Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Fed is Best...In What Situation?

Anybody who knows me already knows I'm about the biggest promoter of breastfeeding as there can be. I own my own lactation consulting practice for heaven sakes. To say I'm pretty dedicated to promoting breastfeeding as the most biologically appropriate, normal and dare I say "best" is an understatement.

That being said...two of my three babies have been formula fed to some extent. With the first I got pregnant and lost my supply completely when he was 9 months. I had always heard people nurse through pregnancy and assumed that would be the case for us. Nobody told me it's actually more common to lose your milk supply due to the hormones needed for pregnancy. If I would have known...I might have waited.

My second I was able to be home a very big majority of her first year and am happy to say not a drop of formula passed her lips.

Now, with baby number three I should be a seasoned veteran of breastfeeding right? I've been professionally educated on breastfeeding! No obstacle is too big for me right? Wrong. I had to return to work when she was only 3 months old. Now this is the bare minimum time I was afforded by FMLA and I firmly believe more time with a baby after birth should be a thing in our country but that is a different post for a different day. My return to work would start a slow erosion of my milk supply. My job is difficult, and so are a lot of other mom's jobs. Unfortunately I am not able to leave my patients every 2 to 3 hours to pump for 20 minutes. We just don't have the staff and it's not safe for me to be gone like that. Yet...that is the time it would take to maintain my milk supply. Going without pumping those three days a week decimated my supply. Nevermind that I also fight a hormonal war due to a condition known as PCOS which can have a severe impact on milk supply. By the time Ellie was 10 months old I could not ignore it any longer. She was small, my smallest, but she hadn't gained more than 4 ounces over the course of 6 months. Then her diaper count began dropping, a sure sign she is not getting enough nourishment from me.

I tried. I tried every trick in my book and then some others. I pumped and pumped, but like most women I don't respond exceptionally well to a pump. I took medications, herbal supplements. Tried a supplemental nursing system that she wanted nothing to do with. You name it and I did it. There was no getting around it though...my baby needed nourishment and I was not enough. I had to give her formula.

Since then her diaper count has normalized, her weight is now increasing as it should and she is a happy and healthy baby. My health on the other hand. Well, my mental health I should say. It is in shambles. Here I am this certified breastfeeding specialist who has her baby on formula. Many nights passed with me sobbing quietly into my pillow. The tears rolled down my cheeks as I fed her bottles of what some members of the mommy online community would tout as poison. I became depressed, deeply depressed over it. I'm still struggling that fight but I hide it well. Nobody felt the pain of my heart breaking when I realized she had nursed for the very last time. Nobody felt the pain I did when I realized I lost that unique position as her one and only food source. That was something very special, only I could make that milk and now anybody can scoop the formula out of the can. Nobody feels the heartache when I plop that container on the belt at the store, ashamed, worried somebody might see me and judge me. Nobody knows how much it hurt to know I failed. There is a happy-ish ending to this part because a wonderful angel contacted me and was able to donate breastmilk to us. It may not be coming from me but at least I know she is getting the benefits of breastmilk. That numbs the sting a little bit, a band aid to my broken heart.

Now one of the things that swirled around in my head is a phrase that is told to many an online community: Fed is not best, it is minimum. I get where this comes from, really I do. Breastmilk is the most biologically appropriate and best food for human babies. That being said, the tone in which this is usually said can be extremely hurtful. This saying makes mothers like myself who have tried so hard and ultimately needed formula feel like complete failures. I've seen comments such as "I'd never feed my baby that poison, fed isn't best it's the minimum! I would get my baby donor milk if I couldn't breastfeed." That's great and all but not all moms have access to donor milk and to equate formula to poison?! Really?! Do we need that insinuation that I might as well be loading up her bottle with arsenic on top of my own personal guilt? I've seen things such as "What would they do if formula didn't exist? If I can breastfeed why can't they?!" This hurts a lot. To know that you think I didn't try hard enough when I worked my TAIL off to make it to 10 months. Formula is a last resort for many and for those who need it, it's truly a blessing and we are thankful. In another time far far away we might be able to find a wet nurse or a more available donor but the times we live in those things aren't around anymore like they used to be. All these comments do not serve to help mothers. They do not serve to build them up and encourage but rather tear them down.

Fed may be the minimum to some but sometimes feeding your baby formula is doing the best you can as a parent. You're doing the best by ensuring your child is nourished. This does not make you a bad parent, you are being the best parent you can be and that is what matters. So for me I say "Parenting, including choosing the way in which you feed, in such a way that provides your child with the best choices and life possible within your means and ability is best." Sure it's not as catchy but at least it's accurate.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Marriage, Expectations and God...

So this thing has been blowing up my Facebook feed since yesterday and everybody, their uncle and their dog is arguing about it. I mean what else is the internet for but to argue over differences in opinion, lifestyle and choices. Am I right? I digress.

This is the image polarizing wives all throughout the land of Facebook:

There are feelings this evokes in everybody. For some it is the mentality of "the woman shouldn't have to serve the man!" or "The woman should always serve the man!". Then there is this one that ruffles my feathers to the extreme, "God created women to submit to men! Wives should always submit to their husbands!". Um....please excuse me while I go check my Bible here...

So this is the verse most people are referring to:
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Ephesians 5:22-24.

Now some read that as some kind of out-dated, ridiculous, misogynistic commandment. Stay with me here. Now read the rest:

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[a] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[b] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:25-33

Woah...the part for the guys is pretty heavy. Go read it again...I'll wait. 
Let us discuss, or more so let my fingers type out my thoughts and you can argue with me in the comments. 

So lets talk about this submit part for the ladies. Does that mean you should do everything, anything, and all things your husband asks without question? NOPE. Does that mean you should listen to and show your husband respect, evaluating his wants/needs/desires with a loving and considerate heart? Ding Ding Ding! Yesssssss.

For the husbands it asks you to love your wife like Christ loved the church! Duuuuuude. You know that Christ loved the church A LOT, like died on the cross to save us from Hell kind of love. *Just to clarify the term "church" here: that's us Christ followers, not the building just to clarify. I know he was a carpenter and all, with what I assume is an appreciation for some good woodwork but in this context it means the people who follow Him.* So If a husband loves his wife like Christ loved the church...that's some pretty deep love right there. Look at this line right here: He who loves his wife, loves himself. Ok I know that kind of sounds like "happy wife, happy life" but no, just no. Husbands are called to love their wives, respect their wives. They are called to love their wives as their own body! He is called to look at her like a radiant church, unblemished, holy, and blameless. Note to self: next time husband tries to blame me, refer to scripture. 

The last bit describes how a man and a woman come together and are ONE.  You are one when you commit to marriage before God. You work together, you communicate, you compromise, you work with each other and not for each other. Go back, read that again: work WITH each other and not FOR each other.

So this note. Going back to this viral sensation. 
My biggest problem is that this note is not a one size fits all for all relationships and the tone with I read it (and apparently a billion angry facebookers did as well) was commanding. It comes across as a my way or the highway type thing. It's very patronizing as well. Maybe that's just how the gerbil running my brain read it but it is what it is. The model of mom being at home caring for kids and home while dad works with no home/chore type responsibility may work for some and that is AWESOME! Yay! It won't work for everybody though. Our families look so much different than they did in the past. Most families have two working parents, two providers and protectors if you will, and I think it is reasonable to share household and child duties. There is nothing wrong with sharing duties but the degree and extent of this should be determined by the couple living it! Not the internet. I know, I know, the internet is full of millions of awesome relationship experts, why wouldn't we listen to them!? Because they are not experts on your life, they're people with opinions, keyboards and wi-fi. Remember that.

The note talks a lot about expectations and here is my take on them:
Expectations imposed without any communication absolutely DO ruin relationships. If I expect my husband to vacuum the house every week but never tell him or communicate this to him and then get mad at him when he doesn't do it well that doesn't work so well in relationships now does it. It works the other way too! If a husband expects a wife to vacuum and never discusses this with her or talks to her about it, then becomes angry or annoyed when it never happens...well...that's not helpful either. Men are not mind readers and shocking secret: neither are women. Turns out we have to talk to each other. With words. Audible words. Not with telepathy. Sulking around and being annoyed at them for not helping when they were never asked is so not helpful and surprise surprise usually doesn't get vacuuming done.

Now. If I had a talk with my husband and we both discussed what we felt was fair for each other and came to a mutually agreed upon plan we both know the clear cut expectations being placed on us. Now, say we agree he will vacuum once a week and he fails to do so. Should I get angry? Sulk? Passively aggressively vacuum in front of him while staring him down? I'm a fan of the latter but the more productive and helpful thing to do is have a calm and respectful discussion. Be open about your feelings but do not accuse. Understand their point of view as well. Rather than being passive aggressive or getting angry have a talk. A simple "hey I know you haven't vacuumed in awhile like we talked about. Do you need help?" goes a hell of a lot farther than glares and anger. Yes, you should want to help your spouse, why not help somebody you love? If it's something you don't feel up to doing maybe work out a compromise between you to divide it up. Say he does the living room and you do the bedroom. There is always a compromise to be found. Do not be bitter or angry, and at the same time do not relinquish yourself to just complying to "be a good wife". That will only breed feelings of resentment and anger. Express your feelings in a respectful way and for the other half, really truly listen and try your very best to understand where they are coming from. Does your wife work her behind off for you and is asking for help because she genuinely needs you? Does your husband work his fingers to the bone and is asking for some help because he genuinely needs you? Think about that, look at it as helping out because you love one another not because you have to or they are making you or it is expected of you by society/the internet.

In summary these are my thoughts:
As husbands and wives we are called to serve each other. We are called to love each other. We are called to respect each other. When the Bible says we are to submit to our husbands we are not stripped of all rights and shoved into the kitchen barefoot and pregnant. NO. We are called to submit by loving, cherishing, wanting to please, respecting and communicating. Husbands you are called to love your wives, respect her, cherish her, want to please her. If you are both doing these things then neither of you will have false expectations. When you both work at making each other happy, loving one another and showing them that you value them as a part of your team (remember you are one now) then you are both receiving love and respect as well as giving it. I know some might take issue with the "please the other" thing and understand it is not a blind "do whatever they want" kind of pleasing. Who doesn't like to see their spouse happy? If you love and respect each other then the terms of what is pleasing and within reason should be clear. It is not a one way street as this note seems to imply. We should hold no expectations without the others involvement and we should not just cheerfully accept when something is not agreeable. We should TALK. Discuss. Work it out. Define what you want, define what he wants and come to a compromise. Take your two sides and make them one. After all that is what marriage is about, two becoming one. 

Marriage is hard. It is not something to take for granted. Treat that relationship like a living, breathing, real organism because it is. It needs to be cared for, focused on, and worked at to live and thrive. The food that feeds marriage is communication, love, respect and understanding. Marriage is not the same for every family and we are not to judge others arrangements just as we do not want ours judged. They did get one thing right in that note: no, you do not marry your spouse to help with the chores. You marry them because you love them. You marry them because you want to be  with them for the rest of your life. You chose them. They chose you. Of all the people in the world you chose each other. You married each other because you desired to love, cherish and honor them until the day you die. You did not marry somebody because you wanted a slave to do the dishes. If the focus and main reason you wanted to get married was just to have somebody else around the house...get a roommate because that is not marriage.

With those final words that is where I leave you.