Wednesday, February 8, 2012

My Breastfeeding Dilemma

Disclaimer: If you are currently trying to conceive and are having trouble, or have recently experienced a pregnancy loss, this may not be the blog entry for you.  I do not want to cause a rift between us because it seems that my troubles are troubles that you would LOVE to have right now, if circumstances were different.  Joni Eareckson Tada (a quadriplegic Christian artist) was once asked if she ever got tired of other people complaining about a bad day when she herself was paralyzed from the neck down, and would have given anything to be that person for just one day. She said no, to each person their own pain is very real, so just because it’s not the same as her pain, does not mean it should be less painful to them.  With that, I write.  (I'm not sure why that last section is gray -- I can't seem to be able to change it!)

Have you ever felt like your purpose has just been snatched from you?  I feel like that now.  This is not to say that I’m not pleased that my life is how it is – I am very blessed with a loving husband, a beautiful, healthy daughter, and we are expecting another baby in the fall. 

I have been nursing Lydia every few hours or so since the day she was born over eight months ago.  I love nursing.  I love everything about it – the perfect nourishment it provides her, the protection it gives her against sickness and disease, how it’s a source of comfort to her, and most of all, the bond it has forged between us.  It was our saving grace after her emergency C-section birth – causing us to depend on one another. 

With a successive pregnancy, if you are still breastfeeding, there is the strong possibility that your milk supply may drop off.  I had heard that this was most likely during the second trimester, but, unfortunately, this happened to me just under a week ago.  In a dramatic way.  (I am almost 5 weeks along.) 

We had been nursing like usual on Thursday all day, and then when it came time to put Lydia to bed, I noticed that when I put her to the breast, she was fussy and would turn away.  I’d try to help her latch on again, and she nurse for a second, then turn away angry and confused again.  I didn’t know what to do!  This thing that has always come so easily to us (after the first few weeks, that is) now isn’t functioning properly! 

Luckily, I had stored some breast milk in my freezer from when I had gone on my Encounter in November and had had to pump to keep my supply coming.  James and I have resorted to feeding her bottles full of that for almost a week now.  Please don’t misunderstand me, I am SO completely thankful that I have a small store of my own milk that I can give her for the time being, but when you’re used to the ease of breastfeeding, the bottle presents an unfamiliar disconnect. 

I cry every time we try to nurse and she tears away from me because there’s no milk, causing me extreme pain.  I cry often when I have to give her a bottle – a piece of plastic – when we are accustomed to sharing skin and time to look into each other’s faces.  I cry that instead of being able to touch her face and head and back and hands with my hand that is usually free, I have to cradle her with one arm and use the other to hold the bottle. 

I have tried so many different things to bring my milk supply back.  Eating steel-cut oatmeal; upping my intake of liquids and fats; eating leafy greens and whole grains; taking alfalfa; taking flax oil; pumping and breast compressions to encourage my supply; letting Lydia try to nurse frequently (which usually just ends in both of us crying); I just don’t know what else to do!  I can’t take Fenugreek because it’s no good for the baby growing inside me, though that is the best homeopathic way to increase milk production.  I can’t take domperidone (a milk-increasing drug) because of my pregnancy.  I am at a loss.

I was very proud of the fact that Lydia had been exclusively breast fed until we started giving her solids at seven months of age.  I was cocky in saying that she would never have to consume formula.  Now I may have to eat my words, and it makes me feel about as tall as this font.  There are some generous breast milk donors out there, and I may be fortunate enough to receive some of their shared goods, but maybe not.  Who knows?

I am upset that this doesn’t seem to be as big a deal to most everyone that I tell.  It hurts that I am hurting and only a couple of people have reached out.  I need compassion!  I need a solution!!  I don’t want to hear that she’s going to be fine!  I KNOW she is, but what about ME?!  (To those that have been supportive – which are more than I can think of at the current moment – I thank you for your generosity of spirit and your loving kind compassion.)

I feel like I’ve fallen into a depression.  I hardly leave the house – what if she gets hungry and I can’t just find a corner in a quiet parking lot to nurse her in?  I feel so out of place and so very, very sad. 

I feel like I did when I ended up with a C-section that was the complete opposite of what I had desired and planned.  I feel angry, sad, confused.  I feel like I had all these ideas of how nursing (and birth) was going to go, and now I have been robbed of that, and I don’t know what to do.  I feel lost. 

I hate that I may be coming across as unthankful for my new baby.  I praise the Lord many times each day for him or her!  I know that James and I are so blessed to have gotten pregnant without really trying.  I DO NOT take that fact for granted, I promise you! 

I suppose I need to change my attitude about the whole thing.  A lady from my church said, after I told her what was happening, “Well, I guess God just has a different plan for Miss Lydia!”  And I know she’s right.  Deep down, I know He’ll get us through this.  But that doesn’t make it any less difficult for the time being, and it doesn’t make the pain any less real to me.  And most of the day, I am okay.  It’s just at some points that I wish I still made enough milk to nurse her.

She fell over today and bonked her noggin, and I offered her my breast when she cried, but it just made her more upset because there was nothing in it.  She woke up at 1:50 am (an unusual time for her) and I couldn’t just undo the snap on my nursing tank top and nurse her like I wanted – I had to take in a bottle with me.  It’s times like these that it is the hardest. 

If you are a praying person, please remember me and Lydia when you talk to God.  She is just as upset when we try to nurse as I am.  She doesn’t understand it when Mommy tries to give her the bottle, as she is so used to having the real deal from me.  Please ask the Lord for guidance, comfort, and peace about the situation.  Please ask Him to help me figure out what to do for milk – be it donor’s milk, formula, goat’s milk, etc., or if it’s His will, that he bring back my supply.  I truly appreciate your love, thoughts, and most of all, your prayers. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Should we try to change our husbands?

God has blessed me with an atypically amazing husband.  Or has He?  I say this because, no matter how “in love” we were when we got married, no matter how “perfect” he was at that moment when he asked me to marry him, he is still human, and fallen in his nature (just as I am). 

The man I married has his flaws, his hang-ups, his quirks, and the little imperfections that make him James.  This is not to say that I don’t love him dearly.  I just mean to say that as our relationship has moved from the “in-love” stage to the “everyday life” stage, I have had to adjust my view of him as the perfect guy, to, the perfect guy FOR ME. 

I have no doubts in my mind that God brought us together.  James and I are opposites in so many ways, and the Lord has used those areas to help us realize the places in which each of us needs to grow.  For instance, one of his strengths is stability, where I am easily swayed and love change.  I am naturally outgoing, where he likes to keep to himself and those he loves dearly.  He is very intellectual, I am very creative.  I tend to speak before I think, he is very calculated and articulate in expressing his mind. 

It is easy to love our husbands SO much when things are rosy and life is grand, and particularly when the relationship is new.  We love everything about them -- the way they talk and the things they say; the way they look and the way their scent has an intoxicating effect; how their bachelor pads are endearing, as is the way they do laundry and cook; their habits and activities are things we adore.  So, my question is, as time goes by and we get used to one another, WHY DO WE SEEK TO CHANGE THEM?

I think it must be in women’s nature.  Something in us sees areas in which they could grow or be different, and then those thoughts turn to thoughts that they SHOULD be different in these things.  Can’t they see that?  Don’t they WANT to be better?  Don’t they WANT to be more of a spiritual leader?  Why can’t they see that THIS is my love language and quit trying to express love to me in THAT way?  Why does he always want to talk about THAT?  Why can’t he talk about ME?  Can’t he see that I hate it when he acts this way?  And the endless critical eye and ear take up a place in our day-to-day lives, and the awful, evil cycle of dissatisfaction has begun. 

Men are typically more realistic than we are, not having been wooed by tales of knights-in-shining-armor, cruelly-treated princesses, perfect weddings, and the like.  The movies women love are called “chick flicks” for a reason – they cater to the female need of needing to be rescued, causing us to live in a dream world where we think that “movie love” is how it REALLY happens.  We’re taught to think, if I just meet the perfect guy, we’ll fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after.  Unfortunately, we live in a fallen world, with fallen men, and we are fallen women, and ALL of us are imperfect in our sin. 

So life happens.  One disappointment after the next builds up, gathering like stones around our hearts until a complete barricade is formed.  We tell ourselves that it’s for his own good that we’re giving him the silent treatment, that we’ll quietly punish him for the wrong he’s committed. 

I was thinking about it, and when I ask James to change or tell him that he should be better in this area or that area, I’m telling him that he’s inadequate.  He’s not enough.  I want someone different.  Someone better. 

When I do that, I’m also telling GOD that the person that he gave me to be my lifelong mate isn’t good enough!  How could we ever dare to think that our Creator made a mistake?!  (Be aware that I am not judging here.  I believe that the Lord takes the things the enemy uses as tools, and like Romans 8:28 says, works them to the good of those who love Him – EVEN divorce.  My husband was married once before me, and he learned much from the duration and end of that relationship that has benefitted OUR marriage greatly.)

So I want to suggest a different tactic.  Why don’t we leave the change up to The Maker?  Why don’t we, when we see something that is not satisfactory, pray about it?  Why don’t we ask God, if it’s in His will, to change what we aren’t so crazy about in our husbands?  And when we ask that, why don’t we also say something like “and if it’s not your will, Lord, change ME.  Make ME content.  Make it not a big deal in MY heart.”  And He will answer our prayers, one way or the other, making the situation, trait, habit, or whatever, more tolerable, change, or disappear completely.  (Now when it comes to silly quirks of my own, the little things, I do still ask him.  Like the toilet paper being loaded onto the dispenser a certain way, the toothpaste being squeezed from the bottom, or wrapping his gum in something before he tosses it in the bathroom trash.  He could care less about that kind of stuff -- he is very accomodating in that respect.) 

I can suggest this because I know it works.  I long ago (within the first three months I was married) decided to give up trying to change James myself.  Whenever I’d suggest that something be done differently, I’d get an opposite result.  I’d get a closed-off, cold, detached husband.  I like my husband to be reachable, warm, and loving.  So, what I started doing, in things that I really cared about, is PRAY.  Fervently.  Urgently.  Frequently.  I’d go to God with my issues with James, ask Him what to do, to change James or change me, and tell Him how thankful I am for my husband.  Often, the answer would be a change in my OWN attitude. 

James has become much softer, sweeter, more interested in me and what I have to say, and MUCH less self-conscious around me.  Our marriage has become stronger.  We are closer to God and to one another.  I thank the Lord every day for my man.  My husband who provides a good, stable life for his family, who values time with his wife and also with his daughter, who causes me to be better, not only as a wife, but as a human being. 

I think that CHOOSING to be thankful and CHOOSING to see his good traits has made it much easier to be married and co-habitate.  In giving the Lord a thankful attitude regarding my husband, God makes James’ good traits more visible and more important, while removing the emphasis from the things that I might be driven crazy by.  He has made it easier for me to love my man for who he truly is – not how I want him to be. 

My pastor’s wife said once that she used to think that she was helping her husband by reminding him when he would forget things, for instance to call a certain person.  When she would remind him and remind him and remind him, she noticed that he became withdrawn and somewhat depressed.  So she changed her approach.  She began saying, “So-and-so is so blessed when you call them”, and he began to be uplifted, and things began to get done!! 

There is also a book that reiterates this point, and though it is a difficult book to read, especially in our society where women are so empowered, it has made all the difference in my marriage.  It is called Created to be His Help Meet, and it is written by Debi Pearl.  I recommend that any wife read it and implement what the author has to say.  You will notice a HUGE difference in your husband, and I bet it will come sooner than you expect.  It certainly can't hurt to try.  It talks about how women were created with a purpose, and that purpose is to be our husbands’ helper. 

I’ll close with one of my favorite quotes.  It applies to EVERY aspect of our daily lives.  It’s about attitude.  Think of your spouse when you read it:

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than success, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company … a church … a home.

“The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for the day. We cannot change our past … we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.

“I am convinced that life is ten percent what happens to me and ninety percent how I react to it. And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes.” – Chuck Swindoll

Blessings to you and your marriage.