W Is For: Work Vs Breastfeeding

379

The break up

We worked for so long and so hard to build this relationship. For a long time neither of us were sure what we were doing. It’s true we were both emotionally invested from the moment we met, but the physical side took a lot of practice to get right. I was shy, awkward, all fingers and thumbs. I felt like I couldn’t give you what you needed – you seemed dissatisfied, angry even. It was painful for me in those early days but I stuck with it – anything for you, anything to make you happy.

Fast forward 14 months (and it did go so quickly – I constantly wanted to press ‘pause’) and it’s over, finished, there’s no going back. I always thought I’d be the one to end things when we’d run our course but here I am two months on and the very thought that we’re done still brings a sting to my eyes and a sick feeling to my stomach. Even when you’d made it clear you’d had enough, I refused to give in, desperately trying each day for weeks to get things back on track – different places, positions, times, anything I could think of to catch your eye, get you interested again.

I was terrified about going back to work after my second maternity leave for a hundred different reasons. But not for one minute did I consider that it might lead to what I can only imagine will be the first in a long line of rejections I suffer at the hands of my baby girl. This is the story of how she abruptly decided to stop breastfeeding the week I returned to work told through break up cliches (because that’s how cheated I feel).

“Love hurts.” And so does biting. If your baby has teeth and you’re trying to keep feeding after she’s called time, each latching on attempt is the equivalent of breastfeeding Russian roulette.

“I think we should see other people.” And I’ve got my eye on this free flow plastic number that gives me much more return for next to zero effort and I can down it in 60 seconds.

“I just need some space.” The quiet, low light, feed-to-sleep, bedtime ritual approach was great while it lasted. But I like my drinks to go these days – you’ve tidied up the house and I could be creating a fresh trail of devastation while I fuel up.

“It’s not you, it’s me.” I want to believe this. I am desperate to. She’s growing up, you can’t breastfeed forever, etc. I know all those things are true. But do I think this would have happened at this stage had I not gone back to work? No. It’s put my mum guilt at an all time high – and gin knows it’s not exactly under control at the best of times. Until now I have never questioned whether my kids would be better off if I didn’t work because I value my sanity too much and – for me (and I speak only for me) – work was the thing that kept me rational and sane.

“If you love something, let it go.” This is the one I’m clinging on to for now. Yes, I am still sad it didn’t end on my terms but it is amazing how quickly we have both moved on. Bedtime is simpler and I am enjoying having more freedom. My feelings for my growing girl might be in a different league, but I do love my job and – screw you mum guilt – I do think my girls get a better me because of that.

This post is part of our A-Z of Parenting series where we take a look at the whole alphabet of things that can go right – or wrong – with parenting. A new letter is added every couple of days. Check out what’s happened so far here.
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Katie is on a quest to bring all the things she is in her working life (organised, timely, well respected, listened to!) to her world beyond the office. So far, it's not working. Two children in and she has yet to get to a baby class before the first song has finished and her preschooler specialises in advanced selective hearing. And these are the least of her worries. Subjects she gets cross about on Twitter (@katie__holl) include, but are not limited to: toddlers, early gender stereotyping, and retailers seeing maternity and nursing clothes as a single category (she mans - womans? - the Can I Breastfeed In It Pinterest pinterest.co.uk/cibiiuk). She is obsessed with interior design hacks she'll never have time to implement, cake in all its wondrous guises and clothes with pockets.

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