Monday, November 18, 2013

Thankful for Breastfeeding


In this season of Thanksgiving, I want to thank the Lord for the gift of being able to nurse my son. S and I had a difficult time and were never able to, so it's something I'm trying so hard to not take for granted.

I'm also trying to avoid the pride and ugliness that can crop up in this world of heated words hurled at mamas who make different decisions or are in different life circumstances.

Since giving birth to W at the end of July, one of my absolute favorite things has been nursing. It gives me a chance to relax, put my feet up, and just enjoy my babe. It's also extremely nice to not have to wash bottles.

There is something so satisfactory as a mama about knowing that your body is meeting your baby's needs. This satisfaction {for me} can almost borderline on pride at times.

My heart is so sinful. That I could feel superior and smug over a beautiful and natural gift from the Lord is just ugly.

Because the reality is that all good gifts come from him {James 1:17}. Good gifts should never be a source of pride, but rather of thanks to the Giver. What do we have that we have not received {1 Corinthians 4:7}?

I remember a time when breastfeeding wasn't easy. When my little preemie and I were unable to figure out the complexities of nursing. When I just gave up trying and instead, exclusively pumped for an entire year.

I spent nearly 40 hours each week (yes, a full time job) pumping and washing pump parts, to only produce a small fraction of the milk my chronic projectile vomitor consumed. Many times I wanted to quit. 

I remember that many mamas try hard, and want so desperately to nurse, but for whatever reason just can't. Maybe their supply doesn't come in. Maybe they don't get the help they need. Maybe their current life situation just isn't conducive to it. Maybe they give up in the desperate throws of mastitis or engorgement or nursing strikes. I remember how desperate I've felt in those moments. While 99% of nursing is pure bliss, that dreadful 1% when it isn't, when it hurts like nothing you could have ever imagined and you are so terribly tired, can bring you to your knees.

My friend Mandy very much wanted to breastfeed each of her three children, and unfortunately was unable to. She reminded me that even when what we're given doesn't seem good, we are guaranteed that it is all working together for our good and His glory {Rom. 8:28}.

"While I didn't feel like my issues with not being able nurse were good, they were still a gift from God because they drew me to Him. They taught me about Him. They helped me become more like His Son... I TOTALLY agree that breastfeeding is the best way to go, but it is not the end goal of life for us as mothers or our children and we can't let it be an idol of our heart in wanting it or thinking we are better because of it." {Mandy J. Hoffman}

Being able to nurse is just a gift, plain and simple. God gives different gifts to different people, and the gifts we receive are all of grace. We deserve or earn none of them. I am not a better mama because I breastfeed. You are not a lesser mama because you don't.

I remember telling women that I exclusively pumped, and that breastfeeding just didn't work out for us. So many times they would offer suggestions, or what worked for them, or raise their eyebrows in disbelief.

I think they were mostly trying to be helpful. But oh, how I wanted to scream, "You don't know how hard I've tried!" They didn't know much I'd grieved over it, or that I'd worked extensively with three different lactation consultants, read the books, tried so many different tricks and approaches, given my very best. Unwittingly they added insult to my injury.

The Mommy Wars are just plain ugly. While I strongly believe that breastfeeding is healthier for both mom and babe, I also need to really understand, deep in my heart of hearts, that it is never okay to judge another mother's motives or methods behind the parenting decisions she's made.

We just don't know. We don't know her story, her behind-the-scenes. We aren't intimately acquainted with her child- but she sure is. All we should assume is that she loves her child, and is giving this mothering business her best. 

All this to say, instead of taking pride in the decision and ability to breastfeed, I want to give thanks to the Lord, acknowledging that I wouldn't be able to do so if He didn't provide the milk, and the information and people that have helped me along the way.

Being able to nurse my son is a gift. Having access to formula when you can't breastfeed is also a gift. Loving one another despite our differences in parenting styles is a gift. We are all prone to judging, and we desperately need God's grace to be humble and charitable with one another.

All is grace, friends.

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