Whatever it Takes to Get By

Heads up: this post is about breastfeeding. I don’t want to freak anybody out, so I figured I’d spring it on you right off the bat.

imageBefore I became a mom, I fell into the “I support breastfeeding, I just don’t want to see it” camp. Then I had Phineas.

We struggled to feed Phin in the early months of his life. He was labeled by a specialist as “failing to thrive” (a diagnosis we refused to speak over him ourselves), he needed a lip and a tongue tie revision in order to suck effectively, and by the time we figured all this out my supply was so low I had to nurse him at least 15 times a day. Do the math on that one, folks. 24 hours in a day, and remember even mamas try to sleep here and there. I couldn’t miss a feeding for fear it would hurt my crippled supply. I was also pumping to encourage my body to produce more, which I supplemented right back to Phin. We gave him a couple bottles of formula daily. We tried early introduction of solids that left him writhing in pain with terrible gas because his body wasn’t ready to process them. There were doctor visits, weight checks, and hours spent with a lactation consultant. We kept a borrowed infant scale in our bedroom to regularly weigh him and make sure he was gaining. When we missed the mark, we were devastated. It ruled our lives for months.

With that schedule, if I wanted to go to church, get my hair cut, or simply get coffee with a friend, I had to make peace with the fact that I’d need to nurse Phin outside our home. In some instances I was able to find an empty office or some other more private place to get the job done, but that wasn’t always the case.

We dropped some serious coin on paraphernalia to make nursing in public more discreet. I found the fancy (and expensive!) nursing tanks most effective. I could layer them under my clothes and get him to latch with minimal exposure. Nursing covers, which you’d think would offer maximum discretion, did me wrong. They lulled me into a false sense of security, allowing Phin to rip them off and leave me more exposed than ever. Of course, this was just how things were for us. Every mom/baby pair is unique.

Firsthand experience with an issue can often change your position. When I see a nursing mom in public, even if they’re not as covert as I tend to be, I assume the best. We mamas are just trying to do whatever we can to raise healthy children. Never once while I nursed in public did I think, “Wow, I’m really sticking it to those puritanical folks offended by public breastfeeding.” You know what I was thinking? I’ve gotta feed my son. Most mamas aren’t doing it to make someone uncomfortable or make a political statement. They’re just trying to feed their children and still live their life. They’re doing whatever it takes to get by.

I’m the mother of a little boy. I want to raise him to be a supportive husband and father, just like his daddy is for us. Part of that involves teaching him about the human body and helping him not to be ashamed or grossed out by God’s grandest creation. Should an older Phineas one day witness a nursing mother, I hope I’m brave enough to use it as a teachable moment.

The path we walk often dictates our passions. When people poke fun, bash, or mock moms who I know firsthand are doing a very taxing service for their baby, it’s personal because I am that mom. We struggled and fought to breastfeed our son, and our success was hard-won. I share our story not to change anyone’s mind about the issue, but rather to encourage empathy. When you see a mama nursing in public, consider the fact that you don’t know everything about her situation and extend a little bit of grace instead of judgment.

Advertisements

Birthday

image

I don’t blog here much anymore. I’m too busy keeping up Phin’s private blog, documenting all the fun happenings of his young life. Besides, sometimes my deepest contemplations these days involve poop. Or the little one’s drive to dive head first off of beds and couches. Or how, when my son is the one with the runny nose, I am the one covered in snot.

You don’t want to hear that stuff.

Today is Phin’s first birthday which of course means I’m all nostalgic. This morning I pulled up the pregnancy journal I kept where I wrote notes to him while he was “baking” and recorded his birth story. That was a tough couple of days’ labor working to get him here. Shoot, it was a tough week when we had to leave him in the NICU and then I wound up with a spinal headache and couldn’t hold myself upright unmedicated. Despite all that, we made it, thanks in no small part to the grace of God and the amazing team of people who surround us. We have a cheerful, friendly, healthy son who spreads joy everywhere he goes. Sweet Phineas is one year old. He’s not the only one celebrating a birthday, though. Continue reading

Dear Mamas: You Are Enough

photo

He’s adorable. I know.

Keeping a tiny, helpless human being alive is difficult – this truth is universal. Many parents face the same set of struggles in raising their healthy newborns; the experience varies based on which of the struggles comes to the forefront. Phineas is a happy, content baby. He’s a good sleeper. He hasn’t dealt with reflux or colic. He battled cradle cap for a couple of months and although it cost him a lot of his hair, it clearly bothered his dad and me more than it did him. We were blessed with a very “easy” baby. Then when he was four months old, we learned he’d completely fallen off the growth charts – he was so small compared to other babies his age that he couldn’t be assigned a percentile and was in fact well below the lowest percentile. This was a big deal considering he was born somewhere around the 75th percentile for weight and even higher for height. Righting this problem was – and still is – our greatest challenge with Phin. Continue reading

It’s a New Season

photo

Last month, the birth of our firstborn marked one of the largest life changes I’ve ever navigated…and am still navigating! This month, I followed it up by cleaning out my office at church, exiting the workforce to stay home with Phin. Being a parent is something I dreamed of for a long time and the ability to stay home to raise our son in the early years of his life is wonderful. All this change comes with so much joy…and with the joy comes a lot of reflection. Continue reading

I Was Wrong

Are you familiar with TED talks? If not, I encourage you to explore them. Each is a brief, under twenty minute presentation of an idea. They come on subjects of all kinds. They can be surprising, educational, entertaining, challenging, humorous – there’s a flavor in there for all of us. In recent years I’ve watched a few really great ones shared by my Facebook friends (like this one and this one and this one) and they’ve moved and inspired me. This summer I’ve watched them far more frequently because TED talks are now on Netflix, neatly grouped by subject. Tada!

Every now and then I find one that really sticks with me. Such is the case with this one:

Continue reading

I Am > You

honor students

This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of watching Hope Kidz perform in concert, celebrating the release of their first album. I felt such excitement, joy, and pride watching those kids even though none of them are mine. I wanted to sit down and tell each one what made them amazing as individual artists, but I had to settle for talking to them briefly as a group. Although much went unspoken, I was grateful for those few moments.

In psychology, there’s an unfortunate little thing called Social Comparison Theory. Proposed in the 1950s by Leon Festinger, it basically states that human beings are driven to evaluate themselves by comparing themselves to others. We can compare laterally (against those we view as similar), upward (against those we view as superior), and downward (against those we believe are inferior). These comparisons happen mostly without us thinking about it and are arguably at least as damaging as they are helpful. While they can give us a sense of what is normal and encourage us to strive for improvement, they can also destroy individuality in the name of uniformity, steal our joy, and kill our self-image. Continue reading

Questions You Should Never Ask, Part Three

So far, we’ve explored the inappropriateness of certain questions related to marital status and children. This series could probably go on for weeks addressing other specific questions that should never be asked, but I’m gonna just jump to some alternatives that will hopefully work both for issues raised in this miniseries as well as those unaddressed Questions You Should Never Ask.

Part Three: The Thoughtful Alternative (variations include The Golden Rule and “You mean everyone’s journey isn’t just like mine?”)

image

In a comment on Part One (and also on his wife Alana’s excellent blog), Josh Mokma shared a piece of his brother’s wisdom:

“As far as people talking, people talk. Most don’t really know what to ask so they ask the most obvious question. We live in a comparative society: I am married why aren’t you, we have kids why don’t you?”

Let’s begin here. Each of us has a story. Some stories are linear while others have a lot of twists and turns. Some have just a few defining moments and others are littered with life-changing events. We do not all have the same benchmarks and even when we share one or two, we don’t usually reach them at the same point in time: just like no two people are alike, no two stories are alike. When engaging with others, it’s important to have an appreciation for their stories and realize that it’s okay if they don’t look similar to ours. Those differences are what make learning about other people exciting! Stop comparing and start exploring! Continue reading