Wednesday, January 4, 2012

nurse this.

This post is a shout-out to my sister-in-law (who, to be honest, does not read this blog, but I am putting it out there in a kind of 'good karma' way, as if it could somehow reach her by Osmosis of the Internets.) (Quite a mess of the English language, there).

I have four sisters-in-law. One is married to my younger brother, and she is pretty much awesome.  We disagree on a few things but nothing of huge consequence. One is married to my youngest brother, and she is a little more complicated, fairly high maintenance and tends toward arrogance, but she is smart as a whip and I feel like our relationship is getting better.

One is my husband's sister. She is 13 years older than I am, but we have a lot in common. We have a great time together and I miss living closer to her. Her kids are all in or graduated from college and I really appreciate her parenting perspective. 

And the last one is married to my husband's brother. I've mentioned her before: she and her husband are SUPER conservative Christians who can be pretty judgmental, so we tend to avoid topics like politics, religion, meaning of life, books, movies, culture...the weather is pretty safe. We talk about the weather a lot. And also how we like chocolate.

She and her husband had a baby about two weeks ago. They tried for awhile - about a year - and when we visited them last spring, she and I sort of bonded over the difficulties of getting pregnant. She had recently suffered a miscarriage. 

So it was exciting when she got pregnant (and, I mean, it must have been practically the week we were there). Baby due on January 1. These two people have - and there's no way to say this without sounding like a total asshat about it, but it's the truth - absolutely NO, zero, nada, zilch experience with babies or children, so we have had a few giggles about the shift in life they were about to undergo. Like the day my brother-in-law said that he didn't know why they needed to get a changing table since, and I quote, "the baby only needs to be changed once a day and [my wife] will do that."

**insert chirping crickets here**

Yeah. So, the baby arrived a few weeks early and they've been doing okay, pretty normal, and we have managed to keep our snickering to a minimum, like when we called them after about a week and my brother-in-law said, in a voice that suggested great umbrage because certainly no parent has had to do this in the history of ever, "we've been sleeping in shifts." Yes. Welcome to parenthood, dude.

But last night, my sister-in-law called. For the first time. In seven years. In the whole time I have known her. Because she is having a lot of trouble breastfeeding and I think she just needed to talk about it, and my heart broke for her.

She is basically alone, no family in the area, and although I am not my brother-in-law's biggest fan, I know that even his best support can only go so far on this one. All of a sudden I was flashing back to those early days of breastfeeding which were, to put it kindly, the HARDEST MOTHERF*%#ING DAYS OF MY LIFE, so much so that I prefer not to think about them. I told her she was doing a great job, and she should be so proud of herself for working so hard at it, and she should not feel at all guilty for using formula, it's just fine, and breastfeeding is SO SO SO SO HARD at first, and it really does get better, and so many women struggle with it but nobody really tells you the truth about this, probably because they are worried about scaring the life out of you, and also because it's really hard to describe it without bursting into tears. 

And it got me thinking about all those women out there who are breastfeeding right now and struggling with it, and all those women who feel guilty about giving their child formula (I did, for the longest time, until a breastfeeding guru I went to said to me, "the most important thing is that the baby eats. That's it. If you nurse her, great. If you feed her formula, great. She just needs to eat." She was a word of sheer grace to me).

Here's what I want to say to my sister-in-law, and anybody else:

You are amazing for working so hard at this. You should be hugely proud of yourself.  You are not alone. It gets better. And formula, at any level, can be your friend. Do not feel guilty. Do the best you can and do not beat yourself up. YOU ARE SHEER AWESOME. Do not doubt this.

To my sister-in-law: I really mean it. No snickering. No judgment. You rock. It will all be okay.