Guest Post: Megan Stevens
Being “all natural” is the latest catch phrase in motherhood, eating, and living. Don’t get me wrong; it sounds good and healthy and can be a worthy pursuit, but sometimes life takes an unnatural turn.
My road to motherhood has been anything but natural. It started marked by grief. It scares me to be the person sorrow has touched and left wounded: a wound that, though it may heal, will always bear a scar, a quick reminder of your grief. Sorrow is, in a way, much like coming to adulthood. Once it hits, you are never the same, and you look back fondly to the days of innocence.
I wish I could say I handle grief gracefully, but I cannot. It hit me hard. I struggled between hope in God, anger at anyone nearby, and mind-numbing sadness, depending on the day or hour you might have asked me.
Eventually I accepted the fact we would never naturally conceive. Weeks of hormone injections, ultrasounds, and doctors visits all culminated in a cold sterile room with my husband sitting by my side for implantation. This is about as far from natural as baby making can be. Upon leaving, we were given a picture of two eight-celled embryos, our babies. It was surreal. We snapped a picture together. I grieved the lack of intimacy required but rejoiced we had made it so far.
I stared at those babies, prayed for those babies, hoped beyond hope for those babies to live, and one day at 7 am in my office bathroom I saw something I had never seen: two lines. Our first ultrasound showed one small heartbeat, and we were overjoyed. All the unnatural lead the way to a very real baby, and my journey to natural could continue despite the unnatural conception.
Fast-forward 41 weeks and 4 days, after a terribly long and generally uncomfortable pregnancy (I wasn’t one of those infertility patients who was so grateful it made me not complain—to my shame). I found myself at a birthing center, unable to physically stop the forces of my body from bringing this baby into the world. It was the most wonderfully horrible natural experience of my life, and suddenly my husband and I welcomed our son, Phineas Alexander, into the world. An unexpected gift. We were relieved, we were tired, we were happy.
I assumed I would breastfeed—it’s natural, after all—and he was on my chest immediately. By day three I realized something was wrong. On day four, the lactation consultant stopped by and suggested he was tongue-tied. I had the first appointment I could with a doctor to correct his tongue so he could latch correctly. A Monday appointment guaranteed a weekend for significant damage to a normally chapping experience. A still lazy lower lip, even after correction, caused blood-mixed milk to spill from my always hungry baby's mouth.
The natural way was killing me. I couldn’t wear clothing, I couldn't snuggle my baby close, and I couldn’t hug my husband. Instead of feeling joy to see my baby awake, I would feel dread.
One day three weeks later, after about as much support as someone could hope for, I sat sobbing in my midwife’s office. She took one look at the situation and told me what my husband had already made clear: something had to change. She sent me home with a bag full of donated milk and strict instruction to bottle feed my precious baby every two hours, as much as he would eat. I was to pump to keep up supply, and her words stuck with me as we left: “Maybe he’ll go back to the breast, after you heal.”
Maybe. It took two and a half weeks for me to heal to a point where I could tolerate clothing. While Finn was thriving, I was once again grieving the loss of the expected—the natural. We tried going back, correcting the latch, re-teaching the suck, and this resulted in a gaping hole and the return of the blood-mixed milk.
At six weeks, I made the decision to wean him and stopped pumping. I became a formula-feeding mom. I was overjoyed. We are all healthy, the hourly tears have stopped, the baby is strong, and mom can snuggle.
This journey has softened me; it’s given me compassion for those living the unexpected and trying to make the best decision in the moment. It's made me contemplate the beauty of God’s unnatural love for me, a love I don’t deserve. So I proudly tell our story and I am thankful for the unnatural; without it my son would not exist. Without it he would not have a full belly, and without it I wouldn’t know saving grace.
We live in a fallen, imperfect world, and what a gift it is that there is unnatural help along the way.