Wednesday, January 04, 2006

G'Bye to the Ghosts in My Head

When I was in college, I particularly loved this short story called Celia Behind Me. It was a funny, sad story about two elementary school-aged misfits, Elizabeth and Celia. Celia was very ill, constantly flirting with death, and Elizabeth spent a lot of time resenting Celia for her very existence, while simultaneously being grateful for the fact that as long as she was around, she saved Elizabeth from the brunt of nasty elementary school-aged bullying.

One of my favorite parts in the story has to do with how Elizabeth is constantly being told to be nice to Celia, because she is so ill. I forget all that specifically leads up to it, but there is a dream, or a daydream where Elizabeth sees Celia's disembodied head floating around above her, saying "You have to be nice to me, because I'm gonna die." I always imagined Celia saying it in a slllllloooooooowwwwwww sing-songy sort of manner and the image never failed to crack me up.

So there is poor, wretched Elizabeth learning about having a conscience in the sickest (most hilarious, most awesome) possible way. My point?

I have a Celia. She's not dying, far as I know, nor is she bullied. She's just the head that floats above me as I parent my child. Chiding me, berating me for all the choices I have made along the way. (In a slllllooooooooowwwww sing-songy sort of manner, naturally.) There is no reason for this to happen, she's not a part of my life, not a witness to the way events unfolded. She didn't ask to be the ghost in my head, it has just happened. She didn't watch me cry during bedrest, or during the first 10 weeks of John's life, when I slowly failed him, by virtue of not learning how to properly breastfeed him. By being so afraid of his initial bilirubin results that I did go ahead and supplement him, with a bottle. How he loved that bottle.

She wasn't there. If she would have been? She would have left as soon as she saw the can of formula on the counter, or the bottle on the drying rack. I am okay with that. Hell, I even respect it. But I am done with it. Done with feeling bad about what someone who isn't even here might think of me and how I love my son. She isn't a villain, she didn't ask to be the ghost in my head. I have to keep reminding myself of that.

I should have gone to a LLL meeting with her, as she certainly offered, millions of times. I didn't, because... well, there is no because. I wish I would have. If any pregnant woman ever stumbles upon this, please read everything and anything you can about breastfeeding. Do NOT foolishly assume as I did that it will come naturally. Ask your OB for a referral to a lactaction consultant, or go to a LLL meeting. Find out if you need to wear breast shells and do so, while you are still pregnant. Find out if your nipples are flat or inverted or both, and learn about the myriad ways you can fix those problems. Get a Boppy or a My Brest Friend and try it out. Do all you can to be able to breastfeed. It is the best, and it is free, and you will feel so much better for being able to do it!

I want to say that things spun out of control, and that is why John got a bottle, and takes one still. It's not entirely true, though. I was afraid. I was so afraid that he wouldn't get better without the supplementing. I didn't trust myself enough. Oh, to relive it now, is so sad! It makes me feel terrible, and I just want to let it go. He's a great baby. I'm a mom who keeps trying her best. We have a small house with no room for disembodied heads that float around, yelling at us all day.

The story ends with Celia dying and Elizabeth feeling bad about it, but admitting that she hated her.

Nobody is dying, and I don't hate anyone. This story just ends. With much sadness, much regret, and a clear conscience. Finally.


Blogger Nancy said...

You are SUCH a good Mom. I'm incredibly glad you let it go. Breastfeeding is great if it works out, but believe me when I tell you (from experience) that not many months from now the thing about breast/bottle fades into complete obscurity. Complete. And what is so much more important is how much you love that family of yours, and the day to day care that you give, selflessly and endlessly. Where the milk came from is SO not important. Give him a big smoochie on those cheeks from me.

5:51 AM  
Blogger celia incarnate said...

I know it's not really about me. Well, it kind of is. I know that I'm just the embodiment of all that is judgmental and self-righteous. Oh, wait, I am judgmental and self-righteous. I swear I don't mean to be. But enough about me.


First of all, I am so sorry. I know you don't need to hear any of this from me but...truly, I don't care how Johhny gets fed. I mean, I care that he gets fed, just not how. It's obvious he's thriving! He is absolutely beautiful. In the few pictures I've seen, he seems to have gotten the best of both his parents.

Again, not that it matters what I, or the floating head, thinks about this, but I have no doubt you love him. Any person can see that you are crazy about him.

Nancy is so right, before you know it, you don't have any say in what your children eat, or how they get it into their mouths. I know I come across as a breastfeeding zealot, but only because its what I'm into. I know that when it goes smoothly, its better for everyone involved. I also know that when there are problems, its HELL.

FTR, if I would have shown up and seen a can of formula, I would have offered to help you. But I never would have walked out of your house (I save dramatic exits from people's lives for much more ridiculous reasons).

I really am happy you've made peace with your situation. If I had known that my ghost of friendship past (I know, its not really about me) was hovering around making you feel like a terrible mother, I would have reassured you that NOONE thinks thats the case. I am so happy that you have a sweet, healthy, baby boy. I know the pain you endured before you were blessed with Johnny (I've been there myself). I regret not telling you that while, yes, breast is best, more important is a loving mother - and you don't need anyones advice on that. I'm sorry you spent time feeling guilty about the nursing, when you should have just been enjoying Johnny and your new role as his mom.

Is it okay if I call you?

8:32 AM  
Blogger Lynne said...

Kelly -

We all love you and you love your family - none of the other stuff is important. Really.
You are a Great Great Mom!

Lots of love and best wishes -

10:57 AM  
Blogger Uncle Mit said...

Christine couldn't be breast fed because her mother had to take antibiotics when she was born, and she went for the bottle. No problem, though I do wonder why when I dropped her off at I state Saturday she had one long box with a scope hanging out of it, and a set of bolt cutters "for that damn tower door". And I didn't like the "Lee Harvey was an underachiever" Tshirt she was wearing either. But hey, she was a BOTTLE BABY. So I shouldn't be surprised...

7:42 PM  

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