Surprise ending

When my boy was born, I could not nurse him. No matter how much Mother’s Milk tea I drank or lactation consultants I visited, I was bone dry.

The fancy pump?

It could not extract what my body refused to produce.

I felt on par with Lady Macbeth’s maternal capabilities every time I went to another specialist or ran into a friend.

I was fearful that my son would never feel connected to me, that I had failed him in some primal way. At least that is the dark whisper that came to me when the house was quiet and our new baby was finally sleeping.

In those early days, I stayed mostly at home, afraid that voice was telling the truth, and that it would be confirmed by the judgement I would get when I whipped out my Similac around all those Seattle mamas.

In the absence of human connection, I went online, which is like trying to keep from drowning by drinking a gallon of water. I tried to ignore all of the horrific things written on the internet about formula-fed babies–but the threat of low IQs and attachment issues tend to stick when you’re holding a little human you’re responsible for raising.

Today I dropped that little human at preschool, and on the bulletin board under the question–What is your favorite thing to do with your family?–there were 19 answers about going to the beach and swinging at the park. My son’s answer? Hug my mom.

On the way out of the room he kissed me a few dozen times, and tonight he will not sleep unless I’m close. “I love you, my girl,” he says, parroting my phrase: “I love you, my Benjamin boy.” We might have attachment issues of another kind. (Sorry to his future spouse, I will work on that.)

I was struck as I saw that yellow sheet of paper this morning how worried I had been that he wouldn’t ever hug me or make eye contact, and here we are four years down the road–so far from that reality it is almost humorous.

But isn’t that like us? Picking up other people’s advice and wearing it around our neck like an Albatross, letting all that dead weight shape how we see ourselves and our calling. Becoming convinced of the ending before our story is even underway.

If I could go back four years, I would hug my aching, broken, post-partum self, and tell her, this might surprise you, but the thing you are worried about is not your story. There will be other things that will cause pain, other deficiencies, other mistakes, but not this one. This one is going to be okay–your son is going to be attached.

Very.

I would tell her to get off the internet and know that her story and the story of the baby she is holding does not find its meaning or value in a stranger’s opinion.

This is a story still being written, and, frankly, she can only adjust the things in her power to adjust. The rest will require a heaping ton of grace. I would remind her what she already knows: weakness always reveals more about what life means than self-sufficiency or perfection ever could.

Then I would tell her to throw out that awful tea, and call a friend. Preferably someone who fed her kid formula at least once or twice.

CLAIRE CAREY DEERING believes less is more, in writing and in life.

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