Alex is on what the experts call a “nursing strike,” and despite my conflicted emotions about breastfeeding in general (I love it most of the time, but sometimes I do hate it) I am literally wracked with guilt.
Ah, guilt, the other primary emotion of motherhood. Guilt, guilt, guilt. What did I do wrong? How is my body failing me? Etc, etc, etc. Maybe it’s not strictly a maternal thing, though, maybe some father’s experience it as well, I’m not sure. I married a man who, God love him, is quick to reassure me that things that happen to or with either of our children cannot be classified as my fault, nor are they his fault. It’s meant to be sweet, of course, and most of the time it is, but sometimes there is a more banal part of myself that wants to scream at him that “YES, *I* did this to our kids! It’s MY fault that I cannot find a Mead ™ brand red plastic covered 3 subject notebook!!!” It’s not rational and it’s not fair, which is why I bite my tongue.
It’s interesting to note that ANYTHING that I did with/to Ben as a baby was my fault in Nat’s eyes. It was MY fault that Ben didn’t breastfeed (although it was later determined that Ben cannot stand to be touched); Ben was screamy because *I* decided to try solids on him too early, the icecaps are melting because I dared to not listen to NPR on an hourly basis. He was always convinced of my guilt before I even did whatever it was that I was to feel guilty about, although I never once saw him guilty about anything that he did.
Maybe it’s just me, then. Having grown the daughter of a bipolar alcoholic does happen to make a person rather guilt ridden. I’ve been known to feel guilty about things that I have had absolutely no control over. Take September 11, 2001, which was approximately 3 weeks after Ben was born: I FELT GUILTY ABOUT BRINGING BEN INTO THE WORLD DURING SUCH A TIME, as though I’d have been able to predict that would happen while unintentionally getting pregnant. Today, one of the cats pissed in the living room. I felt guilty about that, obviously I wasn’t fit to be the parent to the furbabies. I finished priming the bathroom last night and this morning I noticed that the walls were nowhere as smooth as I’d have liked them to be, especially considering the labor I put into them. This made me feel guilty.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t sit around prostrate with grief (although if I were prostrate with grief, I doubt I’d be sitting, I’d probably be laying somewhere dramatically) day in and day out. Overall, I’m pretty well-hinged and even tempered (somewhere, Dave is laughing silently, while weeping), but situations like this nursing strike tend to make me feel overly guilty about something outside of my control. He’s teething, the rational part of my mind screams, get over it, he’ll be back on the nip soon enough. Then I google “nursing strike” and Dr. Google reminds me that it’s somehow my fault that he’s not nursing: I’ve been drinking too much coffee, I’ve been eating something he doesn’t like, I’ve been snorting too much blow.
Seriously, 90% of material about pregnancy, breastfeeding and parenting place the blame for most poor behavior, including that of newborn infants squarely on the mother, which is interesting, because last I checked, children have a biological father somewhere, too, even if he’s not in the picture. He is, apparently, never to blame for anything whatsoever. I suppose that reading that kind of shit just reinforces what is inborn to mothers: you are to blame for most everything that goes wrong with your child.
I don’t know about all of this. All that I do know is that I am terribly, ridiculously sad right now.