We’re back! After sharing this space with friends weekly over the summer, I decided to shift Growing Together to happen monthly as the Fall settles in. It’s too much fun to share this space and the words of the brilliant people I meet.
Today I am thrilled to introduce you to Katie from Pick Any Two. Katie is brilliant and every time I read her words, I come away with a new perspective and new actionable steps to take to make a change in my life. This post in particular, I’m still thinking about weeks later, trying to sort out what to let go from my overfull hands. Her story today, about learning to not solve a problem before it exists, is something I can completely relate to. After you read her words, be sure to show her some love (and then go back tomorrow because Katie always makes you feel good on Friday).
Without hesitation his tiny mouth latched on, and he began gulping eagerly, even ravenously. But only a few moments later he ripped away, wailing in between the coughs and sputters.
I wailed right along with him.
He was only a few weeks old, and yet he already knew the paradox of wanting something desperately yet hating it at the same time.
He was a newborn torn between the call of his growling belly and the desire not to choke on his only form of sustenance.
I was a mom torn between the desperation to feed my child and the desire not to hurt him in the process.
The lactation consultant labeled it “overactive letdown,” a fancy term meaning you’ve got an overabundance of milk and it comes out faster and more forcefully than your baby can handle.
She assured me it happens to lots of women, and that it wasn’t caused by anything I did. But I knew better.
I knew that even before my son was born, I had made a list of ways to increase your milk production. Since having an undersupply is the more common problem to have, I wanted to be prepared. I was a Type-A perfectionist, determined to do everything by the book, and therefore desperately needed to be successful in breastfeeding.
As soon as my milk came in, I started tackling my list—drinking tons of water, eating oatmeal every morning, drinking Mother’s Milk tea several times a day, and even pumping once a day, despite the fact that I hadn’t gone back to work yet and didn’t really need a milk stash.
In other words, I was so worried about having too little milk that I tried to counteract the problem before I even had it—and likely gave myself an oversupply problem instead.
After that, almost every time I fed my son we both ended up in tears. Him because he just wanted to eat a meal without gagging. Me because I realized my perfectionism—my need to follow every single rule and be over prepared for every possible challenge—had already backfired and harmed my child. It was the polar opposite of my intention.
Ultimately we stuck it out because my son was still gaining weight nicely—and because I’m stubborn like that. I wanted to give him what I thought was best; moreover, I hoped that by continuing to breastfeed him, I would give him enough benefits to outweigh the struggle I’d already caused him.
A few weeks later and, thankfully, the problem was solved, maybe because my milk supply evened out or maybe because my son grew big enough to manage the fast flow. Whatever the reason, we both happily moved on, continuing our nursing relationship until he was thirteen months old.
I was left with a well-fed baby boy and a valuable lesson. Never again will I focus so earnestly on averting a problem that I end up creating one. Never again will I blindly follow a book or a website before examining my child to see if the recommendations really apply to him, to us.
In parenting and in life, there’s an important distinction between being proactive and being over prepared. When we focus too much on preparing for the worst, we risk not even realizing that we already had the best.
These days, I’m learning to trust in my ability to deal with an issue when it arises, not necessarily before. In the process, it’s become easier to focus my attention on everything that’s going right, instead of constantly worrying about what could go wrong.
Katie Markey McLaughlin, M.S., is a freelance journalist and blogger, plus mama to a very energetic toddler. Her blog Pick Any Two encourages moms to do anything, but not everything. You can connect with her on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.