06 November 2012

Assumptions and Judgement

We have a lot of choices in this life. Easy ones or hard ones. It starts with: Which cereal am I gonna eat today for breakfast? And it goes to: What university am I going to study? And when a husband and family planning come along, it is more like: How many children are we gonna have and how are we raising them?

This blog post is not about making our own decisions and carry them out, it's about decisions that are taken away from us and can NOT be carried out anymore, according to OUR plan......

When I had Coqui, I made a birth plan that was as natural as you can think, besides the fact that it would take care in a hospital. I didn't want drugs, I wanted to walk, and I didn't want my child being taken away from me after birth. Guess what?! None of that happened. C-sections just don't come drug-free, and due to that, my baby was taken away from me.
If you read some statistics on C-sections and their after-effects on mom and baby, well, one of them is trouble with breast feeding. I tried it for four days, had a lactation consultant talk to me and show me some 'tricks', but to no avail. Finally, I sent the hubby out to buy a pump just to relieve me from the pain I was in! Engorgement, anybody? It hurt so bad, but once I put the pump on, it felt so good....

To make a long story short, I dedicated myself to breast feeding my newborn child - the milk just had to come in a bottle! I did this for nine long months! During that time, our family moved half across the country once, traveled on six different plane rides, and I pumped at pretty much every location that you can think of, including the car in various parking lots, a Jewish temple during a Bat Mitzvah, and on the airplane during the flight (batteries make it possible!). When I did not take the pump with me, I had about three hours for leaving the house and returning home!

You think those breast feeding moms are dedicated? Well, think about all those pumping mamas! The ones that had to return to work because money is tight. The ones that have to travel during breast feeding. And the ones that had the same thing happen to them like what happened to me....... I think we are just a bit more dedicated and it is just not recognized the same..... But you are welcome to proof me wrong.

Why am I even writing about this? Now? Well, I was approached by a friend, confessing that I was judged six years ago for bottle feeding my child. She didn't want anything to do with me because she thought we had nothing in common. She was all into attachment parenting and breast feeding - which I obviously was not. She judged without asking. So I was quite shocked to hear that - because I never thought people could have judged me for that. In Jersey, it is rather more common not to breast feed (personal statement!). I had no idea that people looked down on me for sticking a bottle into my boys mouth. Nobody knew that it had breast milk in it! And I did not think of labeling it either!

Did it bother me that we didn't click and latching just didn't happen? Of course! I had a crisis over it, until many people told me that it doesn't matter HOW the breast milk gets into Coqui's tummy! Breast or bottle, the liquid is the same! And they were right. We bonded just fine. When  he laid in my arms, he gazed up at me, and we connected. I carried him everywhere and I spent LOTS of time with him.

Fast forward three years, I had to bottle feed my second child because it was NOT carried by me. Hence I had no breast milk to give to her. We were at a Nikolaus party at a German friend's house. There I met another mama who's daughter was the same age as Peanut, so just a few months old. She kept disappearing and I didn't think anything of it, until I pulled the bottle (of formula) out and stuck it into her mouth. I was faced with a very surprised/worried/accusative question: "You don't breast feed?" Well, I had to explain where this baby came from, and why I couldn't give her any breast milk. At the end, they thought it was a story with a happy end, but I will remember why I had to tell it in the first place. Judgement!

It still didn't bother me, until now, six and three years later, when confronted with my friend's confession. Now I am wondering, every time I feed my baby in public: What are people thinking of me? Am I being judged for bottle feeding? At the same time, I am also hoping they would ask why - so I can explain that it was NOT my choice not to breastfeed any of my children! I WANTED TO! Very badly. And I am a big supporter for breastfeeding.

But my situation leads me to stand up for all those other women as well. It is a personal choice. I am not alone, there are other women that are in the same situation - blessed with the gift of someone carrying their child. What about adoption? Are they less of parents, less caring? No, there is a reason why they had to or wanted to adopt and can not breast feed. What about the woman that survived breast cancer, or really any cancer, and can not or should not breast feed? What about the woman that had to go back to work and it just didn't work out? The woman that got sick? The Mama that tried and had to give up because it was too stressful? And yes, what about the lady that just didn't want to?
They are ALL mothers that care for their children. And they are feeding their children (compared to the very rare case of a mom who doesn't even do that! - just saying.).

But then there is a whole other league of women out there! Women that are so passionate about breast feeding, that they want to do it for others as well, people like me. So when Peanut was born, there were two other women pregnant and one of those ladies offered to share some milk with us. I blogged about it here. It was such a huge blessing to us. I believe that this milk helped Peanut to grow stronger.

Munchkin has been very lucky as she has been drinking both breast milk and formula since birth. Wonderful Beth pumped up until recently, so Munchkin could have God's best food for babies. I am so thankful for that. There is also a webpage where breastfeeding moms from our state share their milk with mamas who don't have any or their supply is low. I connected with a lady that has given me her milk since before Munchkin's birth. I meet her once a month and she gives me what she has pumped extra next to feeding her own child.

And that is not all - Munchkin has had breast milk from three women, and that is including ME. During the pregnancy, the question of re-lactation came up. I had tried (with pure faith) for Peanut three years ago - and it didn't work. So at first, I was not really interested in stressing over that again. Than, I believe, God put a desire in me to check it out. I hooked up with a lactation consultant at the birthing center, heard what I needed to do, and then talked to my own oncologist, to make sure she would be okay with this. We both felt very strong of NOT using that drug from Canada (that is not available on the American market, for a reason!), so I didn't take it. But I was very open to herbs and just very boring dry pumping..... Again, my dedication and faith in God (that I heard Him right) were blessed with some milk. It was not much at all, as a matter of fact, it was more like an ounce a day! But to me, it was worth it. Munchkin got lots of time on the breast, even if she never drank any milk from it - I bonded with her and that is all that mattered. She got what she needed in a bottle.

Bottles are NOT bad. You don't know what is inside of them! So next time you see someone that does it differently than you, think twice about judging them, or just simply ask! It can lead to some serious miracle reveling. Or maybe a funny story?!

Life can throw us curve balls, things that we didn't expect and certainly didn't ask for. But isn't it about accepting the circumstances and making the best out of it? I believe that every mom has this instinct inside of her to know what is best for her child/children, even if it is not HER best choice......

(And if you are a reader, you might be interested in another woman's journey of providing food for her loved baby, click here: Life As An Exclusively Pumping Mom. She says it all, and I can so relate to this!)