Sunday, October 24, 2010

Guilt of a Mother

I'm not even sure how to begin this post that I need to write for the sake of my sanity. When I found out I was pregnant with Therese, I prayed first that I would not miscarry another child. Then I asked God to spare her from epilepsy. Then one more time I went to God to ask that she not have allergies. It is so hard to watch your children suffer. I did not want to watch another child's body be taken over by seizures. I watched as Jack suffered weight loss, bloody diapers, and skin that oozed from infection, feeling powerless and guilty. Guilty for somehow giving them the genes that made them suffer. Guilty because my milk, the supposedly perfect food for my baby, was making my baby sick. The doctors wanted me to put him on formula, but I fought them. I radically changed my diet in the hope that I could keep that wonderful bond between mother and child. For a while, it seemed to work. But as the weeks went by, the symptoms returned and Jack got sicker and began to lose weight. He was not thriving. Finally, after 6 long months of trying to nurse my boy, we started giving him Neocate, a very specialized formula. Within days, the change was remarkable. He no longer looked sickly, he started plumping up and his skin started to heal. Then I felt guilt over being so stubborn and fighting so long. (Though I need to remind myself that Jack fought too. He refused to take the formula for months, only wanting to nurse.)

About three weeks ago, I started to see the tell-tale signs of milk protein allergy in Therese. The red blotchy skin, the blood in her diapers. I have been dairy and soy free for 2 weeks now with no improvement. In fact, her symptoms have only worsened. I took her back to the doctor this week and she said she wanted me to immediately put her on the formula. She referred us to a gastro doctor, who we will see next week. I think the tears in my eyes let her know that I was upset about this, so she said to start pumping my milk and saving it in the off chance that we are dealing with something other than allergies.

Therese did not fight taking the bottle. She just did it. And so did I. And the guilt is back. I gave up so quickly. Is it because I saw Jack suffer too long, or is it because I am so tired? I want so much to just enjoy this time with my new baby, but I am plagued by guilt and anxiety over every little thing. I pray and ask God to take away these feelings.

So, I need some words of wisdom and of comfort. I want to hear that everything is going to be OK.


  1. You should not ever feel guilty for being a good mother. You are responding to sound medical advice and you know, in your heart of hearts, that giving Therese a bottle is best. You said yourself that you noticed the symptoms before your doctor made the recommendation. Nursing her while she suffers would be guilt-worthy. It would be selfish because you would be denying her the benefit of being allergy-free for your sake. I did not nurse my youngest, my daughter. But I held her just as closely while I bottle fed her and we had (and have) a perfect bond. The source of the food is not as important as the method of feeding. You're just not the kind of mother to prop a bottle, so no guilt little mama. No guilt. Be confident in the switch and don't look back. It's no good for anyone.

  2. Oh, no! Please, do not feel guilty. You are giving your child the best nourishment for her -- that's what a good mother does. And, you haven't "given up," you have made a difficult choice for love of your child and the desire for her to be well. The choice you made to go with breastfeeding Jack was also for your baby's sake. But you know things now you didn't know when starting out with Jack. It is all going to be okay. You can relax now because your daughter is thriving.

    After I had my daughter, I was very anxious all the time -- in my case, I was suffering from PPD. Exhaustion made it much, much worse. Are you getting enough rest?

  3. You know, I bottle fed my first two girls, and I never ever felt that we had trouble bonding. I don't feel that we are less bonded than the five breast-fed children who followed, either. I held them while they drank their formula, and I loved them and they looked back into my smiling eyes and that's all a baby knows. She only knows that you love her. You're doing great.

  4. BIG HUG! You don't have to feel guilty about not being able to breastfeed your baby. You can still cuddle her and snuggle with her while you give her the bottle. Your bond is no less than the one between a baby & a breastfeeding mama. You're her mama and she will always love you. I hope you have some emotional support around, an encouraging mother or sister?

    Remember God's promises in the Psalms:
    Psalm 27:3,5,13-14;
    Psalm 28:7;
    Psalm 55:22;
    Psalm 91: 3-6;
    Psalm 121.

  5. While nursing is a great way to bond with your baby, really it's the time spent holding and cuddling and responding to her needs that is the true bond maker. That beautiful baby will love you no matter what way you are feeding her, because she will know that you are the person she can count on to be there for her every need. You are her mother - the mother that God chose for her to have, and everything you do that is in her very best interest (including giving her formula so that she will heal and thrive)is what creates the mother child bond.

  6. I am so sorry that you have had this struggle. Trust your heart. You know the right thing for your children. Your little one will let you know that she is healthy and well. Hold her and love her and all will be just fine.