In Which My Third Baby Is Formula Fed

It’s 2 am and my baby, Molly, stirs in the bassinet next to me.  I pick her up and walk out to the kitchen, where I scoop formula into a bottle and shake it up before popping it in her mouth.  It’s become routine, but it still invokes a little sadness in me….it’s certainly something I never expected to be doing.

You see, I’m one of those moms who really, truly loves breastfeeding.  I had a lot of nursing struggles in the beginning with both of my first two babies, but I pushed through and a few months in it became easy.  I loved being able to feed my baby anytime, anywhere with this amazing super milk made just for them.  I loved the little sounds they made and the way they looked in their milk drunk coma.  I nursed my baby while hiking and felt like super mom, and I could pump out milk like a boss.  Even when my second baby bit me so hard that I couldn’t nurse on that side for over a week, we kept going, and I nursed her until 18 months.

So as this sweet little third baby of mine grew inside of me, nursing was one of the things I most looked forward to.  When she was born, she latched on right away, and I was so thankful.  Things continued to go great…at first.

But then that changed.  My milk supply came in and, just like with my other two, I became engorged.  My baby started struggling to latch.  My second baby had the same thing happen and I ended up pumping and giving her a bottle, which I regretted because she wouldn’t nurse for a week and a half after that.  I wasn’t going to risk that this time, so I kept pushing through.  For whatever reason, my milk supply tanked overnight.  Molly started screaming every time she’d try to nurse and my milk took forever to let down.  It stressed me out and everything got worse.   I could tell I wasn’t full, even after going several hours without nursing.  I’d pump and only get dribbles out [side note: I know pumping isn’t always an indicator of milk supply, but it always has been for me in the past].  Every feeding became a battle, with her popping on and off for 30 minutes, screaming the whole time, until my milk would finally let down a little or she’d get tired…I could never tell which.  I would have to send my other kids out of the room each time because they only stressed me out more.

I tried everything I knew to try to fix things.  I ate all the right foods, did lots of skin-to-skin, and quoted Scripture to try to decrease my anxiety.  And I prayed…oh did I pray.  I begged God to make my milk come back. But things only went from bad to worse.  Her diaper count started to drop, and her screaming cry became more hoarse.  Everyone in the house was getting very little sleep, and between that and all the crazy hormones, I felt like I was losing my sanity.  I’d snap at the kids if they even came near while I was trying to nurse.  I just knew in my heart that this wasn’t working and she wasn’t getting enough.

The straw that broke the camel’s back came one night when my three-year-old came in after Molly finally started nursing (after 30 min of screaming) and sat next to me.  She was visibly upset, and after probing her she said that she didn’t like the baby screaming.  I looked at her little face and realized that this battle was creating as much anxiety in her as it was me.  I knew then that this wasn’t healthy for anybody.  My kids needed a sane mom, Molly needed to eat, and I didn’t need my older two to resent the new baby.  At a week and a half old, as tears streamed down my face, I gave her her first bottle.  I watched as she guzzled it down, satisfied for the first time in days.

Suddenly she became the happiest, most content baby.  She started to put on weight and thrive.  Everybody started getting more sleep and anxiety levels went down.   The strangest thing happened, and I was actually able to enjoy my baby–and to enjoy feeding her–for the first time.  My older two started enjoying her again.  It was obviously the right decision for our family.

But, if I’m honest, I still struggled.  For awhile I cried every time I mixed up a bottle.  I worried that I wasn’t giving her the best start. I wanted to give Molly the same chance as my other two.  I wanter her to be just as healthy, just as well fed, etc.   I grieved the loss of all those special times breastfeeding.  Every social media post about breastfeeding caused a pang in my heart.  And I felt embarrassed and ashamed.  The first times I went into public, I dreaded somebody seeing me shake up a bottle.  I put off telling even close friends what was going on.  I knew in my heart I was doing what was best for Molly and our family, but that didn’t mean I didn’t wish things were different.

I feel such a connection now to other moms who can’t breastfeed.  For the first time, I really understand.  I understand the disappointment and frustration.  I understand the worries about being judged.    I understand the grief.  It’s very real and very true.

Now at 6 weeks postpartum, I’m able to pump about 2 bottles out a day, and for the rest she gets formula.  We’re in a routine and I’m okay with things for the most part.  We found a formula that she does very well on, and each new little fat roll comforts my heart.

Part of me didn’t want to share all this because, frankly, it’s very personal and nobody else’s business.  But then I realized that I needed to share my story for the sake of all the other moms like me.

Breastfeeding is an amazing, beautiful thing…but I’ve come to realize how quickly it can become an idol.  It certainly had become so to me.  I was relying on it to keep my kids healthy and allergy free.  I was sacrificing everything else for its sake.  In many ways, I was viewing breastfeeding as the epitome of mothering a baby.  What I wasn’t seeing was that breastfeeding is just one piece of the puzzle.  There are so many other parts to motherhood that I was missing.  I was missing out on the joy of this newborn stage.  I was missing out on the bonding as a new family of 5.    And I was missing out on my other two children, who were needing a present, sane mom just as much as the baby was.

And formula feeding doesn’t mean I’m missing out on all of the other beautiful parts of the baby stage.  I babywear her a lot, the same way I wore my other babies.  I still snuggle her and hold her close.  When I feed her, we stare into each other’s eyes the same way I would if I was nursing.  She sleeps right next to me in her bassinet.

Breastfeeding is a wonderful thing.  We need to normalize it.  We need to support new moms struggling to breastfeed, and we need to encourage moms to persevere and try hard to get it to work.  But we also need to support moms who have tried and can’t make it work.  They shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed or less of a mother, or like they just didn’t try hard enough or know enough.  I can tell you from experience that what I didn’t need was another well-meaning person with a suggestion on how to increase my milk supply.  What I needed were the friends who recognized the tough decision I made and cheered me on in it.  I needed the people who told me I was doing a good job for doing what was best for my baby.

If breastfeeding came easy for you, be thankful and don’t judge those moms for whom it didn’t.  When you see a mom shaking  up a bottle of formula, don’t make assumptions, and don’t feel superior.  Don’t make a comment about how much easier bottle feeding is.  Instead, smile at her and say, “Good for you, feeding your baby!” Chances are, bottle feeding her baby is actually one of the hardest things she’s ever done.

And if you’re like me, and haven’t been able to breastfeed your baby for whatever reason…take heart.  It’s okay to feel a little sad, but just know that you are doing an amazing job, Mama.  You are feeding and nourishing your baby.  You are caring for them the way they need you to.  There’s nothing faulty about you and you didn’t do anything wrong.  Feeding your baby formula doesn’t make you any less of a mother than having a c-section does.  Don’t doubt yourself, and don’t let anyone else make you ashamed.  Love and feed that baby the way only you can.  Trust your instincts.  Stop focusing on the things you can’t change, and focus on the things you can (the way you mother, the foods you’ll feed him/her later on, etc).  Don’t let the inability to breastfeed steal these precious, fleeting moments from you.  All too soon that little baby won’t be a baby anymore, and it won’t matter a whit whether they were bottlefed or breastfed.  What will matter is that you loved them and cared for them to the best of your ability.  

I don’t think I’ll ever love bottle feeding.  I still mourn the loss of that special experience, and I will probably always wish I could have breastfed of her like I wanted.  But I am thankful for a healthy baby who is thriving on formula.  I’m thankful that I’m still able to pump out a little.  And I’m proud of myself for not sacrificing my baby’s health, our bond, my mental health, or my husband and other two children for the sake of breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is best…if it works.  But if it doesn’t, fed truly is best.

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My sweet little bottle fed baby

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The Sunflower

A warm summer rain drizzles down this morning, fogging up all the windows of our house.  I can barely see through it to my lone sunflower growing, just about to open into a beautiful beacon of joy.

That simple sunflower warms every crevice of my heart.  It makes me think of late summer days and fields overflowing with tiny sunflowers, bouncing and waving as I drive past, windows down, breathing in their scent mingled with that of dry pine…simpler times when I was mostly naive to the hard things of life.

My heart is not so naive now.  Life is full of hard things…within my family, friends, acquaintances, and the world at large.  I fully see now that life is not simple and peaceful like it was when those Flagstaff sunflowers greeted me.  It is broken, messy, and many times, sorrowful.  Yet, even in the broken a sunflower reaches up toward the sun.

God promises His peace, but His peace is not that of an easy life with few bumps in the road.  It is a peace within even when all is tumultuous without.  It is not found in the events and circumstances surrounding us…but in the deepness of our hearts.

This morning as I was reading Numbers 6:24-26, I was struck by how the Amplified version defined God’s peace: “tranquility of heart and life continually“.  God’s peace doesn’t ebb and flow.  It is constant.  In light and darkness…joy and sorrow…always.

When the storms of life beat down, may God’s peace pour over us calming our hearts…always.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with gratitude, make your requests known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will protect your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7

The “Jah Jah” Song

We were eating breakfast this morning and, as usual, Miles was talking about a million words per minute.  The poor kid is so quiet in public that no one would ever guess how truly capable he is of talking your ear off.  I was about to start tuning him out when he said, “And, Mommy, who was it that wanted to sing the ‘Jah Jah’ Song again?”

I was stopped in my tracks.  It has been a week, to say the least.  Both my grandparents were hospitalized, our downstairs flooded Sunday night, and it seems like it’s been one thing after another proving that, quite literally, when it rains it pours.

But then my sweet 4-year-old asked me about the ‘Jah Jah’ Song.  

You see, the ‘Jah Jah’ song is a little family story that was told to me by my mom, and that I, in turn, have told to my son.  The story goes that, when my mom and her two younger brothers were children, they and their parents were on a road trip and were singing songs.  The youngest, Mark, said he wanted to sing the “Jah Jah Song”.  Guesses were thrown out, but nobody could figure out what song he was talking to.  Finally, Mark broke down in tears sobbing, “The ‘Jah Jah Song!”.  At last something clicked and somebody finally realized what he was talking about…”I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy”.

My heart was warmed that my son would remember such a story.  “It was Uncle Mark,” I told him. “When he was a little boy.”

“But now Uncle Mark is all grown up, right?” Miles queried.

A shadow passed over the memory, “Well, yes, he did grow up.  But Uncle Mark is in heaven now.  He died when I was a baby.”

Miles fell silent for a minute.  I knew he was thinking.  He’s been wrestling with this concept of dying and going to heaven.  He knows that Jesus died on the cross for our sins, but, quite honestly, he doesn’t want to leave his home and his “cozy bed” and move anywhere.  Not even heaven.

At last he spoke, “But, Mommy, I will get to see Uncle Mark when I go to heaven.  Isn’t that so exciting?”

“Yes, Baby, it is.”

Lord, even in the midst of chaos and hardships, let me see the good.  Let me have the faith of a child.  Most of all, show me how to shepherd these two precious little hearts you’ve placed in my care.  Help me to point them to you.

 

Introverts…God Made You Brave

Would you believe me if I told you that I used to throw up before going into a new group where I didn’t know anyone?  Because that is 100% completely true.  On the way to the airport the morning I flew out to the conference where I ended up meeting my future husband, I puked in my dad’s car.  And that wasn’t the first time…nor was it the last time.

I was born an introvert, through and through.  I liked people, but I got my energy from being alone.  And I was painfully shy.  My younger sister still reminds me of the time our mom sent us into the gas station to pay for drinks and I made her do it because I was too afraid.  As I turned from a child into a teenager, I relied on others to introduce themselves first and seek me out.  The mere thought of having to go up to a stranger and start a conversation invoked incredible anxiety in me.

And then there was the time that my 17-year-old self sat in my mother’s car crying, because I was too afraid to go into my first college class.  It was silly, and she made me go anyways, but I promise you I really was deathly afraid.

Then somewhere in the space of the next three years, I changed.  Or rather, God changed me.  Over and over and over again He put me into situations that were out of my comfort zone.  But the funny thing was, each time I stretched out of my comfort zone, my comfort zone only grew.

Today, I feel pretty comfortable going almost anywhere and talking to almost anybody.  It’s still a challenge for me and I’m still most definitely an introvert.  When it was my turn to lead the small group discussion at Bible study last month, I did so with a knot in my stomach.  I honestly still hate calling people on the phone, and I still hate public speaking, but I can obviously do them both when necessary.

What’s my secret?  I’ve come to realize that God is so much bigger than any piddly little fear I may have.  Furthermore, when I focus on my fears, I become self-focused rather than God-focused.  When we are so focused on our own fears and anxieties and insecurities, we’ve taken the focus off of God and put it squarely on ourselves.  My guess is that, if you’re an introvert, your world probably does revolve greatly around yourself and your enjoyment of alone time.  And there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert if God made you that way.  But I don’t believe that He made you an introvert so that you could use that as an excuse to be self-focused.  If anything, He wants to use your introverted ways to show you how big He is…to show you that He’s got you right in His hand, and that He can be trusted.

To quote Nelson Mandela (although, to be honest, I feel like I’m quoting Princess Diaries here…anyone in my generation know what I’m talking about?):

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

When we give in to our anxieties and let them keep us from acting, going, or saying, we may just be doing exactly what the devil wants us to do.  He knows that if he can keep us living according to our comfort zone that we will never live life fully as God intended.  He knows that if he can keep us blaming our introvertedness for our inability to act, that we will never step up and realize the bravery and courage that God has instilled in us.     

We all have fears and insecurities and comfort zones.  But, friends, God didn’t create you to live in those fears and let them dictate your life.  He never intended you to use your introverted self as an excuse to keep you from living and working for Him.  God didn’t make you to dwell and act in fear.  God made you brave.

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 “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Ephesians 6:10-12

 

*PS: This post is the combination of some thoughts I’ve been mulling over for a while, and the Bible study I’ve recently studied…Priscilla Shirer’s The Armor of God.  It’s been very challenging for me…and I highly recommend it!

 

Caitlin

Dear Single Girl: True Love (and Real Men) Wait

I grew up in the area of True Love Waits pledge cards, Brio magazine, and Superchick singing about princes starting as frogs.  Saving sex for marriage was practically drilled into my head.  Looking back, one strange thing I remember was that there was a huge emphasis on “if he loves you, he’ll wait”.  Notice, the idea is that he’ll wait because you want to…not because he sees the value in it or wants to wait himself.  Over and over I read lists of ways to tell a guy “no”, tactics for making sure you didn’t “go too far”, etc.  I remember distinctly feeling like the overarching message was that guys, even good Christian ones, had no self-control.  It was up to us women to set and stick to standards…up to us to not let our raging hormones take things too far.

In certain Conservative homeschool circles, this idea has been taken as far as to include both sexes.  Apparently nobody can have convictions and standards and stick to them…hence the need for these people called “chaperones”.  Because, we all know that when we get married all temptations and the need for self-control suddenly disappears.  NOT!!!

You know what, though?  It doesn’t have to be that way, nor should it.  Ladies, I want you to know that before my husband and I were married I never had to tell him “no” or “stop”…never had to argue to him the merits of “waiting”.  You see, the truth is that if a guy actually has a real, active relationship with the Lord and is pursuing Him daily, he won’t be some brainless, hormone-controlled, sex-obsessed ape.  A guy that’s really seeking the Lord will have his own convictions and standards.  A guy worth giving a second glance will be actively fleeing temptation on his own.  Sure, we all slip up and make mistakes, but a man who has the Holy Spirit living within him will never pressure you, rely on you to keep things in check, or be unable to control himself.  A man after God’s own heart will not just submit to your convictions in this area…he will take the lead himself.

Bottom Line: A man worthy of your heart will be controlled by the Holy Spirit living within him…not by his hormones.  Don’t settle for less, Ladies.  

5 Truths About Post Partum Depression

5ppdMy husband recently suggested that we go in with his family on renting a lakehouse for Super Bowl weekend like we did last year.

Honestly…the idea sounded awful to me.  Last year during that time I was knee deep in the mire that is Post Partum Depression and didn’t yet recognize it.  I was frustrated with everyone, didn’t want to be around people, and was dealing with this heavy grey fog that I couldn’t explain or shake.  Just thinking about it puts my stomach in knots.

I cannot begin to describe how wonderful it is to not be in that fog anymore.  Yet, my heart goes out to those currently dealing with it, or thinking that they might be dealing with it.

Post Partum Depression is surrounded by a a lot of lies and hearsay.  Today, I present you with 5 truths about PPD…from someone who has been there herself:

1.) Post Partum Depression doesn’t make sense.

You may be incredibly sleep deprived or you may be getting a solid 8 hours every night.  You may be dealing with a ton of stress and worry, or you may have absolutely nothing big to be worrying about.  It doesn’t really matter or make a difference.  The worst part about PPD is that you feel a certain way in your heart, knowing full well that there is no reason that you should be feeling that way.  Why would you secretly want to run away from that sweet baby that you are so in love with and that you know is a gift?  Why would you feel hopeless when new life and hope is constantly in front of your eyes?  It just doesn’t make sense.

2.) Post Partum Depression manifests differently in different women.

Some women experiencing PPD may want to run away from their babies.  Others may be unreasonably fearful of even letting them out of their arms.   Others may switch back and forth and become extremely moody.  The common thread is that you know in your heart that something is not right…something is off.

3.) Post Partum Depression is not your fault.

One of the biggest lies about PPD is that women who have it are at fault.  They don’t eat enough nutrients or get enough sleep.  They focus too much on themselves.  They don’t focus on themselves enough.  They don’t get out of the house enough.  They aren’t thankful for the gifts they have.  They haven’t turned to God to help.  Or, heaven forbid, they didn’t encapsulate their placenta and consume it.

My friend, all of these are lies.  Post Partum Depression is a mean, hormonal mess that no woman ever deserves.  Simply put, we live in a fallen world and sometimes are bodies just don’t work right or regulate themselves as they should.  Those messed up hormones can control our thoughts, feelings, and emotions to a terrible extent.

4.) Post Partum Depression is a bully.

My biggest memory of my struggle with PPD is that I felt oppressed.  Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness overwhelmed me and I felt no power to shake them.  PPD can make you do terrible things like scream at your children or call your husband ugly names.  It can paralyze you with fear to the extent that you’re afraid to step foot outside the front door.  It can make you feel like a terrible mom for not feeling “connected” with your baby.  PPD is a bully in that it intimidates you and makes you act or feel in a way that you don’t want to.

 

5.) Post Partum Depression isn’t forever.

It may not seem like it right now, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.  There is help.  Hormones do shift back to normal.  The fog is not unending.  Take it from a mama whose been there.  Know that you’re not alone.  I made it through…and so can you.

 

If you’re struggling with Post Partum Depression, or think you might be, please PLEASE speak out and get help.  Don’t try to “fix” things or trudge along alone.  If you need help don’t hesitate to email me at thelifenotmyown@gmail.com . 

 

The True Path to Change

“Yahweh your God is among you,

a Warrior who saves.

He will rejoice over you with gladness.

He will bring you quietness with His love.

He will delight in you with shouts of joy.”

Zephaniah 3:17

Sometimes God puts a verse in front of you and you just can’t shake it.  This verse has been burning on my heart and mind lately.  It appeared first in a Bible study, with the instructions to write it down and meditate on it.  Then it began showing up everywhere. My son’s Bible memory verse CD, a book, a song I used to like.  I began to ask God “why?”.  What did it mean for me?

Lately, other things have been burning on my heart as well.  Thoughts, convictions, prayers.  Presidential candidates to decide between.  Helpless babies being deemed not-yet-human and sold.  “Christian Conservatives” being revealed to be deceptive hypocrites and liars.  Syrian refugees desperately needing help.  Students shooting each other at my Alma Mater.

Then, in the midst of all this, Zephaniah 3:17.  But why?  What did it mean?  And more specifically, what did it mean God wanted from me?

Saturday morning there was quiet at my house for once.  My husband was gone hunting and my children’s chests were rising and falling in much-needed sleep.  I opened my Bible and read all of the words Zephaniah penned…and suddenly it all made sense.

This book?  It is us.  America.  “Land of the Free”…and land of the prideful, self-sufficient, and godless.

“I will completely sweep away everything

from the face of the earth–this is the Lord’s declaration…

those who turn back from following the Lord,

who do not seek the Lord or inquire of Him.”

Zephaniah 1:2,6

We Americans often think we’re special.  We think our nation is perfect.  We boast in ourselves and seek the wisdom of the world, yet if something doesn’t change, our judgement and fall is at hand.

“This is what they get for their pride,

because they have taunted and acted arrogantly

against the people of the Lord of Hosts.”

Zephaniah 3:10

Has anybody watched daytime television lately and see how Christians are treated?

“Woe to the city that is rebellious and defiled,

the oppressive city!

She has not obeyed;

she has not accepted discipline.

She has not trusted in Yahweh;

she has not drawn near to God.

The princes within her are roaring lions;

her judges are wolves of the night,

which leave nothing for morning.

Her prophets are reckless–treacherous men.

Her priests profane the sanctuary;

they do violence to instruction.”

Zephaniah 3:1-4

Our land fits this to a tee.  Yet we Christians aren’t really turning to the Lord either.  We think that by voting for the best man that meets all of our criteria, sharing videos of Planned Parenthood leaders on Facebook, and taking a heavy stance on the gun control issue that we can somehow fix our country.  We seek to legislate and bully change, when the true problem lies in people’s hearts.

To quote my ever-wise mother, “We do not have a gun problem, political problem, Democrat vs. Republican problem, or Obama problem. We have a spiritual problem that can only be addressed by filling the heart with the Holy Spirit of God.”

That’s where the good news comes in: God also offers hope.

“On that day you will not be put to shame

because of everything you have done

in rebelling against Me.

For then I will remove

your proud, arrogant people from among you,

and you will never again be haughty on My holy mountain.

I will leave a meek and humble people among you,

and they will take refuge in the name of Yahweh.”

Zephaniah 3:11-12

Remember how man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart?  Perhaps we’re looking for answers in all the wrong things.  Perhaps instead of pridefully voting for whom we deem to be the best speaker, who would make the best “leader” in the world’s eyes, and who meets all of our “criteria”, we should be voting for someone who is humble and meek, with the Holy Spirit indwelling in them.  Perhaps we’re seeking to change people’s minds through prideful, vindictive Facebook posts instead covering them with prayer and Christ’s love.  Perhaps instead of trying to fix everybody else or win them over with emotion-driven spiritual movements, we should be humbling ourselves, seeking God, and letting Him change our own hearts.

Don’t hear me wrong…we most certainly need revival and change in America.  It’s just that revival and change begin in our own hearts first.  Don’t stop praying.  Don’t stop seeking the Lord.  Don’t stop sharing the gospel.  In fact, pursue these things more than ever.  Let’s just stop trying to fix things through our own knowledge and strength, and instead start humbling ourselves and asking God to change things His way, through people’s hearts.

True hope and change can only come through humbling ourselves and admitting that we can’t…but He can.

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