Friday, April 8, 2011

Who's flying this plane, anyway?

There are so many things about myself that I never realized until I became a parent.

I didn't realize that I would be completely cliché about all things parenting, for starters. Normally repulsed by any discussion of bodily functions, I will now happily chatter away about the size, frequency, and consistency of Camille's BMs. We have taken easily 5000 pictures of Camille since her birth. I stood staring at a bib in Target that said, "I'm the Star of Mommy's Blog" for about 5 minutes debating whether I should buy it or not.

I was also hoping to be the kind of parent that just does everything naturally but instead I read any and every book regarding pregnancy and childrearing that was recommended to me. The last part is important because I didn't realize how important it would be to me to be current on all the trends. Whatever the "it" topic (food, sleep training, safety) I want to make sure I'm aware, educated and armed with an opinion because God knows I don't want to be the clueless parent. Of course, this just emphasizes how completely clueless I am about parenting. Camille has proven time and time again that books be damned, she's doing it her own way.

But the biggest surprise I've had since becoming a parent is the realization that I am a complete control freak. I think this will come to no surprise to my friends and family, and certainly not to my husband, but it really blindsided me. Losing all sense of control when you become a parent is probably fairly normal, and my desire to always appear smart, capable and good at whatever I'm doing really came back and bit me in the ass the moment control started slipping away.

I thought heart surgery would be the hardest part of the journey. Again, in my effort to appear educated and wise, I said that we may have trouble conceiving, but I never really imagined the magnitude of our fertility challenges. I told people I knew pregnancy and delivery would be incredibly challenging, but I believed that my experience would be okay and would go the way I expected. Then Camille came 6 weeks early and required an 18 day stay in the NICU. I made sure people knew that I understood how challenging breastfeeding could be for mommas, but I really believed that it wouldn't be that way for me.

Like putting checkmarks on a shopping list, each of my preconceived notions about all things regarding conception, gestation, and delivery of our daughter have been placed in the "That's what you think" category. I suppose if I were a better person I would sit back, enjoy the ride, and chalk it up to being all part of the experience and joy a parenting.

But I'm not that person and the reality is, it is really hard. Each time I watch another one of my well thought out plans go drifting out the window part of me feels really sad and disappointed, and another part feels like saying, "You dummy, that's what you get for thinking you can control how things go." The latest example of this is breastfeeding. Before Camille, I planned to breastfeed if I ever became a mother and never really considered the alternative. When Camille came early, I knew the only way to continue with my plan was to have a pump in ICU with me. So, by golly, I made certain there was a breast pump in there and I started pumping within hours of delivery. And every 3 hours after that. For...ever. Camille wasn't ready to breastfeed exclusively till 8 weeks old, so we fed, pumped and gave bottles every 3 hours for 2 months. And the day the lactation consultant told us we didn't have to pump anymore, I rejoiced.

I still planned to breastfeed till one year and wean her over the summer. Once again, my plan was rejected. Camille took a break from being a champion nurser and my supply took a dip around 5 months. We didn't realize there was a problem till her weight was affected and despite 2 more months of constant pumping and feeding, supplementing with formula, herbs, massage, tea, water, you name it, we never really recovered. Like a stubborn, bull-headed mule I've fought and fought this to the brink of insanity and though I've been done pumping for a week and only nurse once a day, if at all, I still want to cry about it.

It isn't formula. Formula is fine - Camille is thriving. I just wanted this neat, pretty, perfect mommy experience where we breastfeed for a year, take long walks in the stroller, go to farmers' markets with her strapped to me and buy organic veggies, you know. The idyllic experience that is sort of silly because being a mommy isn't pretty and perfect. Instead, it is exhausting, tear-stained, and covered in sweet potatoes. And that little scene I had in my head got replaced with reality. Which is SO much better anyway.

Our reality is making Camille a bottle in the morning and snuggling with her in her chair while she sucks it down and lets out a trucker burp. Reality is Camille sneezing during her mouthful of dinner and spraying it all over me, and then looking up at me and laughing. Reality is Bill telling me he has to change Camille's clothes after their walks because he sweats so much in the Ergo. I much prefer reality because every movie has the scene I'd envisioned in my head, but I'm the only one who has Camille.

I know there will be many other points in Camille's life where I will imagine it a certain way, only to find out that what I want/think/dream doesn't really matter, because it isn't about me. I would be lying if I thought I could let my desire for control go, so I won't, but I do hope that over time I learn to get over it quickly. I definitely have better things to do.