Thursday, December 31, 2009

This I Believe - Jen's Essay

Here's Jen's This I Believe Essay:

This I Believe Essay
Jen Johnson

I believe in breastfeeding.

I believe in breastfeeding, and not only for the reasons you might expect. It’s pretty easy to get on board with breastfeeding simply by looking at the health benefits of breast milk to a baby. Doctors argue that breast milk is the “perfect food.” Babies are even protected from disease by the antibodies passed through the breast milk. Some research has shown that babies who are breastfed actually have higher IQs than those who aren’t. Conclusion: I’d be an idiot not to believe in breastfeeding.

For me, though, my belief in breastfeeding is a lot more complicated than the information you could gleen from a La Leche League webpage. For starters, breastfeeding, for me, was HARD.

The most representative breastfeeding horror story occurred very early in our breastfeeding journey. We were hunkered down in the NICU with our adorable newborn, Rigley, concerned that pneumonia was marginalizing her ability to take in enough food. As a result, the doctors wanted us to weigh Rigley before and after every feeding, so that we could determine exactly how much milk she was taking in. Talk about pressure! What resulted is what I can only describe as a breastfeeding obsession. Here’s the scene:

Chris: Is she sucking?
Jen: Yep, she’s sucking.
Chris: Awesome! What about now?
Jen: No, not anymore.
Chris: (sigh). I need you to tell me when she’s sucking and when she’s not sucking.
Jen: Ok
Jen: Sucking…sucking…sucking! ….Not sucking.
Chris: (huge sigh).
Jen: sucking…sucking..sucking!…Not sucking.
Chris: (huge sigh).

When I said “sucking,” clouds parted, angels sang, and bugles played from the heavens. When I said “not sucking,” Armageddon was upon us.

I would say that we spent a good 72 hours repeating this routine, with a couple of brief interruptions to grab some stale biscuits and gravy at the hospital cafeteria, watch a few Michael Jackson memorial shows, and, oh yeah, pump my boobs so that my milk supply wouldn’t be reduced when Rigley got her strength up.

When I look back on this situation, or tell this story to friends, all I can do is laugh. I laugh about our dialogue. I laugh about how we managed to cope through something really hard. I laugh about how quickly two really well adjusted humans can become overcome by such tunnel vision.

This adversity, and the ability to maintain a sense of humor with my wonderful partner, is really the crux of my belief in breastfeeding. It hints at a greater, more important belief, which is my belief in all of the qualities required for good motherhood, qualities like perseverance, good communication, and of course, humor.

There are very few parenting decisions as clear cut as breastfeeding, and sometimes I wish I could approach motherhood in general with the same confidence as I do my method for feeding Rigley. Sometimes I don’t always believe that I’m a good mom, even though I really want to. It’s in those moments that I try to remind myself about my belief in breastfeeding:

I make good health choices for my baby, therefore, I’m a good mom.

I can survive things that are really hard, therefore, I’m a good mom.

I laugh at myself. A lot. Therefore, I’m a good mom.

In summary, I breastfeed, therefore, I’m a good mom.

And that’s about the most powerful belief I think I can have.


mg said...

This is really great, Jen! And something it feels good to read, as I've had a rough boob-related (isn't everything with babies?) 24-hours. Thanks!

Katherine said...

Hi, Jen! Miss you, but feel connected while reading you words. You have excellent insight.