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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About Baby #3

As many of you know, a third sweet little one is growing inside of me.  I’ve been meaning to write something about this third baby pretty much since I found out I was pregnant…but somehow the words haven’t come.  With 28 weeks rapidly approaching on Monday, I thought that now was as good of a time as any to finally write about her.  But to do that, I have to go back to the beginning…before this baby was even a possibility in our minds.

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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.

 

The Stillness and the Truth

Some many days I feel like I’m just treading water–struggling to keep afloat but not really going anywhere.  Waves come at me over and over, but for the most part the water is still and there is no current.

I used to love being still.  I treasured it.  These days, however, more often than not the stillness is suffocating…and inside my heart is anything but peaceful.

Can I be honest with you for a moment?  Sometimes being a stay-at-home mom is a really lonely place to be in.  Many of my days don’t even involve conversation with another adult.  Amidst the loneliness, I am constantly being bombarded with thoughts that I am not enough…that other women do so much more ministry and work and reaching out to others than I do.

Yet, even with all the stillness of not really “going” anywhere, I struggle to keep my head above water.  My days are full of repetitive, mundane, and yet inexplicably stressful tasks.  My house is never clean like I want it to be, and the laundry is never done.  I can’t even keep up with the “simple” tasks of a stay-at-home mom, let alone find time for “ministry” or “work”.

But then, God speaks to me like He did to Martha.  “Caitlin, Caitlin,” He says. “Do you not know that I have called you for such a time as this?  You worry about many things, but one thing is needed.  Your identity and worth and daily goals should be from Me alone!”

And I look into the beautiful blue eyes of my children, and realize that in the bustle of trying to “do enough”, I have neglected to really look and listen to them lately.  I have forgotten what my days are supposed to be about…training and teaching these sweet little gifts in the fear of the Lord.  I have forgotten to make this the sole focus of my days, and have forgotten to delight in this work as my life work for this season.

And I look into the pale blue eyes of the man who won my heart, and realize that I’ve also neglected my relationship with him.  I’ve forgotten that spending time with him is a must and a need.  I’ve forgotten that it’s okay to stop working and just sit and watch a show with him on the rare day he comes home early from work.  I’ve forgotten to seek out and do what would help him better to do his work.  I’ve forgotten to seek and pursue him.  In my self deprecation I have forgotten that he could care less if the house is spotless as long as it’s tidy.

And I look around at the wonders of creation, and realize that I’ve neglected my relationship with the Creator of it all, my First and Truest Love.  I’ve neglected to sit with Him, listen to Him, and delight in Him.  I’ve forgotten how to just sit and open my eyes to the gifts He’s given me.  I’ve forgotten to see those gifts around me and within nature, and to thank Him for them all.

 

Thank you, Lord, for this beautiful calling You’ve set for my days in this season of life.  Forgive me for focusing on what I’m not doing instead of on what You’ve called me to do.  Help me to find joy in this season of life.  Help me to find joy in the stillness and repetitive tasks.  Thank You, Lord, for the gift that is this stillness.  

 

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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 . 

 

Weariness, Lies, and Truth

Three o’clock in the morning rolled around and I had yet to log more than 15 min of sleep.  My three-year-old was just getting over being sick, and now my 1-year-old was down-for-the-count…and she was not pleased.  Every time I’d finally get her to sleep, a coughing spell would wake her up again.  It didn’t matter what I gave her or what humidifier I ran.  She was just not sleeping…and, consequently, neither was I.

I was feeling raw and entirely spent.  Saying that I felt incapable would be an understatement.  I was empty and vulnerable…and the thoughts poured in.

I can’t do this.

I’m a failure as a mom.

I don’t know how to take care of my own children.

I’m a bad mom.

Life with babies is endless weariness.

I’m not cut out for this. 

All these things lies from the devil, but in that moment I believed them.  Those words of poison sunk down to my very soul.  If not for the grace of God, I would have drowned in them.

You see, it was in that moment that God spoke.  He reminded me that these thoughts were not from Him.  Instead, new thoughts began to swirl in my mind.

I can do this through Him.

He will work in and through me.

He has equipped me with what I need to be these babies’ mom and to train them up in Him.

He will be my rest and will give me exactly the amount of sleep I need.

Life with babies is full of beautiful, precious, sweet little moments and gifts.

He has created me for this…for such a time as this.

And then my heart became thankful.

Thank You, Lord for making me their mother.

Thank You for entrusting them to me.

Thank You for the gift of getting to care for them when they’re sick.

Thank You for their healthy little bodies fighting off sicknesses like they’re supposed to do.

Thank You for the beauty and gift of being emptied and poured out.

And from my journal the next day:

“Motherhood isn’t supposed to be easy.  If it was, where would be the growth?  Where would be the unfathomable mystery of so much joy and fulfillment coming from so much emptiness? 

“Today I am tired and so terribly weary.  I’ve gotten next to no sleep in the past few days.  I’m at a loss to know what to do.  I feel like I literally can’t go on.  I can’t take one more night.  And no, I can’t…But You can.  You fill me and give me exactly what I need.

“‘The Lord is my Shepherd…I shall not want.’ ~Psalm 23:1~

“Lord, may I always be confident that I shall not want for anything.  Not even sleep, peace or strength.”

If you find yourself weary, press into Him.  His promises never fail. 

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Things Moms Think (But Would Never Admit)

My kid is the cutest (or smartest or most beautiful)…you fill in the blank.

Your kid is more advanced developmentally than mine?  You’re probably exaggerating.

My baby looks tiny next to yours?  You must be feeding yours too much.

My baby is really chunky?  Yes sir, and I’m proud of it!

I could totally blame my indigestion on the baby and no one would ever know.

I’m trying to remember why I would have put the TV remote in the fridge.

I wonder if the other mothers’ bellies look like squishy biscuit dough?

Child, you are about to make me lose my mind.  But somehow I still love you anyway.

If the kids fall asleep in the car I’m totally stopping for a milkshake.