Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Right for WHO?

June 1999--Please excuse the overalls. It was 1999!

Recently I wrote an article "Happy to be a mother not a horse." (You can read it HERE.) Clearly, I referenced having had some "baby blues" following the birth of Megan. Fortunately for me, that was the extent of any post-partum blues/depression I ever had. I consider myself very blessed having come through five pregnancies and births hormonally unscathed.  (For the most part!)

Although I will say, whether it was "baby blues" or plain and simply the adjustment to a first child, I did encounter some pretty strong "baby blues" there for two weeks following Megan's birth. Two weeks was it! But oh boy were those a weepy two weeks.

At the time, and certainly since then I can pretty accurately pinpoint the reasoning for my tears and general sadness. It was the nursing/breastfeeding part.

Don't worry-I'm not going to get into the intricate details of breast-infections. But suffice it to say, starting about day 4 of Megan's life, I encountered a nasty infection. Add to it, nursing just didn't seem to be going as well as it seemed to for everyone else around me. I had a handful of friends around me with new babies at the time, of course each one having successful nursing experiences.

One of my dearest, dearest friends had her first baby just four months prior to me. One day while sitting on my forest green leather couch holding my eight day old baby, I chatted with this friend on the phone. She listened as I cried and complained and suggested that nursing just absolutely wasn't for me and I didn't know if I could bear another day opening my shirt to my newborn. In her attempt at wisdom she replied, "You HAVE to nurse. It's the most natural thing to do. You can't give up."

Knowing little else to do, I followed my friend's "advice" for five more days and then one Sunday night, sitting on a bedroom floor with a breast pump attached to my breast and tears rolling down my cheeks, I made MY OWN decision that Megan was going to be a bottle-fed, formula drinking baby!

It seemed in an instant all of the "baby blues" floated away and I felt like I could conquer this whole mothering thing. Despite the million of other new-mom inadequacies and insecurities I felt, I felt confident in this decision. I knew it was the right thing for me, for Megan and for Mike.

Until...

A sweet older lady I visited once a month showed up on my doorstep one evening with "a baby gift." It wasn't anything fancy, just a brown envelope. But she was certain I would treasure the writings inside, some of which were her own and some by others. Sweet Polly assured me she "just knew" I would agree with them all. We exchanged a little chit-chat and I returned to my newborn baby.

At Megan's next feeding (from a bottle I might add) I tore into the envelope for a little light reading. But that little feeding and reading session didn't go quite as planned.

You see inside that legal sized envelope was an article about how the "modern-day baby bottle" has become quite simply "a tool of the devil". Yes. I have remembered it correctly. The article I held in one hand was insinuating that the very bottle I held in my other hand was nothing more than a tool of the devil used to destroy human relationships.

Oh boy was it bad timing.
And I mean bad timing.

Despite the tears falling from my eyes, the fire practically bursting from my tongue and the guilt raging up inside of me, there was some kind of magnetic force that would not allow me to stop reading the article. And so I read on about the author (not the lady who gave the writings to me) who insisted that the only way to have meaningful family relationships was to have a family bed. She, her husband and her six children shared a bed.

**Side-note-Will somebody please explain to me how in the world one gets pregnant with their sixth child when five other children are sleeping in their bed? Never mind. I don't want to know.

This mother went on to explain that though family members may awake at different times in the morning, most often the baby was the last to wake up and was left alone in the bed. To avoid any feelings of insecurity, the second the sleeping baby made a peep, somebody was at it's side and the baby would stay in somebody's arms (or wrapped against the mother's body) during all waking hours. "Baby" meaning until the child was a year or so old! In addition to extolling the virtues of a family bed the article also claimed that anything other than breastfeeding a baby was a sure ticket to feelings of inadequacy and insecurity later in life. Baby bottles were one of the devil's modern day tools used to tear apart families.

I wish I could say I didn't believe a single word written in this article. I wish I could say I scrunched it up, threw it away and never thought about it again. I didn't. I filed the article away, and for months, even years gave this article too much thought.

My BRAIN knew it was simply one person's personal opinion, yet my heart wasn't quite as convinced.

Of course I continued to bottle/formula feed Megan. During Megan's first year of life, I had several friends give birth to their first babies. Every single one of them successfully breast-fed their babies. Their successful attempts at breastfeeding exponentially increased my guilt.

Three years later when I gave birth to Luke, I suffered through nine months of a breast infection, $600 (no exaggeration!) worth of co-pays for dr appointments and medicines, and countless unanswered prayers and priesthood blessings, so he too, wouldn't have to be a "bottle-fed baby".

Three children followed. After seven days, each baby became a bottle/formula fed baby. To say by number five I had rid myself of any breastfeeding guilt would be a lie. I never did.

I can count on two hands the number of times we have had a child on antibiotics, so I have never bought the arguments and studies that say breast-fed babies are healthier. Ellie can out-spell Luke on any of his 4th grade spelling words and that tells me breast-fed babies aren't necessarily smarter than their bottle-fed counterparts.

I'll tell you what is accurate though.
Making the right decision for ME.

Breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, family beds, extra-curricular activities, discipline, family time, finances, you name it. NO ONE can tell me (or you) what is right FOR MY (or your) FAMILY.

I'm going to try harder not to judge others.
Even if the whole family sleeps in the same bed!

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