I have video footage of my baby crying while nursing my left tit because I have almost no milk. She had better luck on the right, but not much. I won’t go into the details of how awful breastfeeding has been, but suffice it to say that it’s been both physically and emotionally painful for both me and my kid.
Now at 5 months, she’s almost exclusively formula fed. I have one last bottle of breast milk left, and I think I’ll cry when I feed it to her. The few successful breastfeedings were profoundly sweet. In those moments, I felt like a mom. But still, quitting will be a relief. But also sad. But also a relief.
The truth is that I don’t know how to interact with infants. Don’t get me wrong: I took great care of her and held her almost constantly when she was teeny tiny, but infants are incredibly stupid, and playing with an infant isn’t much different from playing with a bale of hay. You get about as much reciprocity: no eye contact and none of that cuddling that you imagine happens between mother and child. I tried to play with her as best I could, but really she was just a lot of noise and shitty diapers.
This changed over the last couple of months, and the 5-month mark was a special turning point. She laughs freely now, and it’s easy to get her to smile. We spend a lot of time dancing around and roughhousing; she likes getting thrown in the air, getting tickled, and when I fling her upside-down. Sometimes our games make her throw up, but bales of hay don’t throw up, so we’re moving in the right direction. And I’m having fun.
For these and other reasons (hello, 5 hours of sleep!), parenting has gotten easier, but to be honest, there remains a bit of discord in our relationship: I’m not sure if I’m fully bonded with my kid, and I can’t help but feel that it’s because of the egg donation thing.
I don’t know how parental love is supposed to feel, and maybe this is it. You hear about rainbows and unicorns popping out of women’s vaginas together with their spawn, and all that came with my baby was blood and slime, so it’s hard for me to tell.
It’s possible that this emotional barrier is just a part of my psychology because of my broken upbringing. My childhood had a good bit of neglect and some physical abuse, so I might feel this way no matter how my child came about. I tried to flesh it out in therapy, but when I asked my therapist why I was feeling this lack of connection, she said that the why didn’t matter and that I just needed to work on increasing my capacity for intimacy. (Intimacy issues? That’s real original, Therapy. You fucking whore.)
I do really like spending time with the kid, but as often as not, I look at her like I’m not sure who she is. But maybe that’s normal. Or maybe it’s not. What the hell do I know? I still can’t believe that the hospital let me take her home, to be honest. I mean, they don’t even know me.
Hell. I don’t know me.