Monday, October 17, 2011

Spirit-Led Parenting : Honoring Your Stories

Today, Megan shares about one of the many things God is doing in us as we seek to serve Him through this book project. I echo her thoughts with a wholehearted "Amen".
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God's timing is always perfect, even (and especially) when it seems He has let something drag on far longer than you ever imagined.

I can say with 100% sincerity that I am thankful that He didn't allow us to move forward with this book project when we first began writing it. A very well-respected and wise literary agent told us that we needed to wait, that we should look several years down the road before we were ready to publish. That was exactly not what I wanted to hear at the time, but it is exactly what I needed to hear. She may have been thinking about time in terms of building the platform from which we would launch our message, but God knew time was needed to smooth over some areas in my mind that were prone to preaching instead of open to listening.

He gave us the gift of several years to listen.

As we have listened, it has become more and more obvious that when it comes to feeding our babies, there are many conversations happening and that all of the voices contributing to these conversations are important. As we have shared our stories with you, you have responded with such honesty. Whereas I once envisioned a message that would hold almost exclusively to the idea of persevering in breastfeeding, the stories you have entrusted to us have changed the shape of what we want parents to know about seeking God's direction in this area of parenting. Your honesty about your pain and hurt and disappointment and shame have caused us to know that we aren't alone in our search for redemption.

We wanted to honor some of these stories you have shared with us through these conversations. It is our hope that in giving voice to your stories, all of us will be reminded that rarely is this easy for anyone.

As I read through the comments left at SortaCrunchy and here in our series on feeding, I'm reminded that this topic is never as simple as it seems:

Emily: I, too, was determined to breastfeed, but try as I might, my milk never came in. Just a few ounces, but no let down. Ever. Turned out that I had a retained piece of placenta, which prevented the let down. I cried buckets and was so heartbroken until I decided to let it go at 3 weeks (I'd had to supplement from about day 5 since my son had lost a pound!) Although I'm sad about not breastfeeding, I'm more sad about the fact that I spent the first few weeks of my little guy's life being incredibly depressed instead of soaking up every second.

Katy: Thank you so much for this. I can't tell you how many well-meaning people encouraged me to just "try offering him your breast" when my child had a severely damaged heart and just couldn't maintain the stamina to breast feed. I WAS pumping, but it's hard to maintain supply with no actual baby. Worst of all, all those well-meaning comments made me really me hate to even discuss the topic, so much so that I've forbidden any and all conversation about the topic as we plan for our next child.

Beth: If I were living in my ideal world, I'd also like to see the assumption that not breastfeeding is a choice go away. For me, it wasn't a choice. I started bleeding internally after delivering my daughter. It wasn't caught until significant damage had been done. I underwent emergency surgery and spent almost 24 hours on a ventilator while they tried to keep my lungs going until my body recovered enough to breathe on its own. I didn't see my precious daughter much during that time, though the maternity nurses were hugely accommodating and brought her over to me as much as they could. By the point I was released from the hospital, my daughter had been on formula for a week; I was on blood thinners to prevent a stroke; and, they (3 intensivists, my OB, the lactation consultant, & Katie's pediatrician, the biggest breastfeeding advocate I know) felt the risks to her, and to me, were too huge to allow for breastfeeding.

I didn't have a choice. It wasn't a decision. I am wounded when people say I don't love my daughter because I didn't breast feed her, or that I don't respect her because I didn't. Or that I abused her because of it. Or, my favorite, she wouldn't have developed her own health problems if I breastfed. It honestly kills me.

Courtney: I am currently breastfeeding baby #3 and again, having a LOT of trouble with supply. I have so much guilt about it, but have tried pretty much everything. My midwife says I have worked harder than any of her clients in the 7 years that she's been a midwife. BUT, I still feel guilty. And, it's because of people that judge women without knowing their situation. I try to ignore the stares and opinions, but it's difficult. I want to do what is best for my baby!

What's hard for me is that I have an ideal situation for breastfeeding. I had a homebirth, skin to skin immediately, delayed cord clamping, over an hour to feed before they weighed, etc. But, even with an ideal situation, breastfeeding is very difficult for me and causes much anxiety. In the past, I quit after about 2 months of trying because it caused me so much anxiety. This time I will breastfeed even if it's just a little bit. I plan to continue as long as I can. But, I can't judge others who try real hard and still struggle and decide to stop.

Every person needs to do what is best for them and their family. Yes, breastfeeding is best, but a non-anxious mama is more important in my opinion.

Linn: There was no thought in my mind that I would use the bottle. But as we know, babies and our bodies don't always cooperate. My first son latched on and we did everything right, but try as we might, there was no milk. When we had to take him to the ER at four days old, we knew it was time to consider what God son to be alive! Lactation consultants, strange contraptions to increase milk supply, medications shipped from New Zealand, tinctures and teas multiple times daily, and pumping with an industrial pump all produced almost nothing. While my son needed several ounces a feeding (or even 1-1.5 ounces if I wanted to feed every hour!) I could only get enough milk expressed to not quite cover the bottom of a bottle. We kept at all this for two months, knowing that he needed all the breastmilk we could give, but it never increased. It was the most heartbreaking part of my parenting: knowing that I could not provide what my son so desperately needed. I became thankful for formula and the chance it gave my son at life. I became protective of my bottle feeding and felt attacked every time I got what I assumed was a judgmental look from breastfeeders. I was sad (and still am, seven years later) every time I saw someone able to breastfeed.

With my second son, I anticipated the problems and began the medication as soon as I got home from the hospital. But it was much tougher to continue with the breastfeeding regimen of breast, pumping, bottle feeding, cleaning up the contraptions, and taking the meds when I had a barely two year old running around. When my second was one month old, the routine was wearing on me, and the medication had begun giving me severe headaches. With much prayer, I stopped breastfeeding for the peace of my family. And God knew best...I was able to enjoy those early months with my second son, while I agonized and missed out on my first son's infancy as I fought against the body God gave me.

thewilkinsiv: When I was pregnant with my first, breastfeeding was never a question. I knew I would do it. It's best for baby and I was made to do it. And then my milk never "came in," and my daughter was losing instead of gaining. We we started supplementing with formula and I started taking every supplement I could find and pumped after every nursing session to try to increase my supply. And it never got a whole lot better. I remember being in church in the early days and wanting to hide when mixing a formula bottle because I was afraid people would judge me and think I wasn't doing the best thing for my baby. Which is exactly how I felt! I had so much mommy guilt that I wasn't able to give my baby what she needed because my body was broken. Everyone says it's the most natural thing, but for me it wasn't. And I had no idea why. I nursed and pumped for 8 months and then went to formula.

Missy: Nightmare. I had a list of "what good mothers absolutely must do" in my brain and heart and breastfeeding was #1 on the list. It never worked. After 8 weeks of waking up every two hours to pump and then feed him, a borderline failure-to-thrive baby, taking all kinds of herbs, several LC visits, many tears, and a good dose of postpartum depression, my husband finally had the courage to say, "You have made breastfeeding an idol. It is robbing your joy of this baby. I really think you should stop."

God immediately sent me several women who assured me that yes, my good-mother-hood was not reliant on having behaving boobies. My scrawny baby went on formula and all was well with the world. Weaning brought fertility - and his sister was born 10 days after his first birthday.

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This is just a small, small sampling of the stories we have heard through the years. Oh yes, I am so thankful for the time we were given to make space in this conversation for everyone.

I am becoming more and more convinced by the day that relationships trump systems and coming alongside people is more important than clinging to principles. If Laura and I are going to write with integrity about following God's direction in all areas of parenting baby through that first year, we must be devoted to honoring the stories on both sides of this conversation. If we truly believe that God's plans and purposes for each family are wonderfully complex and unique, then our message must be well-rounded, respectful, and authentic.

We realize not everyone agrees with us here, and we are learning to be okay with that. Thank you for sharing your hearts and stories with us. In a very real way, your influence is growing our message in ways we could not have imagined when we first began this project years ago.

Is there an area of parenting where you have changed your mind on a topic after really listening to the story of someone else? Feel free to share your experiences in this with us today.

photo by: umjanedoan

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