someone actually told you that, !!!!! You were always such a cute little girl!!!!!

Anonymous said...

You are NOT imperfect!!!! You are a PERFECT person!!!! Don't ever let your mind think that again!!!! said...

As a first time mom at 45 to twinkies I know all about the uncertainty of if you are doing the best you can. I soo remember the crying. Would it ever stop?! Thank goodness we have made some progress. Girls will be two next month and it is yet another chapter in our lives.....


Eva said...

That was a lovely post. It sounds like you are doing wonderful things for your children. And I so need to hear the message about sometimes letting go control and doing what might be easier... thanks for being so honest.

MomMom said...

I have read this one over & over again, and I cannot believe that someone told you that. I think I know who it was. You were never fat, and were a very cute little girl. I loved you then and I love you now.

Mom said...

As your mother, this one quite moved me to tears! I have NEVER even thought of you in that context EVER! You are a beautiful person inside and out! You must put those mean words far behind you and NEVER think of them again in your life! The person who spoke them does not think of what words can do to a person. Like your grandmother, I loved you then and I love you now!