Feeding Our Bellies & Our Souls
I love the holidays. It’s such a magical time of year for our family. From the snow glistening on the pine tree branches to the lights sparkling around our neighborhood. The excitement of finding the perfect gift to watching as the recipient opens that gift with joyful exuberance. The twinkle in Santa’s eye to the amazement in the eye of the toddler meeting him for the first time. Magic is everywhere.
And then there is the food. Ham, turkey, casserole, homemade bread, cakes, cookies, pies…They bring a magic of their own. Food brings us together, it brings our family around the table where we not only eat and nourish our bodies, but we talk, we laugh, we share and we nourish our souls.
Family dinners are such a major part of my childhood and motherhood memories. I love to think back to the many conversations I’ve had with family and friends, while sitting around the table. There were so many talks with my nana about life and death, politics, religion, and other things you aren’t supposed to discuss in public, while eating a grilled cheese sandwich or her famous chocolate cake. Conversations with my cousins about college, boyfriends, world travels, and babies, while devouring fresh cinnamon rolls or cookies. Chats with friends about motherhood, marriage, and reality TV, on mom’s night out at restaurants our husbands don’t like, or with the kids at places that welcome large packs of preschoolers.
So much of our lives happen around the table. Nurturing us, and feeding our bellies and souls.
That relationship – that body and soul filling relationship – starts in the womb. Our mother’s bodies providing all we need to grow and develop. And then, when we are born, that feeding journey continues. Through the milk of their breast, or through formula.
As mothers we do what we feel is best for our children. For some moms, that is breastfeeding. The physical connection, and nutrients from mom. There are benefits for both mom and baby.
But sometimes, breastfeeding isn’t the right choice, or a choice at all, for some mothers. And for those moms, there is formula. Formula feeding your baby doesn’t mean you are nurturing or nourishing them any less than a mom who chooses to breastfeed. In fact, the bond can be the same, and for some, even better! (In my case, my attempt to breastfeed caused depression and anxiety, and therefore only hurt my bonding experience with my daughter.)
A formula or bottle feeding mother can still do skin to skin while feeding, they are still able to look into their babies eyes and connect, they are still giving their baby the best. And other family members can also participate in the feedings, which I think is a huge benefit. Dad, or sister, or grandma, can also provide this body and soul nourishment.
I do not regret my breastfeeding experience. It was a struggle, it was an emotional roller coaster with very few ups and a whole lot of downs but, it also gave me a different perspective on motherhood. I have always been a planner, and I learned through my daughter’s birth, and feeding experience that things don’t always go as planned. So, no, I do not regret my attempt at breastfeeding, I truly gave it my all, literally to the point of breaking. But I do wish I had let it go sooner. Formula was a godsend for me, and for my daughter. I was finally able to relax, she was able to relax, we were both able to enjoy. It took awhile, honestly, but eventually I came to terms with my “primary lactation failure” as diagnosed by my doctor, and understood that despite what people around me in real life and social media were saying, it isn’t HOW you feed your baby, it’s that you feed your baby.
I was feeding my daughter. I was feeding her what she needed to grow, to thrive.I was feeding her with formula, and with love. I was feeding her belly and her soul.
Next week, I’ll be sitting around my aunt’s big dining room table with my family and our friends. We will share food, and stories, laughter, and love. Young and old, we will be feeding each other.
Bellies and souls.