Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Tiny newborns have big opinions

         Once home with our newborn daughter, we were eager to show her all her new things.  Of course, for about the first 3 weeks of her life, she was content to sleep, not interested in much else, not even driven by hunger.  We continued trying to breastfeed, visiting a lactation consultant weekly for 6 weeks.  I was desperate to make this work.  Plenty of friends had told me it wasn’t easy and not for the faint of heart, but I was determined.  Unfortunately, as Dear Daughter (henceforth, DD) began losing weight, the lactation consultant recommended we try a bottle (despite my protestations) in order for her to get enough calories to be awake and alert enough to breastfeed.

Doing what she did best
            As soon as we gave her the bottle, she gulped the expressed milk.  We couldn’t believe it!  I continued offering her the breast and trying all the different strategies, but it became clear after a month or so that she only wanted the bottle.  I couldn’t believe such a tiny baby could be so opinionated.  She didn’t want to have to work for her food, nor did she want to be swaddled or held cradled in your arms.  She wanted to be upright and free to use her arms and legs.  She did not want a pacifier, and she hated the car.  All these things I could accept, but it was very hard to believe she didn’t want to breastfeed.  It felt like she didn’t want me.   Breastfeeding was supposed to be natural, how God created us.  Was there something wrong with me?  With all the lactation help I was receiving, they encouraged me that nothing was wrong anatomically.  Yes, DD had a high arch, but with all these different strategies we were trying, something should’ve worked.  The only explanation they could give me was that some babies just prefer the bottle.  They kept saying it wasn’t my fault.

            But I couldn’t hear that.  I kept thinking if I just tried a little harder, used a different method, or begged God, it would work.  I felt rejected by my own daughter and a flat-out failure.  I can’t even begin to describe the emotional wreck I became during those first few months.  I could not comprehend why giving up on breastfeeding was such a huge issue for me.  It was just this deep-seeded feeling that this is how I would take care of my daughter, but she wouldn’t let me.  It didn’t seem right.  It didn’t seem fair.  God had given me an overabundance of milk, to the point where I had to pump every 2 hours.  When I didn’t, I got mastitis.  So I continued pumping, knowing that at least I could still give my sweet girl breast milk, just not with the usual method of delivery.  So I pumped and I pumped for 10 straight months, freezing what she did not eat.  After about 8 weeks, I stopped offering the breast and just gave the expressed milk in a bottle, feeling like the very first test as a mom, I had failed.  Where I was going to go from here?
Cuddle bug
            My quiet times became more infrequent and less meaningful.  I was exhausted emotionally and physically.  Yet God never left me.  He used those months, those gut-wrenching emotions, to show me I still had perfectionist tendencies buried deep inside.  I thought I had moved past a performance-based life, but my reactions to this breastfeeding setback clearly showed otherwise.  The Lord used my sweet, cuddly 8 week old to teach me things I hadn’t been able to learn in my 27 years.  In the first few months of her life, He taught me that it was no longer all about me and what I wanted.  It was about what was best for her, no matter how painful or confusing or exhausting it was for me.

            That’s what He does for us as our Parent.  He does what is best for us.  And yes, we have BIG opinions, especially about how He intervenes in our lives, but He sees the big picture.  He knows that in the grand scheme of things, whether I breastfed or bottle-fed didn’t matter.   What did matter is that I surrendered myself and my child to Him (my expectations, my fears, my rights), and allowed myself to be teachable.  God used this to turn my world upside down and show me how much He loves me, as my Parent.  That’s one life lesson I hope to never forget!

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