Any mother knows that mothering is sacrificial love. Its hard and messy. You forget to eat because you're so busy feeding little mouths, you dont get to shower regularly because the velcro baby screams as you lather, and you havn't gotten a new outfit for yourself in months because they keep growing out of theirs (and how do you resist new hair bows!?). Mothering is exhausting, its impossible somedays and at times all you can think is, "I can't do this anymore! I need a break! I just need a break!"
Four years ago I fell pregnant with out first child. Four years ago I started down the road of sacrificing my selfish wants and needs for the health and well being of my children. I HATED spinich, but it was good for the baby so I forced myself to eat it every day. I LOVED lunchmeat and avoided it all ten months because that is what the baby book said! I sacrificed my "hot" body and precious sleep. I thought pregnancy was difficult, and then the baby was born. She had colic, and food allergies up the wahzoo, I was on a Total Elimination Diet for months. I said no to outings and functions because of her poor sleep and my restricted diet (dont worry things got better!). I think about it often and back then i had this strange idea that she would get bigger and I could go back to "normal" haha! My normal was being selfish, was eating as I pleased, spending hours in the shower and sleeping late, and going on unlimited shopping sprees. We had a second baby and I continued to sacrifice. It continued to be difficult and I often was miserable about having to scarifice. I loved everything about mothering except the sacrifice.
I knew that there was something missing, and that there had to be a way for me to enjoy this journey a little bit more. Through prayer an idea came to me that this difficult sacrifice of myself is part of the mothering journey, and that it is worth it, so so worth it. That I needed to embrace it and all of the difficulty that comes with it. You'll never guess, but I started feeling happier in my mothering. When I wanted to watch netflix during nap but laundry was calling I repeated outloud, "the sacrifice is worth it, this is important work!" I would remind myself to smile and power through (dont get me wrong, sometimes I did watch the netflix...and eat chocolate...lots and lots of chocolate!). This ephifiny through prayer happened nearly a year ago now and since that time I have learned to love the sacrifice.
For the first time in four years I am taking a "break". I am bringing my not so baby sister and her bff to a concert of their favorite band. I will be away from my precious babies for three whole nights for the first time ever. What am I most excited for (besides some QT with the baby sis?) - SLEEP! Haha! This morning I woke up feeling well rested. I ate a large uninturrupted breakfast. I took a long uninturrupted shower (and shaved both of my legs). I put on a new dress, and did my hair an makeup just how I like to. Then we picked up snacks that I don't even have to share! Just before we left for the concert I called my babies and talked to them and heard their sweet voices and broke down. I miss them. My heart aches not to be with them. Taking a break is important. You can not overflow you children's cup if yours is empty! It has taken me fpur years to take this break because I'm scared. This is the first of many steps towards letting go. My children already are needing me less and less and thats hard. So very hard, and so very important. This season of sacrificial love is short in comparison to the rest of my selfish life. I am trying despirately to enjoy my "break" but my mind is forever going back to them. I wonder if this is how it is and always will be? Will I be old and grey and knitting in my rocker shedding a tear because I miss my adult babies!? I'm sure I will have days like that. That's sacrficial love I think my thoughts are not my own anymore. They will keep growing and I will keep working on letting go.
Now parden me I have a concert to attend. 😎👌
Life is tough. Like, really tough...and life with two busy toddlers doesn't make that toughness any easier. There will always be ups and downs, that's just how it is! The ups, in my opinion, are easy. You just kind of ride along enjoying things as you go and not really stands out as you're riding. Those lows though, those are the big ones, the lows are where youre going to find growth. The lows are where you're going to find true joy and strength.
Ask me how I know this...
Yeah, I'm in a low right now. Seriously though I'm totally cool with it (except on the days I'm loosing it of course), I've made a sort of peace with this chaos that surrounds me and it's no secret how I find Joy:
I pray! Numero uno is to pray. Always. I say a prayer of thanks for everything that I have been blessed with. Then I pray for grace. Grace to accept the things that I cannot change and the strength to change the things that I can. I pray when it gets really tough and my emotions are overwhelming me and I know that I am never alone.
2. Attention to Details
In the midsts of the chaos it is difficult to remember "stop and smell the flowers" but I promise if you take the time to it will make the world of difference. The other day I was scrubbing some poop off of the kitchen floor when I heard beautiful laughter coming from the living room. I immediately stopped what I was doing and tiptoed in to witness the joy happening right there in my own home (I know what you're thinking-scrubbing poop is joyful-not). I soaked up that joy like a sponge and finished my poop job with a smile on my face. It can be easy to find joy if only you can catch the details as you go.
Surround yourself in love and support. You do not even need to give people intimate details about whats going on, a simple I'm struggling right now to a good friend is enough to be lifted high. The people you love most were given to you for a reason during the lows it is important to remember them and lean on them you will be amaized how many people are rooting for you.
The last but most important piece to the puzzle is to grow. Trials are placed in your path for a reason, and what I am learning is that the reason is often to help you grow. I'm not talking he just fit into these pajamas last week grow. I mean spiritual growth. Soul growth. That is the most important growth to experience on this Earth. Now, I am no soul expert but in my experience if you're not growing in the hard times then you're missing something important.
The benefits of breastfeeding can not be disputed during this day of mass-information. Many women read up on the benefits of breast feeding during pregnancy and decide, “Okay, I guess I’m going to breastfeed then.” and then they hear about their neighbor, and their best friend, and their cousin, and their sister who all tried it but say that breastfeeding hurt, or that it was too hard. They say they had to give up, and it just didn't work out. So instead expectant moms say, “I guess I'll give it a try, but if it doesn't work out it's no big deal I'll just switch to bottles and formula.” We then have this trend of great numbers of women who begin breastfeeding exclusively but by three months less than half are still breastfeeding exclusively and I have to wonder why is that?
If I refelct on experience I think a number of factors play into this. Whether it be lack of emotional support, lack of physical help, lack of understanding of a breastfed babies needs as opposed to a formula fed babies needs, early return to work, the list is endless! One thought that is constantly in my mind as I am helping new mom’s with breastfeeding support is, “How could this issue have been avoided?” I think there is one way to set new mom’s up with breastfeeding success from the get go. Just as women prepare for childbirth they also need to prepare for breastfeeding, and that starts during pregnancy.
It would be helpful for women during pregnancy to seek out breastfeeding resources in their communities such as La Leche League meetings, support groups, mommy circles. Expecting moms should start looking into what common problems might arise and how to solve them quickly. They should have the phone number of a lactation consultant handy and maybe even speak with that consultant during pregnancy to address any issues or concerns. They should familiarize themselves with the language surrounding breastfeeding and familiarize themselves with other mothers who are breastfeeding.
I once heard a story of a gorilla in a zoo who had a baby but wouldn't nurse the baby because it had never seen another animal baby and it just couldn't figure out how. At first I thought, “Wait isn't this supposed to be natural!? That's a real animal with real animal instincts, not just a fake ones like humans!” The zoo keepers didn’t let this poor baby starve, they instead thought of an ingenious solution. The solution for this gorilla was to bring in a real live human breastfeeding mom and let that gorilla watch that mom breastfeed for a few sessions and then in turn the gorilla decided to breastfeed its own baby. Isn’t that completely wild!?!? (Pun intended, I'm a cornball). If a gorilla needed to watch and learn wouldn't it make sense that a human would need to watch and learn as well? The generation before us is a generation of formula feeders and there's nothing wrong with that! They thought they were doing what was best at the time, and formula is a wonderful and amazing tool for those who truly need it! But because the generation before us thought of it as a better nutrition supplement for children in turn the successful rates of breastfeeding were very very low in that generation. As a result my generation has not seen a lot of breastfeeding out in the open. I know that when I had my first child I had only ever seen one person breastfeed before and it was during the first week of their baby's life, they had cracked and bleeding nipples because of a bad latch that no one helped her with, she evidently switched to formula in the second week, and that was my first and only impression of what breast feeding was like before I breastfed my own baby. As I am sure many new mommas have similar experiences. And just like that gorilla in the story, doesn’t if make sense that seeing success would help to foster success, or at least make success seem more attainable?
So I urge you new Mama's, expecting mamas, mamas who are wanting to nurse their babies, and families were wanting to support mamas who would like to nurse their babies. Surround yourself in a community of people who will support you. If your local community does not have La Leche League groups, or Mommy meetups, or certified lactation consultants then look for that support in an online community or better yet create that support in your local community! Bring your partner and another support person whether it be your best friend, or your mother, or your sister, or your second cousin twice removed to a breastfeeding education class or let them borrow books that detail the inner workings of a breastfeeding relationship and have them commit to reading those books so that they may be able to support you in your journey. Ask a veteran Mom, “Hey would you mind being a support person for me on my breastfeeding Journey?” Go visit a local breastfeeding support group during your pregnancy and familiarize yourself with the local Lactation Consultants. When you have your baby have a lactation consultant watch you for a full feed on both sides. Arm yourself with knowledge, determination, and support and you will find success.
The true success though is the enjoyment that you have from breastfeeding your baby. If you have a game plan you're not going to have to worry about supply issues or big problems that come up because they won't be scary or worrisome since you've already heard of them they're not some foreign concept and you have an idea about how to handle them if they arise. You can just enjoy your baby and bask in their newborn sweetness. You can just enjoy breastfeeding and welcome all of the ups as well as the downs because you're prepared and ready for whatever comes your way. The best thing of all about being successful with breastfeeding is that you can pass that success on to other new moms and this progression will create a community of support and that is a beautiful thing, that is the ultimate goal.
I hope you enjoy my breastfeeding success preparation pamphlet and that you find it helps you in the beginning of your breastfeeding journey, best wishes to you and your sprouting family!
❤ Desiree Roddy
I am a student midwife and doula serving families in the North Country, and living life with five littles.