Saturday, August 1, 2009

Milk that someone else made

So, I have this problem: I seem to make really, really hungry little boys.

Jonah eats every one of us under the table, including me when I was pregnant and now that I am nursing two. It really is quite impressive. And little Galen just can't seem to get quite enough. Once my milk supply is up to his demand, his demand increases, and I am struggling to catch up again. I can write a whole 'nother rant about the panicked insecurity that my fear of starving him brings out (Jonah lost A LOT of weight in his first days before we knew anything was amiss), but that's not what I am thinking about now.

I am thinking about milk. If we're lucky, it's our first earthly food, made perfectly just for us. Breastmilk changes, miraculously in my opinion, throughout the first days, then weeks, months and even years of a childs life to match their nutritional and immunological needs. When I am battling an illness, the antibodies that my body produces are passed to my baby through my breastmilk, and his immune system is strengthened. Nothing, no supplement, can come close to that. So what is a mama to do when she is told that her baby needs supplementation?

I have found myself faced with this decision for the second time now. After the gut-wrenching, self-inflicted, guilt-fest that I enjoyed the first time around, I was determined to be OK if I need to give babe #2 some formula. It is not, after all, heroin, as a kind friend once pointed out to me. But it still sucks, even when it is the right thing to do.

Our midwife offered, when we first began supplementing, to put out a request to her clients asking if anyone had extra breastmilk that they would be willing to donate to us. I said no, at first because I really felt that it would only be for a day or two, but as the time has gone on I've had to look more closely at my hesitation. I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I have resistance to feeding my baby another woman's milk.

What's up with that?

Formula is made by someone else too, after all; someone I don't know, someone who may be perfectly well intentioned, but whose motivations are certainly influenced by profit. And every study out there is clear in the superiority of breastmilk. So why do I, self-professed hippy, have any hesitation with giving my baby the best option I have?

It isn't squeamishness. I am full of nothing but awe for our bodies and what they do. It isn't fear. I have absolute faith in my midwife, and trust anyone that she would guide us to who would be willing to share milk. I think it's mostly sadness.

Confronting the choice to give my baby milk that someone else made is coming right up against the pain of not being able to provide for him myself. And that hurts. It is a kind of impotence, at least that's what it feels like. I hate that it keeps coming back here, but here we are.

I have embraced and pushed through the pain. I have been shown intense generosity by three women who have given us an amazing gift, and I am so grateful. My son's belly is happy, he is thriving, and I don't worry about him not having enough. Of course, I want to be able to give him everything he needs from my own breast, and I hope to soon enough, but milk that someone else made is the next best thing.

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