As parents, we all feel guilty about something. We want to do what's best for our children, but on the few occasions where that doesn't work out, the guilt inevitably settles in. For the longest time, I've carried around a tremendous amount of guilt over breastfeeding. More specifically, I was convinced that my inability to fully breastfeed Jack had led to his febrile seizures; that something I wasn't giving him had caused them. In my heart I knew I did the best that I could for him, but what if that wasn't enough? What if the little bit of my milk he received didn't protect him? What if my failure caused my child to have these awful episodes when his temperature rapidly spiked?
While Charlie's febrile seizure was scary & stressful, it gave me a gift. I was able to finally see that whatever causes these boys to have seizures was not something I had done, or not done for that matter. It wasn't a measure of my breastfeeding failure. Charlie, a fully breastfed baby, gets them too. thank god. Not in the sense that I'm thankful he went through all of that, but thank god something happened to lift the guilt I felt over Jack.
This guilt had been building for 3 years, to the point where if someone would talk about how amazing & powerful breast milk was, I would quietly break down. I know the benefits and love that it worked with Charlie. But each time I heard or sang the praises of it, a voice in the back of my head would say "and because you didn't do this for Jack, he has a seizure every time he gets a fever. you suck". Why is that voice so powerful?
In an attempt to assuage my guilt, I asked my mother-in-law what she thought of my theory. I knew that if there was truth to it, she would acknowledge it without crushing me. She told me there was no connection. That even if by some small chance there were, I pumped enough to give Jack the same important nutrients that I had given Charlie.
It didn't help. I thought for sure she was trying to spare my feelings & somehow convinced myself that this was guilt I would just have to live with. It even made me dread the thought of having a third child. What if I couldn't breastfeed them & they were sentenced to the same risk category as Jack?
Charlie's seizure changed all of that. I no longer look at Jack as the kid I "didn't breastfeed". I look at him as my teacher. He is my child who taught me enough about seizures to survive Charlie's episode without panicking. The one whose experience allowed me to overcome the fear & deal with the situation from a medical perspective. The kiddo who made me more determined to breastfeed baby #2. And the one who I still strive to do the very best for, even if the first time around I make mistakes.
It's amazing how much better I feel as a parent now that the guilt is gone. The voice is silenced, for now. And while I'm sure it will be back the next time I question a decision, I now know there are no absolutes. If you try your best and are open to the idea that different things work for different kids, that voice reminding you of your failures loses it's power.