Monday, October 14, 2013

A Bond Stolen

I am 22 weeks pregnant now.  As I prepare our lives for baby #4 one aspect of motherhood is creeping up behind me: breastfeeding.  Each child before was bottle fed. I wanted to nurse them, I wanted to feel that bond all my sisters, friends and forums talked about.

I would try with each baby and every time I couldn't do it.  Flashbacks.

Flashbacks to Lana's* (name of my biological mother, also changed) many boyfriends.  Each had a "special love" for  me. A love that would continue to grow as my body did.  One man told me when I was 9, "You're so pretty and beautiful, I'm waiting for your breasts to grow so I can really show you how much I love you."
I  was scared. When I was 10.5 years old I was already a B cup.  I wore big shirts and tried to tape them flat. No one could ever know I had them.

My secret didn't last for too long. My brothers and their friends had all been drinking one night.  I went back to their room to see if Lana had bought any food for us kids before she left.  I don't know how I ended up being pushed around between their friends. They were taunting me and laughing at me. One of them grabbed my shirt and it completely ripped. Exposing my budding chest.  I ran out of the room in tears and went to the back room, normally occupied by Lana's live-in boyfriend.

I  woke up and noticed it was dark outside. Sitting at the foot of the bed was Tubs. My brother's 17 year old friend. He told me he was waiting to tell me about my beautiful body and perky chest. I grabbed the blanket and  held it over me. I prayed.  Prayed to the God I had been learning about at Twin Falls Community Christian Church. Surely God would stop what seemed to  be inevitable. Yet, to my disappointment He did/could not.

Tubs was tall and muscular and blocking the exit. Within a split second, he had removed my shirt and was grabbing, touching, and kissing the very essence of my developing womanhood I tried so hard to protect. He found every chance he could to violate me. Between him and the many others after I hated my breasts.

I saw  no value in point to them.

Now, years later I'm a mother. 3 times a mother. And each time I thought about nursing my beautiful babies I died inside. I tried nursing them each, in hopes that I could have that bond, they could have the nourishment. But I could not escape the flood of memories and ill feelings nursing brought to my heart and mind.

For four years I've dealt with the judgement of my "choice" to not breastfeed.  I wish it was my choice. I wish I was apart of a movement of mothers who were "pro-choice" on breastfeeding. My ability to nurse and nourish my children was stripped from me when I was just a child.

I've had family members pressure me and family members support me.  I've had nurses tell me my children wouldn't be able to compete as well academically if I didn't nurse.  I had a breastfeeding consultant, after I rejected her offer to help, tell my newborn that "mommy just doesn't know better. I'm sorry".

Our baby boy is due in February. I look up info online, look at breast pumps and try to imagine myself in an innocent moment of mother-child intimacy...I get knots. Those knots turn to aches in my chest and turn into tears.

I've learned one really big lesson out of all this: love is unconditional.

I do not think my children love me any less because I could not nurse them.  I do not love them any less because I could not nurse them.  Most importantly  we are bonded together through our love. They are each unique, brilliant, beautifully sweet children. I do not think, for one minute, our relationship has suffered or their health, because they were formula fed.

Every woman has a story, has a reason for their mothering styles.  When it comes to breastfeeding I do not believe we should judge others for what they choose to do or not choose to do.

In the end I choose to be the best mother I know how to be.  I choose to educate myself, to love my children unconditionally and give them the best that I HAVE TO OFFER.

With  every baby that I've brought home I've felt lost and saddened that I could not nurse them. I've always seen my inability to do so as a bond stolen. It is that feeling I am dreading this 4th time around.  My prayer is that, despite questioning nurses, doctors and strangers I remember this one thing...

The greatest bond I will have with my children will be created through the honest, nourishing, sacrificing love
that only I can give them as their mother.


Mrs Lee

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Friday, October 4, 2013

It's never OK and that is just Fine

When we were expecting our Abigail almost 4 years ago we pictured a perfect little baby with all her senses working in harmony. After her two big diagnosis that cause her blindness and growth issues it felt as if something was stolen. I didn't feel like something was stolen from me but rather from her. She would never see her own beautiful face, the many colors of our world, flowers, animals,  people and her family.

It was a couple months after she was diagnosed with Optic Nerve Hypoplasia and Septo Optic Dysplasia that the tears stopped and acceptance began. But I wasn't prepared for moments like a family outing to the aquarium. I had mixed feelings as I watched my, now 3, children react to the wonders of the ocean.

Bronco ran up to each exhibit in awe, pointing and gasping. Shelby pressed her face to the glass as her daddy held her up high. Abby sat in her stroller as we pushed her along. I tried describing what the rest of us were seeing but she was in her own world. My tears came without warning, the knot in my chest turned and turned until we left.

Our little girl was missing out and I was facing the fear I had years before. The fear of her missing out on  wonderful moments like our walk with the sea creatures. In reality we are the ones missing out not her.

She is "seeing" the world in an entirely different way. To Abigail everything is music. Whether it's a chair, patting her legs, the walls around our home, she's always on beat. She can't tell us what exactly she's drumming along with. But I imagine she's hearing our conversations, laughter, tapping of feet all in song.

We stepped outside to wait for the bus and were greeted by a bitter chilly wind. As I impatiently waited to get out of the cold, Abigail  lifted her head and let out loud giggles as it passed through her hair. I closed my eyes and after a minute I started to feel a gentle tickle along the tops of my ears and through my bangs. I  was so busy complaining about the wind and the chill that I didn't realize it was nature trying to play.

Having only been in school for 2 weeks now, our Abby bug is starting to use different letter  sounds and walked half way to the bus. And as I held her tight, gave her kisses and told her to have fun at school with her teacher Ms Linda her eyes lit up and she said "Linda, Liin-da!" and boarded the bus.

I had to fill out a form marking the number 1 for everything she does do and zero for what she doesn't do. As I was placing 1's in the majority of boxes for children of age 1 and watched the zeros pile up as I got closer to her age, I expected to be heartbroken once again. But all I could think was she WILL do those things. She will start talking, she will start walking on her own for longer periods of time, she will say her siblings names, play on the playground, read books with mom and enjoy feeding herself.

My fears of her missing out are valid concerns of any parent  with children with a disability. But holding onto those fears, harboring them in my heart will be what holds her back.

When Bronco was about 18 months old we were worried and scared. I'd call out his name and he wouldn't respond. He'd be rocking in chairs, in bed, in the car and went to his own world. There was a fear that our other baby would also have struggles in life that weren't apart of "the plan".  Disabled or not, I now know, that having struggles in life happen to every child. And those struggles only grow larger as they get older.

Our fears of Bronco being on the spectrum proved  to be just fears. It's  hard to be a parent of a child with special needs and be 100% honest. We say we are OK with it and we love our child/children just the way they are. The love part is true. Without a doubt in our hearts we love our Abigail. But we'll never be 100% OK with the struggles she's facing because of her disabilities. If we were truly 100% fine with our children's diagnosis, then parents of special needs children wouldn't have FEARS of their other babies having a disability.

And you know what??? THAT IS OK. It's OK to NOT be fine. I have no doubts my daughter and my other children will struggle and I hate the very idea. But because they have people who care, their father and me they will get through those trials.

Since Abigail we've had 2 (now 3) children. There is always the question of "Will this baby be born special?" We may have not been prepared if Bronco or Shelby had a disability, we may have even been heartbroken that another child would be sadly "different". However, we were ready to love. We were ready to accept our precious  babies in whatever manner Heavenly Father saw fit to deliver them to us.

Abigail's smile, contagious laughter, and her determination to learn and grow, let me know she won't be held down. I see great things in ALL of my children. And if our little boy is born like his sister, she is proof he'll do great things.

I just have to thank God for trusting us with his children. And giving us the opportunity to guard and protect one of his most precious angels. She has made us better parents and people. Mostly, she's given us a kind of happiness that only blossoms from a painful trial. Her disabilities are our storm  but Abigail is our rainbow.

Mrs Lee