Saturday, March 21, 2015

Why Breastmilk is Like Manna

Parenting can be stressful. Like that moment when your pediatrician tells you that your baby has only put on one ounce in the last two weeks. Suddenly you realize that you are probably the worse parent the world has ever seen, and that you are failing this helpless little creature who looks to you for everything. Nevermind that she is a healthy, active baby who can push herself up into a standing position in your hands, make eye contact, babble, mimic faces, laugh, and blow the sides out of a diaper with the best of them. Never mind that she grew an inch in length and a centimeter in head circumference. One ounce of weight gain, and immediately you begin to doubt your competency even to be a parent.

Then you start wondering, “How do I tell my parents? How do I tell my in-laws? Won’t they just pounce on us with more advice than we can shake a stick at? Will we have to rehash every parenting decision since conception and justify them all?”

But most of all, the all-consuming question is, “How do we get the breastmilk to come in more plentifully?”

Of course the answer is simple, and not too far off from what we were already doing. The plan is mostly a scheduling thing, basically just make her eat every 2 ½ - 3 hours, whether she wants to or not. This means stop letting her sleep through the night (sad face) and wake her up for a feeding every 3 hours minimum until she bulks up and has the fat reserves to go longer.

What that simple plan adds up to in real life, though, is a lot of anxiety, and almost no sleep for the first couple of days. Since my wife is pumping after every feeding, we usually have an extra half an ounce or so of milk in a bottle at the end of the feeding, and the temptation is to save those little scraps up, add them together, and give Evie a monster feeding at the end of the day, and give Mommy a rest.

But “No” says the lactation consultant, “That’s not what you want to do.” Instead she wants us to use it as we go. Just feed it to her from the bottle, because it takes less work than the breast and she will swallow it even when she is tired. So now, unlike a few days ago when I could look in the fridge and see at least a couple of ounces chilling there that we could fall back on in an emergency, now there is nothing. There is only one feeding at a time.

There are moments when I see the appeal of formula, not as a supplement or as a replacement in emergencies, but as a full time strategy. Formula is 100% in my control. I can go out and buy it when we need it, I can stockpile it, I can mix as much as I want, and we can always see it, there on the counter, ready to go. There is no fear that maybe this time, there just won’t be enough. This despite all my medical training and having done multiple research papers on the benefits of breastmilk over formula, still, it is attractive because it is 100% in my control. I can forcefeed that baby and make her put on the rolls!

It shouldn’t be too hard to see where I am going with this, should it?

Well, lo and behold, yesterday morning after less sleep than I could conveniently count I turned on the Divine Office podcast while we fed Evie her morning meal, which we refer to as first breakfast. The whole series of psalms and readings was so perfect I am linking you to the page here (go to Office of Readings tab).

Yet still they sinned against him;
They defied the Most High in the desert.
In their heart they put God to the test
By demanding the food they craved.

They even spoke against God.
They said: Is it possible for God
To prepare a table in the desert?

It was He who struck the rock,
Water flowed and swept down in torrents.
But can He also give us bread?
Can He provide meat for his people?”

When He heard this the Lord was angry.
A fire was kindled against Jacob,
His anger rose against Israel
For having no faith in God;
For refusing to trust in his help.

Yet he commanded the clouds above
And opened the gates of heaven.
He rained down manna for their food,
And gave them bread from heaven.

Mere men ate the bread of angels.
He sent them abundance of food;
He made the east wind blow from heaven
And roused the south wind by his might.

He rained food on them like dust,
Winged fowl like the sands of the sea.
He let it fall in the midst of their camp
And all around their tents.

So they ate and had their fill;
And He gave them all they craved.
Psalm 78:17-29
When I read this, two feelings immediately struck me. The first was renewed hope and gratitude. Trust. God is trustworthy. He designed the whole breastfeeding system, He loves Evie far more than we do, and we can safely trust her with Him.

The second was shame. I had not been trusting. I had been freaking out, at least deep down inside, if not actually in words or actions. I mean really, what is your trust worth if you only trust Him when everything is going right?

Of course, as I type this a little voice in my head whispers, “Oh, it’s all very well to trust God in most things, but this is different. This is serious. Too much is riding on this to sit back and do nothing.”

But what about the Israelites in the desert? What did God tell them?

“And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing,
fine as frost on the ground. When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.’” And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat. And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.” But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank.”

I am pretty sure the Israelites were far more desperate than we are. They had no reserves, their very lives were at stake. If the manna failed to come, they were literally going to starve to death! Is it any wonder some tried to hoard up a supply? And yet God was requiring trust of them. He was requiring them to trust Him with their lives, to give up their attempts at control and just enjoy His providence.

This is what He is requiring of us. Absolute trust. That little voice is right. It is all well and good to trust God most of the time, but until I trust Him with something that really matters, when my life or the life of someone I love is at stake, I have not really trusted Him.

So I thank Him for this trial of trust, and I am sorry for not having seized it more fully. But all things work together for good to them that love Him, even my slowness of heart. Glory be to Him!

1 comment:

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