Nova is almost one. Soon, every bottle in this house will be packed away in storage bins and thrown in the attic. My shopping carts will no longer contain formula, and our bank account will no longer experience the cost of it. This season of "baby" is just about over.
Even with the rough beginning and the constant ear infections/illnesses for something like 6-7 months, Nova has been an incredibly happy baby. When I think about her first year, I think of how much I enjoyed it. In fact, I was able to enjoy it so much more than Duke's first year. NOT because of the child, but because I wasn't a first-time mom and because I wasn't nursing.
Yep. I said it.
The other day, Kelsey asked me if I was at a point where I looked back on Nova's nursing struggles and thought that I fought too hard or made it too big of a thing. Or if I looked back and felt it was all justified and that I'd do it again. I suppose it's a little mix of both.
Like I said in this post, nursing was finally the thing I could control (I thought). I felt so confident! To have that taken from me felt awful. But I think a huge part of the devastation of not being able to nurse Nova was more about the unmet expectation than the actual inability to nurse. It was the 3rd unmet expectation surrounding her arrival and I was d-o-n-e. Things weren't working out the way I'd orchestrated them in my head and I needed someone to blame. I ended up with a lot of misplaced frustration and anger towards God.
But now, as I sit here typing, I've got a baby napping in her bed and a toddler away at school. I've got dishes in the sink and there are toys scattered all over the floor. The laundry baskets are full of folded clothes, waiting to be put away. My point? Life still happens and how you feed your baby is so not a thing.
Both experiences - nursing Duke for a year and formula feeding Nova - have made me realize that it just doesn't matter. Feeding our babies, whether breast or bottle, is an incredibly short season of life. It's a tiny blip on the timeline.
I can still put myself back in the whole conundrum when I was trying to decide what to do. In no way am I saying that my emotions were not validated. It was one of the hardest seasons of my life. I fought so hard to nurse Nova. I was fighting for the beauty of it - the fact that our bodies make milk just for our babies, the fact that I am the only who can give this to my baby, the sweet moments that nursing creates. But I was also fighting for other things. I was fighting for the right to nurse my baby. Surely I was entitled to this! I was fighting for an expectation that I assumed would come true. I was fighting for this-is-how-I-did-it-last-time-so-it-should-work-like-this-again. Part of my fight was truly noble and part of my fight was birthed from my own pride and stubborn attitude.
So that's why my answer is a mix of both. Yes, I'd fight again. When I think about having another baby one day, I do plan on trying to nurse. The difference is that I'm not afraid of what will happen if my baby is not successful. I'm not afraid of how it will feel. And I'm not afraid of letting go of expectations and just letting things happen as they will. Because now I know the truly awful and traumatic thing that happens when nursing doesn't work - you just buy formula.
I used to shutter filling Nova's bottles with scoop after scoop of formula. I can't believe I'm having to do this when my supply was more than enough, I thought. While pushing my cart of formula through the grocery store, I wanted to shout, "My baby just wouldn't nurse! It's not my fault!" But after a few months of all of that, I hardly ever thought about it. It was my new normal and I actually enjoyed the freedom of it.
I have loved the pros of formula feeding. (I compared the pros and cons of formula and breastfeeding here.) I have loved not having to plan life around the supply and demand of breastfeeding. I have loved being able to have other people feed my baby. I have loved being free from the feeling that Nova is really only 100% satisfied when she's getting fed from just me. There are a lot of positives for using formula.
Of course, the sacrifice you make to nurse a baby can be worth it. It can be worth all the sweet moments, the feeling of giving your baby what only you can give, and saving lots of money. But you know what it wasn't worth for me? Losing my sanity. Giving up my social life. Feeding my Nursing Mom ego by making sure everyone else knew that I NURSE MY BABY. Resenting my spouse because he's unable to carry the load of nursing and it's all up to me. Nobody wants to be around that person. So, if you're able to nurse your baby with grace, then go for it. If it turns you into a monster, then it may not be the thing for you.
To be the person that God wants me to be and that I want to be, I have to experience struggle. I needed to experience this struggle with nursing Nova. I needed to learn some things about God and my relationship with him. I needed to let go of some opinions and judgements about others. I needed to see things from a different perspective.
I can wholeheartedly say that I am thankful for how it all happened. When I look back, I can find the good. I can see how the Lord was just a few steps ahead of me and was doing what he knew was best for me. It has all been redeemed.
A note to moms who are wrestling with nursing:
I hear you and I understand you. Your problems are not small. You are finding your way through a something that is really hard. Just know that whatever you choose is 100% okay. There is no right or wrong. There is good and there is best. And what's best for you may not be what's best for someone else. So go with your gut, talk with your spouse, and get input from people you trust and who love you. One day, you will be on the other side of this decision, I promise.