Nourishing and Nurturing... One Feeding At a Time

I love my children.  And if you're a Mama, I know you do, too.  I have no doubt of that.  
We may doubt our ability to meet certain self-set standards on a daily basis, and we may, more than often, beg God for forgiveness and HELP.  But as a Mama of three strong-will children, my ability to see through their behavior gets cloudy when I choose to only focus on what's on the surface.  The tantrums, the whining, the endless fights or the mean words.  When I want to speak into their character, I fail to take the time.  To look into their eyes.  To hold them and speak into their soul.  

Am I taking the time to nurture them?

When Joshua was born almost 8 years ago, my heart exploded!  
After 36+ hours of induced labor, he laid on my bare chest and all I could do was cry.  I loved him from the moment his skin touched mine.  Then, seeing Joel hold Joshua for the first time made me LOVE him all over again.  He wasn't just my husband.  He was now the father of our son.  We stayed at the hospital in Cleveland for all 3 days.  We soaked in all the help and assistance we needed.  I felt such joy!

I was that mom who took all the feeding and caring for your infant classes that the hospital offered.  Joel took the "how to bathe your newborn" class without me, since I was healing in the delivery & recovery room.  We took LOTS of pictures!  I ate lots of hospital food... which I really didn't mind since I was no longer a "gestational diabetic" patient.  I could eat carbs?  I could eat "normal" again?  And while nourishing my postpartum body, I entered the world of feeding and nursing my newborn baby boy!  Oh, baby... no breastfeeding class prepared me for such a journey!

And what a journey!  

Breastfeeding was hard.  Very hard.  No.  It was painful.  Very painful.  And all of my nurses and lactation consultants told me, "if it hurts, he isn't latching properly."  "He's learning, too, Helen.  Be patient" is what they would say.  At every feeding, Joshua struggled to latch.  He was so hungry.  And he had such a strong sucking reflex.  But it hurt, so I was convinced he wasn't latching properly.  When we returned home from those 3 days at the hospital, I continued to breastfeed Joshua.  Constantly.  And more often than not, he would sleep through the feeding, so I had to constantly "fight" to keep him awake.  To eat.  To latch and eat.  Did I say I was hurting?  Yes!  I was hurting.  A lot!  Even after lactation consultant after lactation consultant came to our home to check and see how things were going, I kept getting discouraged that Joshua couldn't nurse without causing me pain.  

At his very first appointment with our newly found Pediatrician, Joshua hadn't gained much weight, and I felt discouraged.  Again.  The doctor said it would be ok to try to pump and see how much he was really eating.  And he also reassured me that it was okay to supplement my breastmilk with a good formula.  The important thing was to make sure Joshua was getting the nutrients he needed.  My breastmilk was essential, so he encouraged me to patiently persist.  

Joel sat right by me at the doctor's office.  And he continued to sit BY ME at every single feeding after that.  Even the night feedings.  He would hold my hand and talk to Joshua (to keep him awake).  He would encourage me, pray with me, and assure me that breastfeeding Joshua was the best thing for him and for me.  He would repeatedly refill my water bottle and remind me to stay hydrated.  And even when I tried to quit, through tears and frustration, Joel would support me by saying, "one more feeding... ".  It was just the push I needed to get through each and every painful feeding.  

Eventually, feeding Joshua became less painful.  I was learning to connect with him, to speak to him, to sing to him.  I began to use that time to reflect, to pray, and to dream (that's how my Etsy store Helen's Corner came to be, by the way).  In the middle of the night.  Did you know that when you focus on your baby while breastfeeding, your milk supply flows more freely?  It's the exact opposite of what happens when you tense up and fear the feeding process.  It's incredible!  Anyway... Also, supplementing my breastmilk with formula gave me the freedom to nourish Joshua without the guilt.  It was okay.  And Joel, along others, was able to feed this growing baby boy during days and nights when I needed rest.

Well... fast forward 8 years.  Joshua wasn't the only one I had chosen to breastfeed.  I nursed Elsie and Noah, too.  "Like a pro!" said my family doctor.  In total, I breastfed Joshua for 14 months, Elsie for 11 months, and Noah for 10 months.  I'm so thankful for a husband who sat by me and supported me through the painful beginnings of breastfeeding.  I learned to breastfeed in public, at restaurants, at church nurseries, in the car, at the county fair and local festivals in designated "family" areas, at the mall, inside bathrooms, and parks!  I also learned to use my handy pump... Oh, I still remember having to bring my pump to Cedar Point when Noah was born.  I was one of the chaperones with our church Youth Group and because Noah did not come with me, I had to pump in the Family Zone area and discard the milk.  Yup!  I discarded almost 6 oz of breastmilk because I just needed the relief but couldn't carry it around with me! 

Reminiscing on this important season of my nourishing my children brings me a sense of pride and accomplishment.  And the more I choose to park those memories inside my soul, the more mindful I become of the importance of continuing to nurture my children now.  The more I realize that nurturing their hearts and souls is my responsibility.  They might not depend on me for physical nourishment (even though I may pack their lunches, cook, and feed them during meal times), but they depend on their Mama to nurture their sense of self, their calling in life, and their ability to think, create, and serve others.  To teach them kindness, respect, and courage.  To nurture their relationship with their family.  Jesus.  And to point them to their numerous talents.  Their ability to compose a melody.  To craft a joke.  To mix colors.  To read books, menus, and street signs.  It is my responsibility to make sure they know how much they are LOVED.  

And that is why motherhood is not easy.  

Because it is hard.  And because we don't get a manual when we leave the hospital.  It is hard because every child is different.  And every Mama is different.  You and I have different experiences.  We learn differently.  We choose different doctors, different books, different sources of entertainment.  We live in different parts of the country and the world.  And we might even take our coffee differently in the mornings.  BUT ONE THING WE HAVE IN COMMON, FOR SURE!  

We love our people.  

And no matter how hard my day was... and believe me, today was ONE OF THOSE days, I choose to believe that how we choose to love, nourish, and nurture our people can bring purpose and pride to my stride.  And my hope is that you'll choose to take "one more feeding... one feeding at time" on this journey of motherhood with pride and responsibility.  It's worth it.  I know it.  

I am not an expert on finding the perfect formula for your growing baby.  But one of the companies that I wish was around when I first became a Mama is The Honest Company.  You may know them for those cute printed diapers... But, if you're expecting a baby or are looking to learn more about feeding your baby, check out The Honest Company Feeding Page.  They take a best-for-baby approach and has developed a line of premium feeding solutions with organic, non-GMO and other high quality ingredients for both breast and formula feeding situations.  

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