Mom Out of Order
For thirteen months, I pumped. It was a journey of struggle, my body never producing a sufficient amount of milk for twins, which lead to surrender and gratitude, through accepting help in the form of frozen donations from incredible women in my life. Every three hours I filled my water bottle and set up camp next to my Medela Pump-in-Style, for twenty minute stretches. Day in and day out, I contributed what I was able to each feed, feeling comfort in that I had at least offered something. When Lottie was in the hospital, and I couldn’t inflate her collapsed lungs, I could still pump. When sickness fell upon us, and I had no ability to remove either girls discomfort, I could pump then too. When circumstance was beyond my control, I offered, though a small amount, the best of what I had. Then my body said, ‘No more,’ and I stopped producing.
Every three hours I found myself feeling anxious. My milk had dried up, and my production was officially ‘out of order’. Out of habit, I absentmindedly walked to the sink to wash pump parts. My eyes examined and reexamined the freezer, mentally calculating the number of days our frozen stash would last us. When I finally relented to packing up the pump, I attempted to hand express, still unable to completely resign from my position. There was little rhyme or reason to my all-consuming, vice-like attachment to providing milk for Nettie and Lottie. Although I knew it was silly, transitioning away from lactation was a challenge.
Just recently I looked up the definition of that word: lactation. Several of the listed synonyms and antonyms were comical- clearly inaccurate. What surprised me was how perfectly they aligned with the mislead feelings I was experiencing. For example, if you look at the image here, not lactating clearly does not equate to ‘starvation’ or ‘neglect’. That is ridiculous, my mind says. Yet every three hours I would look at my daughters and feel guilty for having no milk to offer them. Mom guilt at its finest, playing me like a puppet. A typical nonsensical case of Mind vs. Emotions.
When I was offered an opportunity to join a team from our church on a trip to Mexico, I knew it was the transitional aid I needed. My passport and what clothes I had washed, were thrown into my husband’s travel backpack, and I boarded a plane to Guadalajara. For a week, I stepped back from the steering wheel of Motherhood and found a girl who had more to offer than milk. Discovering courage, that which I had overlooked in myself, I began to piece together what I am able to give my children that truly nurtures their growth, and will never dry up.
Moms, our children do not need us to be fixers. They need examples of how to navigate the difficulties of life with God in our hearts. We cannot take up the role of being their sole providers of comfort, nurturing, and protection. Running ourselves through the mud, disguising our grasp on control as sacrificial parenting, would come at a cost; for one, the ability for others (Dads, Grandmas, etc.) to build and strengthen relationships with our children. Our sons and daughters need us to show them we are each more than parents. If parenthood swallows our identity, we offer our children an incomplete example of adulthood. Showing them how to live requires living ourselves, not apart from, but in balance with changing their diapers and co-assembling their LEGO sets. For me at this point, that means exchanging several ounces of breastmilk, for more games of Peek-a-boo, and taco dates with my new girlfriends. Fulfilling my duty as a mother was never contingent on producing or ‘doing’ for them, but the offering of unconditional love, and a Christ-like example.