This post was an emotional one to write. The personal ones usually are. But still, with tears in my eyes, there’s an emotional charge in my fingertips that is allowing the words to flow freely onto the page, so I must get it out of my system. Grab your popcorn, it’s going to be a long one.
Motherhood is filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Sometimes those lows can break us down, they defeat us. Those lows tell us that we’re no good at this Motherhood game, they tell us that we’re screwing it all up, and just when we’re ready to throw in the towel, those lows teach us that we are resilient, and despite what we thought, we really are made for Motherhood. How do I know this? Well, let’s just say I’ve recently become an expert on the lowest of lows part. Here, I’ll fill you in ….
When Rowan was born I had all sorts of expectations. I had already been through this baby business once before, so I was determined to make the second time as streamline as possible. Nothing would throw me, I wouldn’t waver, I wouldn’t second guess my decisions, and whatever arose, I would go with the flow. Are you laughing yet? Because reading it back to myself, I lost it at expectations. I mean seriously, I’m pretty sure God laughed at my expectations. No really, he did. Because I’ve gone through hell the last 6 months with Rowan and I’m preeeetty sure it was God teaching me one of his powerful lessons. Oh, and remember when I said that I’d go with the flow? Yeah, well, that was a lie, because I’m a control freak and there was no flowing going on here.
You see, it all started when Rowan entered this world. He latched to the breast right away, and hunkered down there for well over an hour. I’m pretty sure I heard angels sing in that moment because my breastfeeding journey with Mykenzi started so rocky, but we still managed to nurse for 13 months. I was determined to do the same, if not longer, with Rowan, so for him to latch amazingly right out of the womb was the answer to my prayers. What I didn’t expect was how quickly our lives would change and what challenges would lay before us.
The first days after Rowan was born were filled with newborn bliss, a clear bill of health, and more milk that I knew what to do with. After a few weeks is when we started seeing the changes. Our sweet newborn soon turned fussy. Most people would deem it colic, but I knew there was more to it than “just colic.” I could tell by the cry, it was heartbreaking, and I knew he was telling me I had to fix it. The problem was, I didn’t know how.
I tried a million things. I tried medication for reflux, that made it worse. I tried eliminating diary, only to find out months later, that I had been eating diary the whole time because of “hidden dairy” ingredients. So, guess what, he was still fussy, and after months I still had no solution. Fussy then turned into rashes, mucus filled stools, and screaming. He cried, I cried, we all cried for days, weeks, months. He eventually stopped latching. Talk about a blow to your Mom ego. He was 3 months old, and it was like any other day, except I went to go feed him and he arched back, let out this shrill scream, and refused to let me latch him to my breast.
I continued to pump, but with no latch my supply tanked, and we were pretty much forced to supplement with formula which made everything worse. We spent the next few months trying every formula on the market. Sensitive, broken down proteins, soy, whey based, you name it, we tried it. We ended up settling on one that made him react the least, but he was still a hot mess.
Just weeks before Rowan turned 6 months old, we were clued in on a tongue tie which we hoped would be the answer to some of our problems. We took him to get it revised immediately only to find out he had a lip tie too. We learned that both were pretty severe and he probably didn’t want to latch because it hurt him and put pressure on his ties, plus he couldn’t adequately get milk from my breast or a bottle which could’ve caused the fussiness. We also learned that had they gone untreated they would’ve caused speech delay issues, speech impediments, and problems swallowing real food as he got older. Immediately after his revision, Rowan latched for 30 minutes, something he hadn’t done in months. I couldn’t believe it and pretty much cried tears of joy the whole time he nursed. Fearfully optimistic, I prayed we could salvage our breastfeeding relationship and that would be the solution we needed.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the solution either. Even being dairy free, it seemed my milk just made his symptoms worse. The next step was to go soy and gluten free. But before I tackled that mountain, we decided to celebrate little man’s 1/2 birthday with the introduction to solid food. We’d figure it would be a nice treat for him while we try to figure out this milk mess. We celebrated with Banana, and he loved it. Well, he loved new food, the jury is still out on the Banana. Little did I know how much that Banana would impact our journey.
As I changed him for bed that evening, I lifted his onesie to find him covered head to toe in little red dots. I wasn’t surprised, and it wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before. In fact, I had seen this rash multiple times before, and I knew exactly what it meant. It was another allergic reaction. He was already covered head to toe in allergy induced eczema, and now this. I buried my face in my hands, and I cried, “I quit.” I was frustrated, defeated, heartbroken, and so SO confused. In that moment, it became clear that cutting soy and gluten in addition to dairy wasn’t going to be enough. If Banana caused a reaction, there is no telling what else I was eating that was making him react, our breastfeeding relationship was officially ending. I immediately took the internet and ordered a specialty formula they give kids with severe food allergies. This was my last resort. If this didn’t fix it, nothing would fix it. He took to the formula immediately, and I’m not even kidding when I tell you his eczema cleared up within days of feeding him this special formula. His demeanor instantly changed, and little by little, each symptom started to disappear. Hallelujah! We found the answer to our prayers. Letting go of breastfeeding was extremely difficult for me, I did not want to let it go. Formula was not the plan, but neither was having a baby with severe allergies. It was something I desperately wanted to provide for my children and in one case it worked out, and the other it didn’t no matter how hard I fought. Rowan is literally the happiest baby in the world, and to know MY milk was inhibiting that just absolutely breaks my heart, but seeing him happy is all the proof I need to know that ending our nursing journey was the right answer.
I’m not telling you this to feel sorry for me or to pat me on the back for finally figuring out. I’m telling you this because I hit a really hard low. I cried pretty much everyday. I cried for myself, I cried for my baby, I cried because I couldn’t do this, I cried because I couldn’t find a solution. For months, I called my Husband everyday at work and told him, “I quit.” and would hang up. This Motherhood thing? It wasn’t for me. Obviously, I was screwing it all up. How I was trusted to take care of two little beings was beyond me. But, just when I was ready to give up, the dark clouds parted. After a few days on our new formula, my Son looked at me and shot me the biggest grin I had ever seen, and for the first time in 6 months, I didn’t see any pain behind his eyes. Every Pediatrician’s office I walked out of (the count is at 3), every Google search, every failed attempt at a solution, every tear, every sleepless night, every “I quit!” moment was worth that little grin. In that moment, I realized that even in my lowest of Mom lows, I will never stop fighting for my son’s happiness, and isn’t that what Motherhood is all about? Fighting for your children’s happiness? I realized I AM made for Motherhood, even when I think I’m screwing it up. THAT’S why I’m telling you this. If you are deep in the trenches of a low, don’t give up, keep going! YOU. ARE. MADE. FOR. THIS. Every exhausting moment, every low, every high, every tear, will hold so much meaning to your Motherhood journey, don’t let it defeat you, let it shape you. Appreciate these moments, they welcome growth as a Mother, and when you’re on the other side of the low, you’ll learn to appreciate the process.
When I close a chapter, I take to writing and document the process. I like to have pictures to look back on and remember the struggles or remember the joyful memories that were made. I love to have words to compliment those pictures, so when I look back years from now I can remember how those moments shaped me as a person, as a Mother. When Mykenzi was a baby I did a nursing photo shoot with her to document our journey and how far we had come despite the struggles we faced. Every time I see those photos I’m brought back to every struggle and every victory we experienced in those 13 months. In the moment, I thought we would never come out on the other side, and now when I look back, I’m so proud of what we were able to accomplish. I won’t be able to have that photo shoot opportunity with Rowan, so in order to commemorate our journey, I chose a milk bath. These pictures represent so much more than a simple milk bath and I’m so in love with how they turned out. They are symbolic as he can’t ingest milk without severe reactions, so soaking in a milk bath is the perfect representation of our tumultuous journey. They are a beautiful reminder that even the lowest of lows can have happy endings. Every time I look at these pictures I will remember that I refused to give up on a solution for this sweet boy. I will remember that I was able to walk away from one of the hardest seasons of my Motherhood journey with a peaceful heart and a happy baby.
Thanks for reading. Remember, you’re a great Mom, even when you don’t feel like it.