Thursday, June 11, 2009

Goodbye, Nurse!

I haven't talked about faith or religion on my blog much, not because I'm afraid of being flamed or ashamed of what I believe in, but more because I am reluctant to provide an opportunity for you to classify me as one of "those" people and perhaps recall unpleasant experiences you might have had with other people who also claim to be Christians. A lot of horrible things have been done and said in Christ's name. A lot of wonderful things too.

All of this to say that I can't tell this part of my story without being very open about my faith. Even though I don't expect it will offend (or even surprise) many of you I still want to be clear that offense is in no way my intention. I'm sure you can relate to being shoved into a stereotype that was NOT you, and that's pretty much the only reason I've been reluctant to share much more of my faith on this website. I hope you'll stick around and keep reading my site but if not, I understand.

The short story: I stopped breastfeeding Elaine. Aaaaaaaaaand some of you might want to stop reading right there. (Hi TAB.)

The slightly longer story: God wanted me to stop breastfeeding and I didn't want to and so I tried to make it work so I could keep nursing, all the while convincing myself that it wasn't really GOD telling me. Then I began to wonder if it really was GOD telling me to stop nursing, then I was pretty sure it was him, then I told him I wasn't ready and God kept telling me otherwise and I didn't want to believe it and then I finally made the decision to wean Elaine and instantly knew it was the right decision. (Side note: doing what God wants is always the right decision.)

Crazy, no? It was crazier to experience it.

And now the longest story.

The craziest part of it was I've never in my life had God tell me to do something so specific and at the same time been so sure it's what he wanted. It certainly wasn't what I wanted. Or what Elaine wanted. Or what my mom wanted. Or what the two lactation consultants I was talking to wanted. And did I mention it wasn't what I wanted?!?!?

I mean, God designed breastfeeding and here he was telling me to NOT do what was best for my baby? Yes, I realized intellectually (and have said to other people on more than one occasion) that the purest breast milk in the world doesn't do a bit of good if that's literally ALL the mother can contribute to her baby. I knew it in my head but didn't want to accept that it was happening to ME. I wanted to be able to do it all, but clearly, I couldn't.

I was such a mess. An absolute mess. Even without the whole breastfeeding issue.

The psychiatrist said I would have to stop nursing and I accepted that. I decided I would pump for two weeks and then stop the more dangerous meds, and then start nursing again. (FYI: "Medications and Mothers' Milk" by Dr. Thomas Hale is an invaluable resource. It may provide other moms in similar circumstances with more information or options than they realized were available to them.)

I didn't make it much past the one week mark before I was completely torn up. I couldn't focus. I was constantly anxious. I forced myself to continue pumping even though I could see my milk supply lessening with each day (which is to be expected; babies drain breasts much more effectively, and I wasn't upping the number of times I pumped.) I don't know how to describe how I knew it was God. I just kept on getting this feeling like I should stop nursing, and it made no sense. So I prayed about it and I STILL had the feeling - it just got stronger. I cried in the shower two mornings in a row as I thought about what it meant.

I called my aunt and cried over the phone with her, pleading with her, trying to convince myself and her that it wasn't God telling me to stop nursing - WHY would he do that?!? She prayed with me. And not just about the breastfeeding issue. All through the dark, depressing times she held me up where I was so spiritually weak. She and many of my friends from church. I was on the phone two or three times a day, just praying with people for the strength to survive. I was sleeping better at night, thanks to medication, but the days were mostly mental agony.

I know my parents were praying too, but they were engulfed in child care. I wasn't any help there. Elaine spent every night with them in their room. My dad fed her almost all her bottles. When Val woke up in the mornings I sent her downstairs and tried to keep sleeping. I knew my mom would make sure she was fed and entertained.

Finally I called my aunt and we both prayed. And cried. I pleaded with God, told him all my reasons why I shouldn't have to stop nursing, told him I wanted what's best for Elaine, that she was my daughter and I didn't want to let her down. And do you know what he said in reply? I have rarely been more sure of God's voice.

"Beck. You're my daughter too. I want what's best for you. It's best for you and Elaine if you stop nursing, please trust me. Just let go."

At the end of that conversation I made the decision to obey. I let go of my expectation that I would nurse until Elaine self-weaned. I came to terms with the fact that I wasn't even taking in enough nutrients to nourish my own body, let alone another little person's. My kidney stones are physical evidence of that.

I don't feel shame or guilt in not nursing her, just sadness. She got a good start - four months of exclusive breast milk is something. I know babies thrive on formula all the time. They thrive even more with a happy, involved mother. I don't feel guilt or shame but I do feel sad. It's a loss I'm grieving. It sometimes breaks my heart to watch her with the bottle, knowing what we're both missing out on. We'll connect in other ways; I'm sure of it. I'm also sure I'll be able to connect in other ways and that's the important thing.

And since I've taken, like, a million years to draft this post I think I'll publish it now.


  1. Good job in listening to what God wants for you and your family! I've come to realize in my struggle with anxiety that I have to let go of what is perfect and trust that God will take care of the things that I can't control. Way to do that with your children!I'll be praying for you! This is a tough spot - but I know that things can get better. With the right meds and good counseling this can be beat.

  2. Take care of you, whatever that needs to look like. That's the very best thing you can do for yourself and your family, and all of you deserve to be happy.

  3. Inspiring, is what that was. What you are.

  4. You go girl. Love you. I will be praying for this transition, as I can't imagine how much you are fighting. But I'm proud of you. Looking forward to chatting soon....

  5. I agree with all the above comments. Burndive took the words out of my mouth. Each time your Blogging 'pen' flows, I'm left in awe with your grasp of wisdom and unguarded self examination. Your husband and daughters are blessed people because of you! I've observed that You pursue health and excellence for yourself and your loved ones. I could not be more proud of you. Thanks, Beck!!

  6. I love it when God speaks. There is so much freedom and peace in obedience. God spoke to me when we were frantically trying to decide which church to go to. There was instantly an incredible peace about where we should go.Beck, I admire your openness and the thought and time you spend writing your posts! You make good blogging look effortless, and I know it's not. Stein auf!

  7. I'm just catching sorry you're going such a rough time. Glad you are finding your way though, and that you're going to keep writing. Good luck, and know that you have tons of internet friends cheering you on.

  8. bethany actuallyJune 11, 2009 at 9:35 AM

    You are right, four months of breastmilk is GREAT and Elaine needs more from you than just milk. It's so, so hard to trust in God sometimes and lean not on our own understanding, isn't it? I know it would be extremely hard for me to let go of exclusive nursing. Good for you, having the courage to listen to God's voice! I'll keep praying for you.

  9. I can't think of anything helpful or profound to say but I just wanted to be here and smile so you know you have friends who care about you and really trust you. You wouldn't take something like this lightly and you haven't. I'm sure you're doing the right thing. I wish I could lighten the load somehow.

  10. "I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me."

  11. I know this probably sounds silly/stupid for ME to say, but I am so proud of you, Becky! I know that decision had to be so, so difficult to make, but I think you did the right thing. I totally understand how sad it must make you (because I'm sure I'd feel the same way), but I'm happy that you now feel like you are doing what is ultimately BEST for you and your family. Keep taking care of yourself! We're rooting for you over here. :-)