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.

Parenting Through…

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“Mommy come too?” It’s a phrase I hear many, many times a day.  My 2 year old wants me with her constantly.  And truthfully I love it. I love that I am her “person”.  Nothing in this world makes me happier than being her mother.  But sometimes it can be stressful.  Especially on days when I’m exhausted and burnt out from..well, life. There are times when motherhood is trying.  Sometimes it is a difficult day with the child (wrangling toddlers is not for the faint of heart) but many other times it’s due to outside factors.  Life’s trials and tribulations do not stop when a woman becomes a mother.  Sometimes it may feel like there is a bubble surrounding parenthood.  We tend to lose track of time, current events, and pop culture at times.  But eventually life creeps in.

Tragedy, loss, heartache, and disappointment are part of life.  When a parent finds themselves in one of these dark times it can feel twice as difficult.  Not only are we faced with the trying situation, but we must also consider how to navigate parenting through the darkness.

Unfortunately this is my current reality.  The recent, unexpected death of my father has left me broken, angry, and emotionally exhausted.  There are mornings when getting out of bed seems too daunting, let alone going to work and functioning as a parent.  Grief is heavy and exhausting.  While in the thick of the grieving process, there is little energy left for anything else. So what is a parent to do?

Guys, we have to “parent through”.  Our lives go through so many different seasons and parenting does not come with a pause button (unless I’m missing something, if so, please clue me in).  I have always tried to bring out my fun, energetic side while with my daughter.  I want to teach her about love, kindness, and finding joy in everyday life.  However, I would be doing her a disservice if I did not teach her about the REAL.  So I do my best to function these days. Somedays I feel like myself and other days my sadness gets the best of me.  This is what is real right now.  My daughter has seen me cry more than I would like to admit over these past 2 months but it becomes a teachable moment.  We talk about sadness.  We talk about her Pop-pop and how much we miss him.  And she has learned a great deal about empathy.  When she notices that I am sad she hugs me and rubs my back saying, “I make you feel better Mommy!”.

On the days when I feel like I am failing at everything, I try to remember these inadvertent lessons.  My hope is that as my daughter grows older I can show her strength in adversity but at the same time let her know that it is okay to be sad sometimes.

So when you find yourself journeying through the dark side of life, be kind to yourself.  Recognize that you are doing your best.  And as for your little ones, teach them life. Teach them REAL. Because fortunately and unfortunately, life goes on….and we must parent through.

Letting Go

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We recently celebrated a big day in our household. Our baby girl turned one. I constantly wonder where time has gone. This feisty, silly, loving little girl has changed my life in ways I never imagined. This is why I celebrated two milestones that day.

I also celebrated the anniversary of becoming a mother.

I read somewhere that women are essentially “reborn” when they become a mother. The spiritual and
emotional transformation that takes place when a woman gives birth is indescribable. So, along with my
baby’s special day, I quietly celebrated my anniversary of motherhood.
In honor of this anniversary I have chosen to work on letting go.

I will be letting go of guilt. The working mom guilt that weighs heavy on my heart each morning as I kiss
my baby girl goodbye. I will let go of the guilt of knowing that I will never again be able to devote 100%
of myself to my career (and the guilt of feeling okay with that).

I will be letting go of comparisons. I will stop comparing my journey with those of other mothers. I will
let go of the anxiety and depression that consumed me during pregnancy and I will stop feeling remorse
about choosing to formula feed my baby.

I will be letting go of inadequacy. I will forget about the housework that I cannot seem to conquer. I will
be letting go of those moments when I feel unattractive in this new “mommy body”.

I will let go of panic. The panic I feel when I realize how quickly time is passing. I will let go of the
desperation of wanting to cling to every precious moment because it is simply not possible.

I’m letting go, because I’m busy holding on.

I’m holding on to every kiss, every hug, and every cuddle. I’m savoring smiles, giggles, and baby talk. I’m
relishing in every “mama” that is uttered from her sweet lips.

I will try to replace the guilt on work days with the knowledge that my daughter is well cared for by my
mother. I will focus on the hugs and kisses at the end of the day.

I will try to replace comparisons with support. I will use my pregnancy experience to help other mothers
who may be struggling too. I will remember that my daughter is healthy and happy and all of my
decisions have been out of love.

I will try to replace inadequacy with joy. Instead of focusing on unfinished chores I will focus on what
has been accomplished (Even if it is only reading books and singing “OldMacDonald”). I will try to
celebrate my “mommy shape” and remember that my body housed a PERSON for nine months. That is
more amazing than any weight loss!

Lastly, I am going to enjoy these moments instead of focusing on how quickly they pass. I am going to
love my little girl with every fiber of my being; remembering that motherhood is a privilege and it is an honor to watch her grow.

Will this be possible?Maybe not, but I will make an effort. I encourage all mothers to do the same. Let
go of negativity and hold onto the fact that you are the whole world in the eyes of your little ones; even
when you don’t see it.