Failing at my nursing goal?

I haven’t made the public Facebook announcement yet.  I will.

I had a goal of breastfeeding Willow for as long as she wanted, but not beyond 3.

Then just before Christmas a friend commented on the frequency of my elimination needs.  I didn’t find it crass.  I was going A LOT!  I shrugged and when I got home, I slowly unwrapped the packaging surrounding the plastic stick.  To my surprise, the line went pink plus.  I fumbled with the stick a little before bellowing my husband’s name.

It has been about 4-5 weeks since we found out.  In that time, I have been battling constant head colds, stomach viruses, and respiratory issues (bronchitis, for example).  My daughter has had minor colds for a while, but recently the lack of cold drainage developed into an ear infection.  She’s been fussier than normal.  Willow, my daughter, has been wanting to nurse constantly.  At night, we bed-share.  *Please spare me the unnecessary, judgmental comments that it’ll lead to dependency, this is the reason she doesn’t STTN, or it will severe my marriage due to the decreased intimacy we’ll experience.  (Clearly intimacy hasn’t been that big of an issue, am I right?)*  As such, she nurses at night.  While I’m not as tired as I could be if we didn’t bed-share, night nursing does rouse me from my deep sleep.  I’m not getting the sleep I need.

I’ve been irritable, cranky, and rude.  I’ve yelled a lot more than I’m comfortable with (I’m not a screamer.  I am normally pretty logical in conflict.  I get frustrated and stern which is fine, but I never have been this bad.  I’m cursing up a storm, screaming at Willow when she cries (mommy guilt anyone), and nagging Frank often.  I stumble through my daily routine dazed.  I grow aggravated over simple inconveniences.  My body is weak.

Nursing requires that I eat 500 extra calories a day.  Pregnancy requires 300 extra calories in consumption.  I lost weight quickly after I delivered Willow because I nurse on demand and unintentionally don’t consume those 500 extra calories.  I get busy and forget to eat.  (I know, crazy right?  Yet, this tendency to forget eating may be linked to issues discussed in my previous post.  I’m pretty sure it is linked, but not entirely certain.)  Anyways, I’m 12 weeks pregnant (as of yesterday) and still weigh less than what I did before I was pregnant with Willow.  I’m trying to eat, especially lots of protein.  Every day I fear I’m not getting enough nourishment to grow a healthy baby.  I’m scared that my decreasing size is leading to future complications for labor, premature labor, and/or a child with disabilities.

My goal for nursing now is one year.  I have an amazing supply (thank God).  I could very well tandem nurse.  (Kids don’t need formula after a year right?  As such, she won’t NEED my milk after a year right?)  However, Willow was a week early.  I have to be weary of premature labor.  Nursing is a form of nipple stimulation and can initiate labor.  (I have had a previous miscarriage and fear that every time my stomach aches slightly after Willow nurses that I might lose this baby because I want to continue nursing.)  How do I start to wean?  Is it safe to start doing so now?

I feel selfish.  Yet, I haven’t had my body to myself for the past two years.  My breasts are touched more than I like (and physical touch is one of my love languages) and so I don’t let Frank near them.  (I get grumpy when he does…the poor guy.) This body, like all women, was designed to carry and care for a child (which I chose to and God blessed with the ability to do so, even though it was longer than I liked).  I feel guilty for wanting it left alone for a while, and not just at work.  I want to sit and not be caressed or tugged on while in the comfort of my own home.

Formula is hidden in the crevices of Willow’s closet…or I should say the current storage room closet.  I felt angry when it was sent to me.  I pushed it away like a dirty secret.  In the first six weeks, I yearned to dip into it, but I was determined not to.  I had a great supply and didn’t have a need to use it.  Nursing was more about my will and my determination than Willow’s food source during that time.  I guess in some ways it still is.

Women talk about how beautiful and serene nursing is.  It can be.  I do enjoy the forced sitting time.  It causes me to slow down and live in the moment.  I enjoy that, even if at times regrettably so.  I like looking into Willow’s eyes and I get to see her smile as she suckles.  Most of the time though I get annoyed.  Willow will twist her body, pop on and off, fuss if I put it away because she is distracted, she’ll grab and twist my nipple, Willow will clamp down on my nipple and flick it too.  I will pull her off and the wails commence.  I’ve tried slapping her in the mouth and she laughs.  Lately nursing feels like a chore.

In the hopes of getting some semblance of rest, I will ask Frank to give Willow a leftover bottle from when she was watched by Lisa. (There is always a reserve left over when Lisa watches her, but never my MIL.  I’m not sure why.  This is another source of frustration that I’m not sure how to tactfully address so I stew in silent resentment.)  If I’m in the vicinity, Willow won’t eat from the bottle.  Frank sometimes just hands her off saying, she’s hungry.  In my mind I’m swearing at him, “Just give her the damn bottle and let me gain strength.  Try harder!  Why does it feel like I do and you aren’t.”  FYI: marriage isn’t a competition.  It is a dangerous game when you pit yourself against your spouse.  Frank is amazing and does go out of his way to accommodate my needs.  I am forever grateful for him.  I feel like I at least need to voice it here so he can read it when I seem like an ungrateful, nagging bitch.  (See, cursing.  I don’t usually do it in my posts or real life.  I just can’t find “better” or more accurate words with my current brain energy.)

I wonder if I should supplement these last two months with formula.  (Maybe she’ll sleep better?  I know this is a lie.)  I feel a surge of guilt too because I’ve silently judged mothers who supplement or give formula.  I’m sorry.  Some women have tried really hard and they want to breastfeed (they know its many benefits) and legitimately can’t.  I don’t know their circumstances.  There are others that get me angry because they told me to give Willow solids too early, they insinuate that Willow doesn’t like my breast-milk, or that my milk isn’t meeting her needs.  For those women who have tried and weren’t able to or chose not to, I’m sorry that the prudent breastfeeding discussions has led to any mocking or belittling of or towards you, especially if I contributed to that, even inadvertently.  Also, I feel I’ll let friends down or even worse, women, if I supplement now.  I wanted to go longer than a year.  I wanted to let Willow decide she was done.  I can’t.  I feel selfish admitting this.

I’m drained.  I can continue nursing, but my sanity, compassion, and energy are waning.  I sit, idle to the world, but frantic in my mind.  I want to sob.  I feel like a failure as a mother—I am not home with her and she’s in the care of others, I do work I dislike so I want to relax when I get home first rather than meet another person’s needs, and I get irritated at the slightest cry.  I secretly wish I still had my placenta.  Is this late postpartum depression?  (Americans reading this will have chagrin over the placenta idea.  It is supposed to help alleviate depression symptoms.  It isn’t cannibalism.  Can I convince my husband of this?)  I haven’t fully divulged these feelings even to him….why am I doing it on the web then?

Maybe he’ll read this, words I haven’t been able to vocally decipher, and hear my quiet plea, my silent sobs, my fear, my guilt, and help ease my heavy heart.

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The Consequence of a Weight Watchers Upbringing

Portioned plates on scales steady

Ready to shame a fat girl’s body.

There sits the recipe which equates beauty with size.

Delicate and thin is what we must strive for, this is the message we digest.

Individuals in mirrors reflect, pinching their flesh and criticizing their form.

Little eyes observe and absorb, their worth must therefore be girth measured.

Searching approval, the kin bends knees and finger forces

the nourishment out and continues to chew lies, deceit.

The impression given by watching a guide bemoan the lack of an “ideal” waist

leads the young seeking comfort in a porcelain’s flushing disposal.

 

Mama scans the numbers, grumbling about the pounds.

Meanwhile her baby hunches, frail, over a bowl she thinks will make mother proud.

Intelligence, independence, and perseverance are not emphasized,

but celebrity worship and petite clothing tags are talked about daily.

The mentor doesn’t understand the effect of her diet cause.

Rather than speaking of health she constantly mutters refrains that seem to bestow prettiness to bony people.

 

Mama, do you think I’m beautiful?  Am I cute if I’m not dwindling?

My strong will aggravates you.  I’m night to your day.

I’m a nuisance to your career pursuits and my gestation altered your desired body.

You pursue this petty ideal on a daily basis,

so I’ll retreat to the washroom fortress,

disappearing so I won’t be an inconvenience.

 

Let us be ever mindful of our speech and the ramifications it can have on youth.  Let fathers not be passive in their child’s cry too, especially a daughter wanting approval of her beauty.  It’s not solely my perceptions or choices.

My rearing had an impact Papa.

Can’t you see she despised you too?

Weight was all that mattered and it seems that this will never change.

Don’t tell me to move on and it was my wrongful impression.

The chorus was a constant critique of body image.

How else am I supposed to view my figure and not to the other pendulum side swing?

I’m not too sensitive and my self-esteem not too poor.  These vile portions served were quite real and please don’t dismiss it.

A culture obsessed with the obesity worry can, and most likely will, wander towards a generation fretting over a frame.

This will lead to frail flesh, bones dancing for acceptance.

All this a result of somehow implying that beauty was in the ebbing of pounds, and in turn, self.

YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL NOT FOR YOUR SIZE BUT THE TREASURE OF YOUR THOUGHTS AND TRIAL TACKLES!

 

Faith and Womanhood

Etiquette.  Femininity is best expressed through tea parties, dress up, and home economics.  This is the most important indoctrination of a girl in our culture.  If you can make her reserved and agreeable, you will be able to control her better.  The unbridled female is your worst fear.  A woman must be tamed.  She is a temptress.  In the garden, it was Eve who caused Adam to sin.

*screech*

Yeah, this is the common mentality regarding girls and how to raise well behaved daughters.  It infuriates me.  I am a strong willed, independent, professional lady.  Sadly, I often find myself at odds in the church.  As a woman, I feel that my extroverted, opinionated character traits are seen as contrary to the proper conduct for a Christian girl.  I try to change and fit the “ideal Christian girl” mold.  Every time I try to alter my behavior to fit acceptable Christian girl conduct, I feel empty.  I don’t feel like my faith is growing.

Some would tell me that I need to obey my husband more, be more meek, and practice silence that my faith my grow.  I will mature if I allow God to mature me.  When I do this though, I feel myself doubting God.  Yes, I am a sinful individual.  We all are.  We need a Savior to rescue us from ourselves.  However, I was also created by God and for God.  Didn’t he make my personality strong?  Is that wrong?

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”- Titus 2:1-5

I read verses like the one above and sit dumbfounded.  The Bible is hard.  I don’t get it.  I believe the Bible is true and I shouldn’t deviate from its truths.  If I do stray from its principles, I fabricate God into my own making and I wouldn’t want that. However, these verses are aggravating.  What did God mean?  Is my only place in the home?  Bills are bigger than in the first century.  Am I not trusting God enough with my finances?  I get so caught up in works based faith.  Yet, how do we not when we seek to not just love the Word, but live it?

Submission isn’t a curse word.  It doesn’t have to imply slavery or abuse.  I get that.  How do I teach myself, let alone my daughter, how to serve God in submission without forsaking talents, skills, and achievements for the sake of a man, especially my husband, though?

I can look to the Bible for a guidance on womanhood.  I get frustrated with churches though when we say that the Bible is clear.  What Bible do these folks have?  I can read it through cultural lenses, as exegesis would mandate, but it is also a timeless book, no?  Can we admit that we interpret Scripture, even if not intentionally, through our experiences?  Faith lived out will look different between various individuals because we do not have the same personalities.  The previous statement doesn’t help rectify my conundrum.  How do we apply Biblical truths without compromising its intent and without being too works based? I know you have to look at the text in context, but it doesn’t change the parts that are difficult.

I’ve often been told that the man is to be the spiritual leader in the home.  Women wouldn’t want this responsibility because we would be held to greater accountability with God.  Isn’t this easy for a man to say?  The man is free to express himself through prayer and worship, while a woman is “under his authority”.  I know that God is also a judge.  We wouldn’t want to endure his wrath.  However, for the Christian, we are forgiven through Jesus.  Yes, we still have to account for what we did with the life God gave us, but we will not be condemned.  As such, does the man really require greater accountability with God?  Is this just an excuse to not let a woman lead?  What are we afraid of when a woman is in charge?

I’m floundering.  I’m not sure how to navigate Biblical womanhood and I am certainly confused on how I am to teach it to my daughter.  I know that I can’t let this fear paralyze me.  I just wish I was allowed to voice these things in church without being told that I’m getting hung up in works, that I am misinterpreting the text, and that I just have to trust God to grant me the wisdom.  These are such simple answers.  I’m tired of the simple answers.  I miss college. At least in college we confessed that the question was sometimes the only thing we had to offer God and we were comfortable with the mystery of that.  I just want to wrestle with this and have others wrestle with me.  Wrestling doesn’t have to equate to skepticism and denial of God.  In fact, I think that in the circle laps I just might gain a slight insight into navigating Biblical womanhood.

 

[On a completely separate note, our culture’s obsession with looks is another thing that drives me bonkers.  I didn’t realize how ingrained the pretty sentiments were in my mind.  We always comment on a person’s outfit or looks.  I understand that I won’t gather a person’s character in passing and sometimes the only thing we notice is appearance, but an outfit can allude to an individual’s personality if we pay close enough attention, no?  Also, why are girls consistently called cute?  We have much more to offer than our bodies.  How do I teach my daughter to respect her body but not get wrapped up in purity culture, the sex crazed secular society, or be concerned only about her figure (including face)?  I struggle with this balancing act myself.  Prayer is my only answer, but alas, I come back to the wrestling I talked about in the previous paragraph.]

Being a woman is hard.  Being a wife is difficult.  Being a mother is debilitating, downright impossible.  I’m grateful God trusted me with this responsibility, but curious as to how he could trust me so much.

Dear Lord, have mercy.

…much study wearies the body. -Ecc. 12:12

The Goodness of Protection?

Yesterday Frank, my husband, and I were having a spontaneous date night.  (Shout out thank you to his mom for being willing to watch Willow last minute.)  After seeing Star Wars, which is a phenomenal film even if you aren’t a huge fan, we decided to go home and chill for a little bit before picking up our little girl.  On the way home, we witnessed an accident.

The sun beat upon the windshields blinding drivers.  Most people were traveling slower than normal due to the difficult visibility.  Frank was keeping a slow and steady pace himself.  Upon reaching the turn to go up the street that leads to our house, we stopped.  Then the light turned green.  There were two cars in front of us.  The woman two cars ahead slowly accelerated.  She was half-way through the intersection.

The cross road had a red light.  As I said, the sun glare was really bad.  It must have been miserable for the woman in a black sedan looking vehicle.  She barreled through the light, smashing into the back of the SUV that had been two cars in front of us.  The SUV spun out and bounced up onto the curb.

[Nobody died.  Nobody was seriously injured.  Everyone was shaken.]

We drove through the light when it turned green again, turned into the muddy, grass field the SUV driver had spun into.  Being witnesses, we stayed until the police arrived.  We gave a statement about what we saw.  I asked if anyone needed prayer, they denied.  I silently whispered peace, financial stability, and forgiveness requests to our Protector.

After our statement, we got into our vehicle and drove home.  Frank and I sat in the driveway for a minute.  We were stunned.  I broke the silence, “I feel guilty.  I thought, “Thank you God that wasn’t us.” Is that okay?”  Frank said he thought so.  I know that it is, but a part of me still feels a surge of regret every time I utter those words.  God protected me and my husband.  Why us and not them?

I know I should be grateful for his provision and protection.  I shouldn’t feel guilty.  God has different plans for all of us.  The woman was crying hysterically though and unable to calm down.  I wondered if my faith would carry me better through that.  I wondered if I could take the pain better and if so, why not me instead of her?

What-if scenarios are horrible.  I do them all the time though.  It’s like I don’t trust God’s omnipotence and omniscience to carry out things the way they are meant to be.  I always second guess things.  Why?  Can’t I see that God has led me into this beautiful, complex, and adventurous life (even if I call it dull at times, it is anything but dull)?  (I’m questioning my grammar in the previous sentence.)

One day I’ll learn to be grateful for his blessings to me.  I hope to stop thinking I deserve misfortune and rather be joyous for what he has given me.  I want to stop complaining for what he hasn’t given me. Then lastly, I want to pray others find the peace which surpasses all understanding, to trust what God is doing in their lives is for their best and his glory.  (May I learn that too.  Please pray that for me.)

His protection is good and may we not think we should suffer so another doesn’t have to.  We each have the lessons God wants us to learn.  Each of us has the load we need to carry.  God has equipped us with particular talents and may we not spite those talents, be they blessings or burdens. He has given them to us, not another.  He’s looking at how we get a return on those investments (Matt. 25:14-30).  As such, may we seek how to glorify God in the circumstances he puts us in. If we wish it was different, we will end up depreciating the life he has given us and waste away in regret.

Extra-marital Friendships

Recently I posted an article on Facebook regarding the over-sexualization of life permeating our culture today.  Part of this sex-saturated culture influences friendships and how our culture views relationships.  Before I found this article, I had been out to dinner with friends and discussing extramarital friendships.  I’m not sure how the conversation led to this, but we wound up discussing physical intimacy and boundaries.

I said I would be perfectly fine with Frank holding hands with another woman or holding the hand of a man.

[Aside: I do find it wildly amusing that this has been such a vehement discussion among my friends.  Frank has a hard time talking to other people besides me and Willow, let alone touching them.  Thus, all this talk is merely hypothetical.  The chances of him actually holding hands with another individual is rare, if not downright improbable.  If he was affectionate with another, it might be a cause for concern because that is not his normal demeanor.  I, however, am extremely extroverted, passionate, and playful.  So for the purposes going forward let us assume I’d be holding hands, not Frank.]

Frank said he’d be curious as to why I would be holding hands with an individual that wasn’t him.  I told him to just imagine the scenario (because while I don’t see this as contrary to my personality, I haven’t been physically friendly (not erotic or sexual, just touching in an innocent manner, with individuals that weren’t Frank, at least to date).  Frank hates what-if scenarios.  I am a scientist.  I guess it makes sense that I hypothesize situations.  Anyways, he reluctantly agreed and said that if it happened, he’d be baffled.  He would simply ask me why I was holding a friend’s hand (male or female).  Upon receiving an answer, he said he’d be fine and move on.  Frank trusts me and I trust him.  We talk openly about struggles, joys, and our opinions.

I can say, without a doubt, that Frank is the most compatible male for me that I know.  I don’t know anyone else where the conversation never feels forced, we can talk with ease (which is redundant because I just said this, but let us just say I’m using this as an emphasizing follow statement), understands me emotionally, physically (both sexually and non-sexually), and most importantly, spiritually.  Frank manages my crazy quite well.  He’s grown with me.  He didn’t marry an attachment-parenting feminist.  He grew with me and I don’t know of many who would have been willing to journey with me as I underwent that transformation.  It hasn’t been easy, but we’ve done it together.  He is an amazing man.  Yes, he’s extremely reserved.  I adore him.  Since he is so reserved, sometimes I notice I gravitate towards friends that are more outgoing and social, friends both male and female.

My friendship with males and females does not alter my deepest affections for and to Frank.

[Another aside: Frank is supposed to die before me because he is such a likable individual.  We agreed that if one of us passed away at a young age, we would want the other to remarry rather than wallow in singleness, struggle with single parenting, or dwell in sadness over the loss.  He’d have a much easier time coping with my loss than I would with his and he could find another great woman because he is flexible and loving.  (Most would think this an odd and dangerous conversation for a couple to have, but Frank and I are very open and honest with each other.)

We have a strong, loving, and real marriage.  I’m so glad he’s willing to have such a relationship with me.  So, like I said, there wouldn’t be others I’d want to entertain the idea of erotic intimacy with because no one else satisfies my other needs the way Frank does.  I don’t want to give my body to just anybody.  I like yielding my vulnerabilities, especially my naked body (and I, in turn, believe soul) to my husband alone, the only one who has been able to satisfy me emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  I had lots of boyfriends before Frank so I can assure you that he alone satisfies all aspects of my most desired needs. ]

As you can see, I love my husband dearly.  At times though, I enjoy a lively scientific discussion with my engineering, chemist, or biology friends.  I like deep, pensive, theological discussions with my friends in church ministry.  I am creative and like sharing abstract thoughts with my artist friends.  Sometimes, it means I might get really excited and hug a friend, I might hold their hand in prayer, or playfully skip down a lane linking arms.  Can I do these things with Frank?  Absolutely, but as I said, he is very reserved.  He doesn’t have the same allure to science I do.  He dislikes art and isn’t really into abstract thinking. Frank does like theological discussions, but understands that my ministry friends can offer a different perspective.  Thankfully, Frank is not threatened by me having friends outside our marriage.  In fact, he understands that these friendships shape me into a better wife for and to him.

As such, I think extra-martial friendships are important, even with the opposite gender.  I don’t think holding their hand, hugging them, or linking arms indicates erotic or sexual desire.  Touching can be innocent or it can be inappropriate.  We need to differentiate between the two.  Context also matters.

If I was holding the hand of another while staring deep into their eyes and maybe caressing their arm, Frank should stop this immediately.  If I am being silly and taking a friend’s hand as I twirl in a circle, I am being my extroverted, friendly, and playful self.  In this case, he has no cause for concern and can let me be silly.

Do we need to use discernment and be on guard?  Absolutely.  With everything in life, we need to assess the risk.  We should live above reproach, to a point, too.  (I say to a point, because someone, somewhere, will always question your motives. You can live in a way, with all your might, that keeps the peace in so far as it depends on you, but you aren’t responsible for their wrongful interpretation of an innocent gesture.  Example: You have lunch with a friend (could be male or female). In another case, you are walking into a hotel room with a friend (male or female).  These two scenarios are very different.  Some conservative Christians would think you should never have a meal with someone of the opposite gender.  (I argue that same-sex relationships are increasingly acceptable in our society and non-believers might think you are in a relationship with that female even when you are not.)

If you are having a meal in public and having a normal, innocent discourse, (perhaps even occasionally reaching out and touching their hand) then other people’s interpretation of the situation is their issue.  I’ll just point out that you can be walking down a street with someone, not holding hands, and be having an affair with this person.  You could also be strolling along a road with your spouse and not hold hands.  (Frank sweats so we hold hands briefly at times, but usually will stop holding hands in mid-summer days.)

Life isn’t always clear, so black and white.  Oftentimes, life is complex and gray.  We are often wrong about peoples’ motives and actions.  Frequently, we have to apologize for our inaccurate assessments or affronts.  Yes, we our products of our culture.  However, the only way to change our culture sometimes is to be or do something that society thinks is a vice.  (Think of slavery ending and women being able to vote.  These were major points of contention in the past.  People used Scripture to argue for and against these issues.  Hand-holding and extra-marital friendships aren’t any different.)  Sometimes America is too independent, too stodgy, too closed-off.  What better remedy to correcting our apathetic and isolated culture is there than to greet each other with a holy kiss and have meaningful, authentic relationships (including friendships) in community rather than cold, calculated interactions?