Sunday, April 14, 2013

Little empty container, big full heart.

Yes, I'm about to get sappy about a plastic container. But I think you'll get it.

See, here's the thing: I wanted to breastfeed really bad. I enrolled in a really weird class at the hospital while I was pregnant where we even simulated breastfeeding with plastic babies. I sat in a chair in a room full of strangers, held a plastic baby to my chest and pretended. It was strange and awesome all at once.

I dropped $200 on a big old breast pump kit. It has tubes and bottles and lids and makes freaky pump noises. I thought it was going to be really funny to use.

My heart was in it. I read all about breastfeeding in my What to Expect book. I was expecting it to be the challenging, rewarding, bond-inducing special experience that I had built it up to be in my mind. And for two weeks, it was.

Breastfeeding is incredible. It's so awkward and it's so amazing. You get to feel like a life source to your newest, most favorite person in the world. What an honor.

It gives you a hormonal rush and a big head - like, Oh, you're good at math? Well, my body makes food.  It calms your heart and fills your spirit. Sometimes it annoys you because you're really freaking sleepy and not in the mood to be a snack, but someone else very important needs you to be a snack like right now.

I got to experience that for two weeks and for that I am blessed. But, I also got robbed of it early. My postpartum anxiety halted my ability to produce, and I also had to take some medicine that would get passed through to my baby girl and I wasn't able to come to terms with that.

I think I was upset about it but it's hard to say because at that point in my postpartum period I was just upset about feeling anxious, and feeling anxious about being upset. Actually, I'll admit it - I felt relief. Because at that point I knew I was not my best, and despite my inability to be 100% there physically - although my heart was always 100% there - I knew Hannah was going to be taken care of. And that was all that mattered.

So, here we are...almost exactly a year from when Hannah went to formula full time because I couldn't breastfeed. I remember feeling guilty sometimes because the very container that Hannah's food came in said "breast is best" on it. It was kind of a smack in the face.

You know what I think? I think they need to remove that dang line from the container. Because you know what's best? What's best is what you, as a mom, need to do to keep your baby's sacred tummy full and your precious self healthy. I had to stop breastfeeding, and I felt a little terrible about that. But then I knew I was doing what's right, and I thanked God repeatedly, over and over and over again, that He gave His people the brilliance to make formula. I was facing an adversity, and my baby was still going to thrive.

Yes, there are tons of major benefits of breastfeeding. I believe in it. But I believe even more in being healthy for your baby, and it is so, so, so important that you take care of yourself as a mom. Just because formula isn't breast milk doesn't mean it is bad. Or wrong to use. It is a gift, in my opinion.

I feel like I want to repeat that point.


Not every mom wants to breastfeed. That's perfectly fine. Some moms can't. That sucks if it screws up what you had planned, but it's still OK. Formula makes it possible for moms to have a choice, and that is a wonderful thing. My husband and I got to share the responsibility for feeding Hannah, and he loved it. When I was suffering my worst bouts of postpartum anxiety and needed serious medical attention, my mom was able to take Hannah overnight several times.

I have a very sentimental feeling about formula. Perhaps it's the same thing a mother feels when she weans her baby and packs the pump away. As I stand in my kitchen over the empty formula container, knowing that it is never going to be full again, I feel a bit melancholy. I will miss the feedings where Hannah's tummy was grumbling and I got to hear it stop, and she would fall asleep and wake back up mid-feeding, and the formula would calm her. Such a cozy feeling. I will miss seeing her light up at the sight of a bottle. I will miss Hannah laughing at the weird dance that Jason and I do when we make a bottle ("shake shake shake...shake shake shake...shake your booottle, shake your booooooottle" - to the tune of "shake your booty"). I will miss hearing my mom call it "milk." I will miss packing her little bottles for daycare. I will miss seeing her clench her fingers and open them quickly - the baby sign for milk.

I thank God for formula. I have a very healthy, ridiculously happy little girl sleeping soundly in the other room with a big old robin belly that was formed by formula. I am in a very good postpartum state and my recovery was certainly expedited by the use of formula. I am so blessed. Thanks for being so good to us, formula.

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