Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Professional Mother

Mr Awesome's relationship with Squeak has always come easy. They have a special bond that is sweet to witness. And I've felt a closeness with Squish that is probably a result of exclusively breastfeeding him earlier and for longer (Squeak had a poor latch and it was much more difficult getting started).

This weekend, my husband was able to spend more time with Squish, and even soothe him to sleep several times (not easy - he is a baby that needs a lot of motion, yet low stimulation, to fall asleep). This was a huge confidence booster for Mr Awesome, and a giant relief for me. Bouncing that child to sleep 5+ times per day is killing my back and seriously working on my patience, if I'm being honest.

But then something strange happened. During the last feeding of the day, when he normally drifts peacefully to sleep, Squish started fussing and pulling off. He has been eating less, in my estimation, this whole week, but fussing is very unusual for my little voracious eater. I suspect I have a recent oversupply of milk or forceful letdown as their eating pattern has shrunken to eight feedings per day; while Squeak seems to love not having to work so hard, Squish is overwhelmed by the flow and constantly pulls off/gasps for air/takes rests. Anyway, tonight Squish would not calm down. Attempts to burp were for naught; his fussiness escalated into full-scale wailing; finally I handed him over to Mr A so I could finish feeding Squeak in peace.

Luckily, Squish was able to calm down and settle into a deep sleep in his dad's arms.

I was glad. And upset.

I'm pretty sure there is an actual physical cause for my boy's distress - forceful letdown, too much foremilk, maybe even a touch of virus - and knowing my child is not feeling particularly well is upsetting to this new mother. I plan on calling the doctor in the morning just to check in.

But there is a little place in me that was shaken with surprising force when I couldn't soothe my little boy, and his dad could.

I'm not the one and only.

Don't get me wrong, this is great. I can rest my back, eat a little something, find relief in the knowledge that his stirring isn't the beginning of a(nother) long battle into slumber. And I did take the opportunity to practice self-care (snack, etc.). But what it comes down to is that I am devoting my whole self, physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, into this task of motherhood day in and day out, and sometimes the whole of me is going to fall short. Mr A is no less devoted, but this is not his full-time job. I feel bruised as a professional.

I've been considering remaining a full-time mother next year as well. The idea that I could devote myself entirely to this vocation, could give my all 24/7 for years on end, and still be so replaceable is somewhat shattering. Does every professional mother feel like an empty shell sometimes - having given everything and still been found wanting?

There are too many reminders in my life that there is a way to ensure you are your child's sun, moon, and stars: be a single parent. I would never trade my relationship with Mr Awesome, or my sons' relationship with their dad, to put myself at the center of the boys' universe.

This is just my ego, hopped up on hormones, wondering, am I good enough at my job? If I am not the one and only, what is a mother and how am I going to define myself, to myself, in the coming year?

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