She wasn’t even 48 hours old yet. It was snowy and icy outside, this new parenthood crash course threw me under the bus. Our first evening home and all she did was cry. Cry like she was dying.
“Ben, I don’t know what to do? I’m trying to feed her, but I don’t know what I’m doing. What if she’s starving? She won’t latch!,” I sobbed.
He took our brand new, first born baby girl into his arms and watched both ladies in his life cry. I only imagine how defenseless he felt as well.
There were no lactation specialists at the hospital the day she was born. One was snowed in and the other sick. Now, we were at home, by ourselves without any clue as to what to do. I imagined nursing to be “natural” and “instinctive.” It was awkward, confusing and frustrating. My little girl couldn’t quite open her mouth wide enough to suck. She was hungry and we needed to do something. That free formula they sent home from the hospital was possibly the saving grace; and, still I felt guilt and shame.
The next day as I continued to try to nurse, I sought hope in the lactation specialists coming to our home. What I found was more discouragement. Words like, “You probably won’t produce enough,” and “You should be pumping more.” Those words haunted me throughout my whole nursing relationship.
Two months later, my girl was gaining and still I had those words swimming around, thinking I could do more. I cringed about using formula, because wasn’t I suppose to be able to feed my own child? It had nothing to do with other mamas choosing formula for their baby; rather, it was an idol I had built “good mother” upon.
It wouldn’t be until six months that I would find my girl had only gained a couple ounces in two months. My heart broke. Had I been starving my child without knowing it? My poor girl. Maybe those lactation specialists were right. Working with a nutritionist, we quickly got her back on track and luckily she was a voracious eater as well. Years later, I would find out she had oral motor problems, which generate a poor suck.
But, was it just that or me?
Now, over five years later, and I’m facing the same thing with my third baby. She hasn’t gained much between four and six months. I’m at a loss. Did I fail? Is my past coming back to haunt me? I ask God, “Why do some mothers have an oversupply and others dripping dry?” And what’s worse, she won’t take formula. Had I known at four months that we would be where we are at now, I would have introduced it. Her sense of taste is quite discernable. I can pump and add ⅛ amount of formula to the breastmilk, and she won’t take it. Pure breastmilk, drink it down.
Still, I come to God each night, “Jesus, you know your girl. You love her more than I do and you’re not going to let her starve. I am doing everything, and I need your help.”
Some mamas make so much they have enough to donate as well. Is it the mamas doing? No. Some mamas eat all the right foods to produce, take the herbs, drink water, cut back on caffeine and nurse, nurse, pump, nurse…still, not much. Is it the mamas doing? No.
What I’ve learned along this rather strenuous journey of breastfeeding is how reliant I am on Jesus.
I’m reminded of Paul,
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Is it possible that this is God’s grace? Is it possible that God is strengthening himself in me? Is it possible that he’s breaking down the idols of what being a “good mama” means? Is it possible he is showing me his grace, in order to extend that same grace to another mama who has felt less than?
I am still walking this road, praying my girl gains weight and being sensitive to listen to doctors and the Spirit. It’s not over, and I imagine He has something more for me. But, what I do know is he’s reminding me that he really is a good Father and won’t abandon me or my girl in this journey. His grace is sufficient.
Can you relate to my story? I would be encouraged to hear your story. Or maybe, your story is different and you are finding God’s grace in the midst of it?