Monday, October 7

My Identity is not measured in Milliliters

 Oh, Friends. If you only knew how quickly I began to measure my worth in milliliters. ("Milliliters?" you ask)

10 days ago, I found the edge of my sanity. My child would not stop screaming and crying, and having watched the "Dunstan Baby Language" she repeatedly said, "Neh!" which means, "Hungry!"

This could not be, I thought, because I was nursing her nearly nonstop. To the point that my poor....well, anyway. Pain was ensuing. (We'll keep this PG.)  She must be colicky, I thought. I began to poll my mom friends about gas drops, different prescriptions for infants with acid reflux, etc.

And then Saturday happened. I was in the most pain ever while nursing. I broke out into a sweat Sunday night because it was so painful. But Dr. Google assured me that regardless of what was wrong, I should continue nursing. Because whatever WAS wrong, would be helped by draining the milk.

Monday I called my doctor and her pediatrician first thing in the morning. The pediatrician saw us right away and did a weight check. It wasn't so much that she had acid reflux. It was that she wasn't gaining weight.

She wasn't getting food. 

My milk supply had tanked sometime between leaving the hospital and this doctors visit.

I felt terrible. Here I was frustrated with my baby when she really was telling me all along that she was hungry. I began pumping.

In addition, my doctor saw me and said, "you have a terrible case of mastitis! Did you not have a fever?"
"No!" I said, "I checked and I wasn't feverish, so I thought I was being neurotic."
"Well, you weren't," he said. "Go get these antibiotics."

And that  is where the milliliters come in. To remedy both feeding her and the mastitis, I pump after each time I nurse (which is followed by a bottle of formula).

Most women pump out ounces of milk. An ounce is 30 milliliters. 

I pump out 15 milliliters. 20 ML on a good pump session.

I began pumping last Monday, and throughout the week the milliliters have stayed frustratingly the same. Because I'm nursing and pumping, my milk supply should be increasing. But if it is, it's maddeningly slow.

And that was when I began measuring my worth in milliliters.  
How can I be a good mother if I'm not able to feed my child mother's milk? 
I've always thought I would breastfeed exclusively. Now I'm supplementing? I don't want to supplement!
We can't afford formula for 9-12 months. 
I am a terrible mother.
I am a terrible wife.

When I was counseling, I always highlighted the "I Am" statement the client was making. It's a statement of identity. And my identity was clear: not producing enough mother's milk means I'm a terrible mother, and a terrible wife.

Of course, I repented (kind of...it's still a struggle). I know who (and whose) I am, or maybe I do on a good day. But it is so easy to measure my worth according to what I do, or what I produce, or how successful I am at any given task. Failing at the thing I so desperately want to do, well, it completely undermines my false identity and points me back to the cross. I need Jesus to once again tell me who I am.

I am co-heir with Christ. I am saved from my sin and from eternal death. I am victorious in the Christian life.

But I may not be producing ounces and ounces of milk. And my child may never only breastfeed. She may always need formula (I'm taking pretty determined measures to hopefully eradicate our need for formula, but it. is. slow. going).

But I cannot measure my ability at motherhood and my identity as a person in my production of milliliters of milk.

Well, I should not. But that itself is the battle.

2 comments:

Laura Ward said...

I'm going to repeat to you the words you said to me on Friday night, which have rung in my heart's ears ever since (sorry for the weird metaphor there): "I love you because you're mine." He really does, Hannah. No matter what happens with breastfeeding or any of the other ups & downs of motherhood (and their accompanying identity crises), you. are. LOVED. By the Creator of the universe, by Adam & Charis, and by your family & friends (especially me!!). We love you not for what you can do, but for who you are. You are precious to the Lord, and to us, dear friend!

now-self said...

I hope you've found peace by now. Don't berate yourself based on your body's ability to produce milk. my newborn lost almost 600 grams in a week because my body wasn't making enough milk. A frantic all to the doctor and we put him on formula. Things have a way for sorting themselves out.

With octaves of a mystic depth and height