Matthew and I often have a discussion about whose religious background instilled the most guilt: my Southern Baptist upbringing or his Catholic. In the end it doesn’t really matter, because somewhere along the way he dropped off his guilt and I continued to carry mine.
I knew I struggled with feeling guilty about many, many things, but it was not until we had Keaton, I realized how much the feeling of guilt controls so much of my life.
It all started in the middle of the night, as I was breastfeeding Keaton. Of course I was breastfeeding… everyone knows breast is best and to not breastfeed would be shortchanging Keaton of the best start to life! The only problem… I really disliked, ok hated, breastfeeding.
Matthew and I took a class at the hospital a month before my due date, on my birthday. I bought a highly recommended breastfeeding book. We had the best breast pump available ready to go. Any other option besides breastfeeding was not even considered!
So here I was trying to give Keaton the best start to life and I was miserable. Each feeding was not the beautiful bonding moment shown on the videos or described in books. It seemed like a constant fight. Matthew and I would have long discussions, with each discussion ending with him supporting me and wanting Keaton and me to both be happy.
I knew I would be happier not breastfeeding and I knew formula was not poison, but I also knew the guilt that would engulf my being if I stopped. I placed myself in a no win situation… I disliked breastfeeding, but if I stopped, my guilt would be even worse. During this time, I realized this feeling was not new for me. I looked at Matthew one night and stated how much guilt controlled most of my life.
Many different things were done in my life to avoid a feeling of guilt. Guilt is a funny thing, it does not even have to be present to control our being… the mere thought of guilt being a result of our actions stops us in our tracks… at least it does me. I am astonished how a feeling, that is not even present at a moment, can control so much of my life.
As I sat there realizing how much guilt controlled me, I started to feel guilt over being controlled in such a way. I had to catch myself. I needed to realize how a mere feeling should not have so much power over me.
I stopped breastfeeding. I would like to say I stopped because of my mere dislike of it. I stopped when we found out Keaton had a milk allergy. I didn’t have to stop because of the allergy, but honestly it helped me feel less guilty. Amazingly I have not felt guilty the last two weeks as we transitioned to formula. Keaton and I both are much happier. I know many will see my actions as selfish or wrong and that is ok. Everyone is allowed their own opinion, but I am slowly realizing that is all they are, opinions.
I am tired of acting out of the fear of guilt. I don’t want Keaton to grow up seeing this as an example. I know it is a long process of letting go of the guilt, but I have to start somewhere.