Why I chose to formula feed

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I recently read a story about a mother who lost her battle with postpartum depression. In the article her husband mentions the intense pressure she felt to breastfeed. My reaction to this was a mix of sadness and anger. This should be a wake up call to all of us about the amount of pressure placed on new mothers. We need to do better.

During my pregnancy with my daughter, I experienced crippling prenatal depression and anxiety. This was not out of the blue considering I have dealt with depression and anxiety in waves throughout my life. I decided to go off all medication before getting pregnant to avoid exposing my baby. I THOUGHT I had everything under control; and then the hormones came in full force. I spent nine months feeling claustrophobic in my own skin.

Throughout my pregnancy, my doctors, husband, and family all agreed that it was important for me to be proactive when it came to postpartum depression. Instead of a birth plan, I created an “after birth” plan. One of the biggest decisions I made was to forego breast feeding. This was a difficult decision for me. Like every pregnant woman in today’s society I read dozens of books, articles, and blogs about parenting. Although I knew formula feeding was the best option for my family, I was worried about not bonding with my daughter and denying her the nutritional benefits of breast milk. What if I regretted my decision? What if the hospital staff pressured me to breast feed? What if people judged me on this decision?

This is where the disconnect lies for mothers and maternal mental health. While dealing with severe depression I was stressing over how I would justify my feeding choice to those around me. At the time of my daughter’s birth our hospital was working to become “baby friendly”. I was warned by well-meaning friends that the hospital staff would pressure me; that they would send in a lactation consultant even if I declined their services. The problem with the baby friendly initiative is that it leaves out a crucial part of the baby’s wellbeing; maternal mental health. I truly believe that a healthy, happy mother is one of the most important factors for infant health.

For many women my feelings and viewpoints may be difficult to understand. AND THAT IS OKAY. We can have differing opinions and still respect one another. Although I have not had the experience of breastfeeding, I have tried to educate myself so that I can support my friends that do choose to breastfeed. I do my best to cheer them on and celebrate their successes with them. I do this because if it is important to them, it is important to me. In addition, I also have friends who chose to formula feed simply because they did not want to breastfeed. ALL mothers deserve support. It takes a village to raise a child but it also takes a village to support a mother.

I do want to state that the benefits of breastfeeding cannot be denied. However, there are many other factors that contribute to a child’s emotional and physical wellbeing. A mother making a decision for the health and wellbeing of their family should not be judged or shamed. I would also like to add that while I have been vocal about my journey with mental health, many women are not. It is a good reminder to us all to treat everyone with kindness; we don’t know what battles they may be facing.

**Although I chose to forego medication while pregnant with my daughter, that is not the answer for everyone. If you are dealing with depression during pregnancy it is important to be honest with your medical provider. And always remember, you are not alone.

The Last First

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In a little over a week it will be one year since the sudden death of my father. Halloween marked the last of the major “firsts” without my dad. Somehow we’ve made it through a year of holidays, birthdays, vacations, family traditions, and milestones without him. Things that seemed impossible to even comprehend just 365 days ago. When we first lost him I almost wanted to fast forward my life to this point. I didn’t want to have to go through all the “firsts”. It was just too painful to even think about. My father was a man of deep tradition and nearly everything we do is somehow rooted in him. Mix-tapes of summer songs for vacations down the shore, an elaborate train display at Christmas, the Beatles, the Mummers parade- my Dad is everywhere.

As we began to creep closer to the one year anniversary of his death, I expected to feel some sort of relief that the “firsts” were over. Unfortunately I have found it to be quite the opposite. One thing that is more painful than experiencing these holidays and traditions without a loved one is the knowledge that we are now forming memories without them. The painful truth that my father will not be a part of future milestones and events in my life.

I am now in a place where grief undergoes a transformation. Instead of a sharp, take-your-breath-away pain, it becomes a dull ache. It is not as gaping and obvious but the ache is always there. It flares up when you least expect it. It could be a song, a dream, a smell, a memory and it all comes rushing back.

My life will forever be defined as before losing my dad and after losing my dad. I’ve learned that this is okay. Significant deaths force us to find a new “normal”. It takes time and it hurts but it’s also necessary. Grief is an indefinite journey; one that does not have a destination. Sometimes we travel alone and sometimes we meet up with others along the way. We fall down and we rely on others to help us back up. At times we will gather with new travelers to share with them our love and light; and help them in their first leg of this lifelong excursion.

In the grand scheme this is all relatively new to me and I’m learning more about the grief process everyday. I have learned one important lesson; the only thing that matters on this journey is that we keep going.

We Can Do Better

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My heart is breaking. My heart is breaking for the families of the Dallas officers, for the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, for my friends raising black children in these scary times, for the officers that say goodbye to their families not knowing if they will return, for my daughter who will one day lose the innocence of believing that the world is always beautiful and magical. My heart is breaking for the country that I love but is so badly broken. 

I am fortunate to have a job that allows me to work with people of all races, ages, religions, and sexual orientation. Because of this I can tell you that #blacklivesmatter is necessary. Living only surrounded by white privilege (not talking about the type of privilege afforded by wealth) it can be hard to truly understand the meaning of this movement. Yes, of course all lives matter. That is a no-brainer. However there is still an unacceptable amount of disparity and profiling towards black people. I have had the experience of being the only person of my race at events and gatherings. I have felt what it’s like to wonder if someone is making an assumption about me based on my race and not for who I am. I have felt this way a handful of times, however I have black friends and colleagues that have felt this way on a regular basis.  
I have family and friends in law enforcement. I cannot imagine the burden that is on their shoulders day to day. I am so incredibly thankful that there are people willing to put their lives on the line for our safety. I see cops policing the city of Wilmington all the time. The child care providers that I work with in some of the toughest neighborhoods of the city are grateful for the police presence and many of them have wonderful relationships with them. They are working hard to keep the people of this city safe and as someone who works in these neighborhoods I am also grateful.
We do not live in a world that is colorblind; nor should we want to. We need to talk about our differences. We need to have conversations about race. This is the ONLY way we will understand each other. Standing up for our brothers and sisters of color and standing behind the law enforcement that protects and serves us does not have to be mutually exclusive. We can do better…we HAVE to.