January 23, 2013

Thoughts on the Best Nutrition

It's late and I'm sleep deprived, so please forgive my poor grammar and run-on sentences.

I've been re-visiting my experience with nursing Anna now that I have little Kimberly, and remembering some of the feelings and thoughts I have regarding that first four months.

You hear it many times before you give birth, at the hospital, and once you leave for home with your precious newborn. Breastmilk is the best form of nutrition. Only feed your baby breastmilk until they are six months of age. I totally get this. I agree with it. I'm supportive of the recent push for breastfeeding in our society. It's a good thing. But my experience with my first born has let me to believe that at times the pressure can be a little excessive.  While it's true that breastfeeding is the best way to feed your baby, I also think mothers shouldn't be shamed or treated like quitters for needing to go an alternate route. I wrote a little bit about my story in the past but here is a refresher:

Anna was miserable for the first three months of her life. She screamed for about 75% of the time she was awake, and the time she was asleep she writhed around in pain, waking up every hour or so. We considered all sorts of possibilities for her pain. I knew something was not right. But mostly people told us that it was normal baby gas pains, colic, etc. and that eventually it would go away. It was some of the hardest three months of my life. Nursing was a nightmare. Anna hated to nurse, and she pulled away and screamed consistently. I was trapped at home trying to feed her all day because she wouldn't eat. I kept at it, mostly because I felt like it was the only option and that switching to bottle-feeding was the cardinal sin. I tried all sorts of diets, remedies, etc. At one point I was only eating five foods. Five foods. I thought perhaps she could be allergic to dairy but everything I was told or read said that mothers are over sensitive about this and "it's most likely not an issue" was the common word on the street. I was usually encouraged to try and improve my nursing technique. "There is never a reason to need to stop breastfeeding" was the regular motto. So I did. I did everything advised to me. I talked with numerous people recommended to me. I tried a bazillion different techniques and tips. I contacted La Leche League. I had the lactation consultant on speed dial. Nothing helped. I was really stressed and baby girl was so unhappy.

I finally threw insecurity, advice, and society's expectations to the wind and switched Anna to soy formula at 3.5 months. Life became like a dream compared to what it had been. She was happy, healthier (sans a little constipation), and so were we. I only wish I'd done it sooner.

When we finally took Anna to the pediatric allergist months later it was discovered: She had milk protein allergy. She showed the highest sensitivity possible on the test. The allergist explained to me that milk protein remains in a mother's breast milk and is passed to the baby. It's not the same as having a baby who is 'sensitive' to dairy and gets a little fussy, but who can handle when the mother has a piece of cheese. Babies with milk protein allergy can't tolerate any bit of dairy in the mother's diet. And God knows I love dairy. So finally we knew- this is why Anna was so unhappy and in so much pain for the first three months of her life. It all made a lot of sense: her constant screaming, the mucousy bowel movements, her refusal to nurse and lack of weight gain. I wanted to cry for my little girl and her pain that I couldn't take away.

Why didn't I switch her to formula earlier? Why did I continue to breastfeed my daughter when she was so miserable? With the new baby here and another 'go' at nursing, I've done some soul searching about the issue and this is what I came up with:

Lack of knowledge- I didn't know she could have milk protein allergy and that it could bother her so much. Everything I was told is that most women who think their child has a problem with dairy are probably incorrect and to not stop breastfeeding.

Pressure (real or imagined)- the pressure from society that formula is from the devil and your child will not be as smart, attached to you, or overall fabulous if you don't breastfeed exclusively (not true).

Feelings of inferiority- I feared what other people would think if I fed my baby formula.
That I was lazy.
That I was a bad mom.
That I was selfish.
That I didn't care about what was best for my child.
All not true. Unfortunately the fear of others thinking I wasn't doing what was best for child actually kept me from doing what was best for her (and for me). Ironic.

So why am I writing about this now? Ben and I decided that with Kimberly, I would stop being ridiculous and do what was best for the family. If breastfeeding was causing everyone to be stressed and unhappy, than we wouldn't put the whole family through misery in the name of nursing. For now, breastfeeding is going okay (though like Anna, the baby has  a hard time with the touchy speed of my milk flow, which vaccilates between being unamanageably fast and painfully slow). I will do all I can to continue and encourage successful nursing. But if something goes majorly wrong, and we feel like the best choice is to stop- I'm listening to my motherly instincts. And I think all women should have the right to do so without being judged.

Rant over.

January 15, 2013

A Chosen Name

As I've said at some point in the past, Ben and I believe strongly in the power of a name. Throughout history God used the process of naming to tell his story.  Names were prophetic and spoke of what was to come in the next season. God even changed names when a person was transformed or entered into a new season in their identity.  I could go on, but my friend Kristina said it better than I could ever attempt to in her post, What's In a Name?, which I highly recommend.

From the beginning Ben and I wanted to choose names through prayer and  patience, believing that God would speak to us about what he wants to do in our family's journey through each child.  We initially chose a different name for Anna, but God tugged at our hearts to choose a name that meant "grace". While at the time we had no idea what was about to unfold, we knew he was promising to bring grace to our family. That's exactly what he did, and this promise from early on served as a source of comfort during that time. With our second baby, I sensed God drawing me to the name Kimberly, a family name, one wasn't new to us.  God was speaking to me about redemption.

The name Kimberly doesn't actually mean Redemption the way Anna's name translates directly to Grace.  The name signifies to us redemption through family history, after the tragic loss of Ben's sister a month before she was to enter into the world. Her name was Kimberly. While such a loss is always carried in one's heart, I have been truly inspired at the way in which God redeemed that loss, including the blessing he brought to the family with four more beautiful children. We named our sweet girl after this little one in heaven, knowing that in some way in the next season of our lives, God desires to bring us redemption.  I'm not sure what that looks like or what it refers to, but I'm excited to see it unfold. The middle name, Hope, was an easy choice. The promise of redemption brings with it hope.  Hope is one thing Ben and I have never lost while treading this journey of challenges the last few years. I am confident that no matter what comes our way in the future years, we will retain that hope. Hope is a powerful, beautiful thing.

Kimberly Hope, you were chosen by God.
Our family is blessed to be chosen for you.
We love you.

January 2, 2013

A New Year

I've realized that I've spent too much of the last year focusing on my wants- wanting my children and husband to not have to struggle with illness, allergies, and disabilities. Wanting to not have to wonder how to pay medical bills for the rest of our lives. Wanting these stresses and burdens to be lifted more than anything else. I wouldn't say it has done anything positive for my overall attitude; in fact it has hindered a lot of joy. I have let so many of these things take away the joy of what I do have. Sounds cliche, but true.

This year I'd like to be more thankful and joyful for what I've been given: two beautiful girls and a wonderful family whom God has provided for. A steady, secure job for my husband. Supportive family. My own health. Abundant Grace.

May the new year ring in this truth in my heart, more often than not.

Happy New Year!