When Katria was a baby (I shared her story before) she had difficulty nursing. I didn't realize it at first, and at first she gained weight great. However, after we came home from the hospital when she was 1 month old, and my abundant milk supply regulated to what she was taking, I began to notice that she wasn't taking in very much. It didn't seem normal to me. When a visiting nurse came to our house (she came because Kati was premature) and weighed her, I was shocked to discover that Katria had only gained 4 oz. in 4 weeks! I was dismayed. I took her to the pediatrician who confirmed that she was not gaining weight. He gave me 4 days to see if things would improve now that I was aware of the problem, before I considered supplementing or, as a last resort, quitting nursing. She was already really tiny and had just battled bacterial meningitis. On top of her clubfoot, and weekly visits to a specialist 2 hours away, I was unprepared for this new challenge. I also had a 3 and 2 year old at home. Talk about stress. I went home and pumped for 4 days and fed her a bottle out of desperation to get some weight on her. In those 4 days, she gained 6 oz. When I took her back in to the doctor, he recommended bottle feeding her my breastmilk. I was then to come back in a week for a weight check. The thought of pumping and then bottle feeding while trying to manage 3 under age 3 was overwhelming, but I was willing to try. I rented a pump and went to work. I did this for about a week, but my supply was decreasing steadily each day. In addition, I felt like this was all I did, all I thought about: my baby gaining weight. It was exhausting.
After visiting the pediatrician for the second weight check, he recommended that I quit nursing altogether. He saw the stress I was under and the toll it was taking on me. Cameron and I had prayed that whatever he told us would be the decision God wanted us to make. However, even after his recommendation, I was unsure. We continued to pray. A few days later, we ran into a friend who is also a pediatrician. After explaining the situation to him, he confirmed the recommendation to quit nursing due to the difference in calories between my breastmilk and formula. We took both doctor's advice to heart, prayed some more, and made the decision to quit nursing and feed Katria formula. This decision came with the drawback of the added expense of formula on our already extremely tight budget. Honestly, we couldn't afford formula.
Even as I was relieved to quit due to the stress of breastfeeding, I was racked with guilt. I was not prepared for the emotions that came--feeling of failure and that there was something more I could have done. It hurt to see my friends contentedly nursing their infants. In addition, the drastic drop of hormones from a sudden end to nursing brought on a slight case of the baby blues. I thought about how I had pumped all through the long days and nights Katria was in the PICU on the ventilator, storing up a huge supply in the freezer in the hospital. I had nursed her as she slowly fought the illness in her body and felt victory that my milk, exactly what God designed for her little body, helped her to recover. I also had nursed Anna, despite cracked and bleeding nipples for 6 weeks, which were so incredibly bad that they have left permanent scars. I persevered and nursed Anna and then Jonas for an entire year. Now to have to quit . . . I felt defeated despite all these past victories.
It was a few weeks after I quit that I was praying and asking God "why?", when I knew that he had designed breastmilk to be the best, exactly what a baby needed. If it was His best, then why was I unable to nurse? Why did it not "work" despite my countless prayers?
Here is the answer I felt Him give me and it has given me so much comfort since then, even applied to different situations. Maybe it will help you even if you aren't a breastfeeding mother! :)
He said: "My grace is not only for when you DON'T measure up, because of your sin. It is also for when you CAN'T measure up, when you physically CAN'T."
Do you see the distinction? Maybe this isn't news to you, but at the time it was a revelation to me. I was praying and as soon as I finished I immediately thought these words in my head (I can still remember where I was) and I thought, "Where did that come from? That wasn't my thought. I didn't think that." My heart starting pounding and I was flooded with peace. I meditated on this all day, mulling it over and over again in my mind.
My inability to nurse wasn't my fault, but I still needed grace for not measuring up to God's standard of perfection and God gave it to me. He extends grace to all of us who are in Christ Jesus, not just for our willful sins, but for all of those ways that we will NEVER be able to measure up to the standard. We are flawed in so many ways, not just our actions. We are fallen. But there is grace. Isn't that encouraging? Doesn't it remove the guilt and make you love Christ MORE. Don't we all struggle with feelings of false guilt, not understanding how completely we are covered? His grace IS sufficient. It is enough. It is MORE than enough. I read yesterday in Romans 5:20, 21 "The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more . . . ". Where sin increased, grace increased even more! My status before God is one of righteousness in Christ Jesus. Even though I don't make the mark--I fall short EVERYDAY--God extends his grace to me EVERYDAY. It wasn't a one time thing. The medium in which I stand, in which I LIVE, is grace. What a blessing.
I hope this encourages you as much as it encouraged me!
In Christ, Laura