feed your baby

I suppose you don't want to tell a happily first-time-pregnant mom of the difficulties awaiting her when trying to do what seems like the most natural thing in the world - feeding her baby. I honestly expected to have no problem breastfeeding Lottie unless I was in the extremely small percentage of women whose milk never came in in the first place. After all, we had taken the class at the hospital. I read the book they gave us cover to cover (except the chapter about feeding multiples, praise Him). I practiced the cradle hold AND the football hold just days before Lottie's birth. It wasn't until I started raking in advice from fellow mamas that I realized that, for the majority of these families, feeding was the most treacherous and emotional and confusing part about having a newborn. It wasn't that some of those feedings took place in the middle of the night and you're all of a sudden sleeping like NOT AT ALL. No. It was that they had low supply or no supply or mastitis or a slow let down or an over active let down or a zillion other possible issues. It was what everyone was now saying that they cried the most over. Which I, of course, now understood since I was shocked to be in the thick of the most emotional three weeks of my life due to nursing issues.

Supposedly I had a sleepy eater with a bit of torticollis which gave her an "unorganized suck" as well as seemingly unsolvable low supply. Whatever. I couldn't feed my baby and I was shocked and heartbroken and exhausted and so very confused.

I'm glad to say that those feelings have subsided. My stomach no longer ties itself in knots every time we give our baby a bottle of formula. I don't hold her and cry hot, sad tears when she hungry cries while I have nothing left to give her instead of happy tears like during that week-o-ecstasy following her birth (and since!). The turning point from those unexpected low moments was one of the clearest conversations I've ever had with The Lord.

Ironically, it happened when I was driving to rent an infant intake scale from the private, in-home lactation consultant that had come to see us a few days earlier. We saw her after our pediatrician, after three visits to the hospital's LC who was finally out of ideas for me and my little non-eater (this was the emotionally low point), and after countless hours of research and picking the brains of loooots of very patient friends. The two days before I had "power pumped" (it sucks as much as it sounds, no pun intended) and was renting this scale so that we could weigh, nurse, weigh again, supplement, and then pump. And by the time it was all done, start over again thirty minutes later. But I was down for it. Very determined. Motivated by love and emotion and, unfortunately, a little bit of pride. I'd do it as long as it helped even though I was so desperate to know what our feeding situation would look like long term. What our normal would be.

This private LC had been amazing and incredibly knowledgeable. I counted eight friends who had used her and all said that she was the reason they were able to breastfeed. She was "magic" and "wonder woman," and I just knew that surely I wouldn't be one of the only people with an unsolvable issue. Plus, her website is literally feedyourbaby.com (SC friends - she really is amazing!), so SURELY she could fix us. See? Expectations are the killer. I was gripping onto expectations within my bigger, disintegrating expectations.

After several more days of that weighing and pumping and supplementing grind, unfortunately this magic-maker was eventually out of ideas for us too. But this time I wasn't as heartbroken as I was afraid I would be if it came to this, and that was because of that in-car conversation with a loving God. There's been few times when I've heard this clearly from the Lord. Most of the time it's through the truth of His Word. Or the encouragement from voices in our families and community. Maybe this time was different because He was speaking directly to the tender heart of a new mother. Maybe it was because all the wonderful people he was speaking through in my life weren't getting through my emotional fog.

I was driving and praying for this next strategy to work and that I would be able to exclusively breastfeed my baby just as I had prayed throughout pregnancy. When we first met with the LC, I had to fill out a form that informed her of any pregnancy and birth issues we had that may affect nursing. I checked a box next to PCOS, told her about a few pregnancy issues, and about the c-section. And when we were getting started with our appointment, she commented that we had had "quite the time of it" or something like that. To me, it was our normal. But as soon as she said that, I started feeling sorry for myself. We battled through a few issues already, couldn't this just be easy? Didn't I deserve to be able to do what was best for my baby?

After days of wallowing in those thoughts, I was reminded that we live in an imperfect, fallen world where our bodies don't work perfectly. Duh. And I was convicted for feeling like I deserved to be able to do this. That's a dangerous place to be. The only thing we deserve in this life is wrath and judgement and separation.

But because I haven't gotten what I deserve and have been given so much grace that nothing else should really compare, I could hear Him telling me to simply trust Him with feeding Lottie. I could hear Him remind me that He loves her so much more than I do. I'm sure it was the beginning of letting go of lots of control over her life. D had said that the Lord would give her all she needed, and that finally rang true with me. He even said that Jesus could turn that formula into breastmilk in her belly if He saw fit! I'm so thankful for his steady faithfulness. And I'm sure he's thankful for this clear conversation with the Lord so that I could finally talk without crying.

I had asked Him to make it clear to us how we should provide for her and for me to be able to joyfully follow His direction. I knew it would be hard to officially make the decision to stop all of the crazy remedies (even though they were officially not helping), and I'm so thankful for the peaceful transition into nursing and then offering Lottie a bottle since she was always still hungry. I was (and am) a peaceful appetizer. I am thankful for all the help that we received, but I had read so much and asked so many questions until I could feel my mothers intuition getting louder and saying STOP IGNORING ME. Because the Lord answered our prayer for direction, I was able to do what was best for us as a family instead of having "breast is best" flashing in my brain at every feeding. And though I agree with those annoying websites and blogs and message boards, I also wanted to punch them in the face every time they said "you CAN do this!" Nope. Can't, unfortunately. And that was (finally) ok.

It's not always super easy. Sometimes I still don't like that I have to pack a bottle and formula in the diaper bag (even though we've been really happy with The Honest Company's new formula, if you're curious about that option). Sometimes my heart still breaks when I read things like, "there's no way to replicate a mother's milk exactly, because it contains living cells, antibodies, enzymes, and hormones that can't be added to formula." But most of the time I embrace the peace and encouragement given on that turn-around day. And, most importantly, I check my perspective. She's healthy, she's growing, and she's ours. Three things (among many more) that we certainly don't deserve.


lottie's arrival

It's taken me between now and when we brought Lottie home from the hospital to process and write down the experience of meeting our perfect little girl. I was so afraid I'd forget the details that were so precious to me over those first few days. It'd be understandable with the lack of sleep and general brain power. So I've spent the last several weeks scratching down all those details in a journal, picking it up every few days during a successful nap time (those, as I'm sure most know, are not a guarantee). And as I've read over the pages and pages of obviously sleepy hand writing (looking much like my notes from a 7:30 Old Testament class from my freshman year of college), I realized that, even if I had not obsessively recorded every little detail, there were many moments that'd be impossible to forget. Maybe because of how pivotal they were in our life - much more than any other event so far. And far more precious. 

I'll never forget how gracious the timing was of Lottie's arrival. I'd always skip over the chapters in the baby books that had anything to do with a c-section, expecting that information never to pertain to us. A section to meet our little stubborn, breeched babe was the beginning of unmet expectations that momentarily rocked my world. But the sweetness that it brought was a consolation prize: Lottie's long distance grandparents and Aunt Molly were all able to arrive the night before, enjoy what we called "the last supper" together, and be there anxiously awaiting Lottie's entrance into the world. We were also able to spend the morning before her birth with our church family. I'll never forget how I felt when we left both the service and Sunday School that day - supported, cared for, and that so many from our community shared in our excitement. 

I'll never forget the quiet nervousness between D and I as we waited in the prep room. We prayed, we laughed about how D's "scrubs" looked more like a hazmat suit, and we more just stared at the mounted TV instead of actually watching whatever HGTV show was on at that moment, our minds too full of expectation and thoughts of how this whole process would play out. I remember this because of how it stands in contrast to when D and a nurse rolled Lottie’s little bassinet into the recovery room where I was anxiously awaiting their arrival. All of that nervousness had melted away, and he was – for lack of a better word – beaming. I’ll never forget the look on his face. 

I’m certain that I’ll never forget the moment I saw our girl for the first time. Her birth was such a quick process – I had an extra good dose of anesthesia so I literally felt nothing (including my arms and chest) and didn’t expect to see a quick flail of purply arms and legs so soon. They whisked her to her little bed and told D to follow. While they checked her out, D backed up to where I could see him and gave me the most reassuring thumbs up, letting me know that she was as perfect as we prayed for. It wasn’t long before the moment I had waited for – being face to face with our baby girl. I’ll never forget her beautiful scrunched little face between her swaddle and hat, eyes squeezed shut because of the brightness of the operating room. She laid so still, only letting out a few tiny squeals from her perfect rosebud lips. In the days to follow, I found myself so wishing that I could relive that moment over and over again. Being together for the first time as a family of three, we were full and complete and more in love than we ever knew possible. 

I’m sure I’ll always love watching people fuss over Lottie, but there is nothing like watching your parents and in-laws and sister hold their granddaughter and niece for the first time. I’ll never forget the pride and excitement in their eyes as they responded to each new little move and noise. It’s such an extraordinary thing to watch your family grow before your eyes, knowing that it’ll never be the same as it was just a few hours before. Knowing that these are the people that will love your daughter so deeply throughout her life. 

I’ll never forget how obsessed I was with the hospital staff. Every single nurse and aid that we came in contact with was incredibly kind and helpful to us novice parents. I had never stayed overnight in the hospital and did not know what to expect. By our third night there, I was really wanting to stay. Or pack them in my bag and bring them home with me! I’ve always said I’m completely impressed with anyone in any kind of medical field, but I’ve never been so appreciative of their work until now. Shout out to Jean – my first nurse who let me eat much sooner than I was told to expect to be able to because I was feeling better than expected (praise the Lord!). Sixteen hours is a long time for a McMahone to go without food or water. You’re my girl for life! 

There are plenty more details scribbled in my journal for Lottie to be able to read one day that I won’t bore you with here. What is most unforgettable to me from this entire experience is watching Dustin transition into fatherhood with such grace and filled with so much love. I still feel rather clueless at times as a mother, but I’m convinced that I could write the book on how to be a supportive new daddy just from watching D during our days in the hospital. And since then! I fell deeper in love with him with every diaper change and every encouraging word. I’ve never felt so loved by him serving his new family of three without any complaint and by him being so intentional to be so uplifting to me, always knowing exactly when I’d need it. And watching your husband, who you fell in love with as a young college dude, fall deeply in love with your daughter so instantly – there are no words to describe it. 

We are thankful for such a positive experience of meeting our Lottie. In the grumpiest of moments, I try to remember what a blessing it is to have had such an experience and to have gotten to bring her home from the hospital just as we had prayed – perfectly healthy and whole. 

Lottie, you have split our hearts wide open and have caused us to experience a love like we've never known before. A love that causes me to physically ache with pride and concern and to stare at you and cry the happiest of tears. For the time being, you are all we can talk about, all we can think about. We hang on your every squirm and noise and sleep grin, and we can't think of anything we'd rather do than watch you grow and discover. We understand now why children are a blessing from the Lord. He blessed us far beyond anything we ever deserved when He gave us you. This parenthood thing is a whole new world for us, a completely new realm of emotions and experiences. And we're so glad we get to experience it with you (even if it's 3 o'clock in the morning).