Planning ahead

The Feast of St. Nicholas is coming soon – December 6th. My friend, Rachel May, (a 4 Real Learning Forum All-Star), sent me a link to Paidea Classics, a website run by an Orthodox homeschool family. She was buying Nativity Icon shrink art – an excellent gift to fill shoes or stockings. But she knew I would be especially eager to get these special coins.

Thanks, Rachel. And I can’t wait to use that St. Nicholas Speculaas mold you gifted me last year.

And to Barbara, my lovely sister who will be here on the 6th, I’ll order coins for your kiddos, too. And if I get two sets of the ornaments, each kid can make two.

A sane and simple Thanksgiving

Tune in tomorrow morning at 9:15 am EST to listen to Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle give some tips on making Thanksgiving an enjoyable day. You can listen to Ave Marie radio online real time, but if you miss it, there are audio archives!

My personal sane and simple Thanksgiving day plans? Herd six children across the street to my neighbor’s house and let her feed us. I’m bringing pumpkin bread, which I’ll probably bake today.

The only stressor is trying to make sure Bill sees the Green Bay game. I don’t know if they have TV. Fortunately, that game is the early one, so, if necessary, he’ll be “stuck” at home with the napping toddler while the kids and I socialize before dinner.

Simple enough, huh?

In defense of bottle feeding

Yes, that’s right.

My previous post in which I defend my desire to breastfeed my child, I stated that I don’t think the “issue” of bottle feeding versus breastfeeding is a moral one. I really don’t think it should be an “issue” at all. In fact, I think the real issue is that it is an issue.

I think breastfeeding is the natural choice. I think it is the healthiest choice. I think it is worth the initial difficulties.

But I don’t think we mothers need any more pressure.

I’m pro-homeschooling, but do not feel mothers who send their children to schools are bad mothers.

I’m pro-cloth diapering, but don’t think mothers who use disposable ones are bad either. That’s mainly because I use disposable diapers. Every so often I feel really guilty about that, but that is ridiculous.

I’m pro-daily family rosaries, but, again, I fall short of that ideal. Again, there is guilt. Again, I remind myself to be realistic.

Since that comment was left anonymously, I can not ascertain whether the author intended to pressure me into giving up breastfeeding. I like to assume, rather, that the intent was to ease any guilt I feel about giving my child a bottle. And I do feel guilt. And it is ridiculous.

Jill directed me to Danielle Bean’s latest article at Inside Catholic which touches on the problem of how we women can help or hurt each other:

While it’s true that no one can tear apart a vulnerable woman quite like another woman, it is equally true that no one can build up and encourage a vulnerable woman quite like another woman. We can’t ever truly know another’s plight and particular challenges. It’s important to stand up for the truth, and there is a place for admonishing the sinner, but that never means using others’ weaknesses and vulnerabilities to feed our own egos.

Ultimately, it really, truly doesn’t matter how we feed our babies (or how they get their education, or if they wear cloth diapers, or if they say the rosary every day). What matters is that we love them and care for them and raise them to the best of our abilities.

As Danielle said: Let’s encourage one another.


Congress to hold off on Iraq war money

And they wonder why service members and their dependants tend to vote Republican.

First, they fire civilian contractors. This means more work for soldiers who have to pick up the slack (because they can’t fire the soldiers). Then they start shuffling money from different accounts to pay for things like soldier’s pay and bullets and food.

So even though they’re in the middle of repaving that road down the street from me, they take the money away, and the road sits, unpaved, waiting for funds.

And then swimming classes for my kids get canceled because they have no money to pay the instructors.

And then it takes a week or more for my leaky hot water heater to be fixed because they had to fire half the maintenance staff.

And then I have to wait three hours to get a prescription filled because there are fewer workers there.

Then they cut back hours on the grocery store, the PX and the Class VI.

And if things get really bad, they won’t pay the soldiers. They won’t fire them, no, they’ll have to work on the promise of getting their money eventually. And they’ll have no choice because it’s illegal for them to not work. And they will get their money, eventually, but in the meantime, the grocery store, the PX and the Class VI won’t provide you with your essentials on the promise of future payment. And if you happen to live off post, your landlord or your mortgage lender won’t be too happy if you tell them that you’re waiting for Congress to pay you.

So Congress doesn’t end the war early, save anyone’s life, or even ruffle any feathers in the executive branch at all. They’ll say they support the troops and that they’re doing this for them.

I guess you hurt most the ones you love.

My body, my choice

In the comment box:

Michelle, I’m sorry for your struggle with breastfeeding. I do, however, think that maybe you are putting too much emphasis on your own desire to nurse your baby, and not on the grace of having available a healthy alternative. It’s not about you at this point and I think far too often we as mothers get hung up on doing what we want, at the expense of everything else. If your daughter is doing fine on formula, be grateful that there is formula out there that’s good and beneficial. It’s not so much how you feed your baby, but that you feed your baby, and that your baby thrives.

First of all, I am truly grateful that my baby is healthy and thriving on bottled supplement – both formula and expressed milk. I have often considered that if I were living on a rural farm a hundred years ago, my child would likely be dead or very sickly.

But gratitude for modern technology that gives me a breast pump, safe drinking water and high-tech baby formula does not change the fact that my body is not functioning as it should. It is normal to grieve over this handicap.

If I were in a terrible accident and lost half my leg, I would be grateful that I didn’t lose my life, I would thank God for technology that would give me a good prosthetic, but it would be odd if I didn’t miss my leg and wish to be whole. If this were my first child, if I had not successfully breastfed five children (four of them with little difficulty), perhaps it would not be as difficult. But knowing what my body was capable of doing, and not being able to do it now, is very frustrating.

Secondly, yes, I do have an intense desire to nurse my child. In the last 9 1/2 years, I have been breastfeeding a child all but 15 months broken up in brief pauses between weaning one and birthing another. It’s a part of my life, it’s a habit, it’s what I’m used to doing, it’s how I know how to take care of a baby. I can and will adapt as the situation demands, but I am reluctant to shrug a tried and true method at the first sign of trouble. I persevered through this exact situation with my fourth child, and by the time she was three months old the tears were long dried and the supplements long forgotten.

Ultimately, what needs to be discerned is God’s will. Although I don’t feel that bottle feeding or breastfeeding is a moral issue, I do think that since God gave me breasts designed to provide nourishment for my child, that it is natural for that to be my goal. Other mothers may happily choose to bottle feed, and I have no problem with that. I was a bottle fed baby, and I turned out just fine – healthy, intelligent and well-bonded with my mom. But I feel that breastfeeding is what God intended, and it’s what I’d like to do.

Four years ago, when I struggled to feed Jenny, I wondered and prayed about whether or not it was God’s will for me to bottle feed her instead. I honestly don’t think He cared one way or the other. But I don’t think, if He had to choose for me, that He would really pick a bottle over His own perfect design.

Sometimes when we suffer it is because we are choosing our desires over God’s desires. But sometimes when we suffer it is merely because life is difficult. I don’t believe that God is causing this suffering, nor do I believe that this suffering is because I’m being overly selfish. Many may say that the suffering is pointless, and that I should save myself all the grief. Others, especially those who know me well, may understand the grief that would attend my quitting.

Is it wrong for me to spend so much time nursing, pumping, going to the lactation consultant’s office, and devising spreadsheets to track the baby’s weight gain? Perhaps my family is not eating gourmet meals, the laundry is being done only on an as-needed basis, and schoolwork is a bit lighter than normal. This is life with any new baby. The only person, besides me, who is having a hard time, is my husband, who is foregoing schoolwork to do childcare. But he has chosen to support me in this, and I thank the Lord that his schedule, for once, permits him the leeway to be home more often to help me.

And the baby? She’s fine. Here she is all snuggled on my lap as I type this blog post. I would never jeopardize her health for my own selfish desires. Breastfeeding is not more important than a healthy baby. But I don’t think my breastfeeding and her health are mutually exclusive goals.

What I’ve really been up to

I realize that my blogging since the baby’s birth has been…minimal. Even when I do post, it is a bit lacking in substance. Now that the relatives are gone, I’m back to my usual life: feed baby at breast, feed baby with a bottle, pump, change baby’s diaper, repeat. Sometimes for variety I read out of a history book or do a math lesson.

If I’m not doing that, I’m off to the clinic or the LC’s (lactation consultant) office. Mary is now 5 weeks old, and not yet back to her birth weight. I’m bottle-feeding her way more than I want to, but I realize it is important that she put on weight. Apparently, besides being too stressed out to produce enough milk, I am also too old and too tired and worn out. Naturally, I reject all those theories, but it sure makes life hard when, once again, an appointment with the LC fails to demonstrate that the baby is getting enough at the breast.

Whenever I read about the heroic deaths of the saints, whether a martyrdom or a slow, painful suffering from something like tuberculosis, I wonder if I could bear that cross with dignity and without complaint. I think the answer is no. Too often I hear myself saying, “I quit! It’s too hard.” The fact is, I have little patience for this whole process. I want a quick fix: more milk, better sucking, no effort – POOF!

I will admit to a certain level of enjoyment at the convenience of handing my husband the baby and a bottle and running out to the grocery store alone. But then I feel I have to sneak down the baby aisle and hide the container of formula under the other groceries. It’s ridiculous, I know. But the whole breastfeeding/bottle feeding thing is very emotional for me.

I’ll get through this. Deep down, I’m not ready to quit yet. But I pray for fortitude and patience. This isn’t a noble or glorious suffering, like having the stigmata. But the pumping, the watching the clock, the recording of every wet diaper, and the trips to weigh the baby definitely qualify as a cross. I just need to offer it up.