It isn’t often in life that you meet someone who is truly your opposite. If we were superheroes, I might even consider her my nemesis. Knowing somebody whose natural instincts are exactly the opposite of yours might seem like a recipe for a frustrating relationship. When it comes to Renae and me, it isn’t. I love her. I find the ways that we’re different to be enlightening and often hilarious. I remember the two of us giving advice to a new mom (between us Renae and I have 7 kids ages 6 and under) once and I said, “Babies aren’t that complicated if you just remember to feed them, play with them, then put them to sleep. When they wake up and cry, you know they’re hungry again.” Renae said, “Ooooooooooooh” as though that whole routine had never occurred to her even though she’d been raising babies for the last four years. Hilarious. She’s just so go-with-the-flow and relaxed about how she parents. I love that about her. It’s so different from me who feels the need to schedule, prepare, and research everything. That’s why I love going to Renae for advice- it’s guaranteed to be something I wouldn’t have thought of.
With her relaxed personality you can see how breastfeeding was an ideal fit for Renae. Before the birth of my biological child I remember hanging out with Renae for a couple hours and seeing her randomly offer her breast to her fussy child at several different times. What a difference that was from how I was used to bottle-feeding! I had a pretty rigid schedule for my kids and they’d all done well with it. I knew exactly when they would be hungry and never thought to offer them a bottle unless it was the specified time. I always had a running total of how many ounces they’d eaten in the preceding 24-hours and even had a pretty good idea how long they’d be sleeping based on how feeding had gone. I had feeding down to a science. For Renae, it was an art. A really beautiful, sweet art.
So when Renae and I gave birth to our most recent babies (#4 for me, #3 for her) just four days apart I was excited to learn from her breastfeeding wisdom. I anticipated our weekly girls get-together now with both of us snuggling our babies close and experiencing this together. It was a bit of a shock for all of us when we found out Renae’s little princess had a cleft palate and wouldn’t be breastfeeding at all. So while Renae was learning the fine art of mixing formula and working the special bottle nipples required for a cleft palate baby, I was going to appointments with a lactation consultant, googling like a crazy lady and trying any possible remedy to fix a tremendous pain issue I was having breastfeeding.
It was a bizarre role-reversal as Renae had to start keeping track of ounces and I had to let go of the need to always know how much my kids were eating. One of my favorite moments in all this was sitting across from Renae at a large gathering of moms. Renae was shaking up her baby’s bottle while her daughter waited and fussed and I was trying to figure out how to modestly disrobe enough to feed my noisy-eater baby and endure the pain of it without publicly embarrassing myself. I caught Renae’s eye and mouthed “I hate you”. She looked back at me and said, “I hate you, too”. I loved being able to be honest with someone about how this was not going as I had planned. Somehow it made me feel better to know somebody was as miserable as I was, although for the exact opposite reason.
So for months Renae and I have been kicking around the idea of these breastfeeding posts. Renae is a very talented writer (and photographer!) as you can see over on her blog, so I was excited for her to write about her thoughts. I knew while my breastfeeding experience was difficult and my bottle-feeding experiences were great, Renae had the opposite experience. I love the wisdom she’s gleaned from having to change her plans and ideas about what motherhood looks like for her. I think it has been humbling for her and quite a change of perspective.
I think it’s so important for us to be willing to listen to our sisters who have a different experience than we do. Maybe we find camaraderie in the moments that are similar, but sometimes it’s a huge blessing to see how things could have gone differently. We can help share each other’s burdens and gain new perspective on our own struggles when we listen with open minds and open hearts to the issues of our sisters.
So I’m excited to have Renae share her story with you tomorrow! Prepare to learn. (*update- post is here)