|Jericho and Mommy|
When I was 8 and curious I watched my Mom take a bath. As the suds ran down her tired and worn body, she explained that she had fed 3 beautiful and healthy babies with this body, and that's why it looked the way it did. I wanted to look just like her when I grew up. Beauty to that 8 year old was stretch marks and saggy boobs and love-filled eyes. Callous-ridden feet and bleach-red hands. Hair stuck to face with sweat. Soft words of encouragement despite the heavy, ugly words thrown at her every single day . For all the pain she inflicted by her addictions, my Mom showed me what true beauty looked like.
|Jeremiah and Mommy|
|Judah and Mommy|
Joseph was different from the beginning. I cried and cried because he just wouldn't latch. I heard God say, "Marybeth, it's ok to bottle feed him." But I ignored Him because this was going to work. I would do this. I used a shield and that helped but I was afraid of using it indefinitely, and then one day he just latched on his own, no help, and it was good for 2 months.
But then I got sick. It was a nasty chest cold that left me barely able to breathe, and it lasted for weeks. My supply dropped and dropped, and I tried and tried to get it up. I didn't notice, how could I not notice? I didn't notice his weight drop. He was fussier than usual but he hadn't pooped in several days so I thought it was constipation. Looking back on that week brings me great pain, and everyone says not to beat myself up, but how could I not have noticed that he was losing so much weight? He weighed 8 lbs 5 oz at his 2 week check-up. At two months he was only at 8 lbs 12 oz.
I sat with him in the emergency room, nursing him, him sucking so hard and gulping mostly air, and I cried over him, my tears mixing with his. I wanted so badly to be successful at nursing. It's what is "healthiest" and "the best" and "natural" and whatever. It went deeper than just fearing other people's opinions about me and breastfeeding, although that was part of it. I believed I was better because I could breastfeed. A better mom, a better person. The thought of giving him a bottle of formula, it made me feel like I was losing a child, like I was lazy, like I was a failure.
Why was this so hard for me, when other moms can easily give their babies a bottle and it's all ok? I wanted to be like my mom. She was a woman of immense strength, immeasurable love for her babies. She breastfed successfully with all her babies, why couldn't I? "What is wrong with me?"
I didn't want to hear God whispering, "Marybeth, it's ok to bottle feed him. It's ok." And I fought with God. "if breastfeeding is the BEST and you created me to BREASTFEED him why can't I!? It's not fair!"
|Joseph and Mommy|
I nursed him for the last time a couple nights ago, 2 am and him clinging to me and holding my hand, and I let it go. I just let that perfect vision of us go, because it was a false picture. I embraced the real-life picture of me and my precious boy, right here, right now, and accepted what I had fought against for so long.
He's sleeping peacefully now. Something he rarely did the days leading up to the emergency room visit. He smiles now, and talks to me, something he never did before the hospital stay. He's chubby and rolly and pudgy. He's HAPPY. And right now, this very second, that's the only thing that matters to me.
Whether you nurse exclusively, bottle-feed your baby pumped breast milk, supplement and nurse, or exclusively formula feed, you are feeding your baby and YOU ARE DOING A GOOD JOB. I am proud of you and you are a good mommy. Say it out loud RIGHT NOW, right where you sit. "I am a good Mommy." How you feed your baby doesn't matter, when it comes down to it. The fact that you are there, present in mind, body, and soul, and lavishing love on that tiny bud of sweetness, that is what matters. And it's enough.