Giving Up Doesn’t Mean Giving In: Discovering Motherhood Through Sacrifice

Proverbs 31:15a NIV

“She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family.”

It was a natural process–becoming a different version of myself with the birth of my first child. Getting up to rock and feed my baby at all hours of the night was not bothersome to me (even when it really should have been). Listening to her scream nearly every night for two months because of digestive issues became less annoying and more concerning as the weeks passed and I found myself gaining a patient spirit. My child could do no wrong because she didn’t know better; I became her advocate, her keeper and her comforter.

There were a few days, I admit, where my thoughts were consumed with all of the foods I couldn’t eat. Layne has MSPI, or a Milk/Soy Protein Intolerance. This means that (as her food source) I cannot consume any dairy or soy products. To fully understand the extent of this, you would need to pull everything out of your cabinets (including mixed seasonings) and fridge/freezer and then only put back the items that do not have any potential milk or soy ingredients. In case you are wondering how many products that really affects and don’t feel like tearing apart your kitchen, let’s just assume that 90% of processed foods (even organic ones) contain soy or milk derivatives or were manufactured on equipment that handles these ingredients. Other foods with milk & soy include some bakery breads, butter, cheeses, milk (obviously), non-stick spray, seasoning mixes, salad dressings, chocolate, yogurt, sour cream, tortillas, chicken and beef bullion, mayonnaise, most tunas (cut with soy!), hot dogs, anything fried at restaurants (in vegetable oil) and many lunch meats. That list is by no means complete!

After learning of Layne’s dietary limitations and cutting out these foods from my already limited diet, it took about 4-5 weeks for her to stop screaming. This was only after giving up coffee as well. The drain of those endless weeks could have left me without any steam at all. I could have chosen to focus on all of the negative things I was experiencing (and sometimes I did!), but God has continued to bring my focus back to what it means to be a mother.

Being a mother means that my life isn’t AT ALL about me anymore. My sole most important job for the rest of my life is take care of my children. On my birthday in February, Layne had probably her worst day of all. I spent most of the day praying for her to stop screaming. I cried a lot. I felt sorry for myself and opened my fridge an embarrassing amount of times to stare at its contents and sink further down the slippery slope of self-pity. By the time my husband came home from work, nothing could make me smile anymore. My head wasn’t where it needed to be to care best for my daughter and this realization made me feel even worse about myself.

By the time that evening hit, Layne’s screaming was so bad that I contacted her pediatrician to see if she thought maybe something worse was wrong with Layne and she would need to be seen. Flashbacks of seeing her hooked up the to the glucose drip in the hospital NICU and being poked and prodded made me dread the idea of taking her to the E.R., especially since I knew that it was possible that there was nothing more they could do for her and we couldn’t afford the bill either way.

After reassuring me that she didn’t believe Layne had any other underlying medical issue, the doctor suggested that I pick up a really expensive hypoallergenic formula and give it to her for the weekend to see how she would react. Retrospectively, I know that we never would have been able to afford the formula (it would run about $45 per 14 oz can), but at that moment, I was given the out I had been looking for. I didn’t realize it all along, but it almost felt that breastfeeding my child was expected of me. I had worked so hard to get Layne to latch in the beginning (it took about a month), only to find that my milk was hurting her. Then I sacrificed my comfort (my diet as I had known it) to try to fix the problem and was frustrated that nothing was changing! If I had a pro-breastfeeding doctor telling me that it was OKAY to give Layne formula because it would make her feel better, I had a really good excuse to take the easy way out.

I seriously considered the option for about 5 minutes. Then something inside of me emerged to the surface–a motherly instinct that had never shown itself so intensely as it did at that moment. No. NO. NO! There is no chance that giving my child man-made formula, even when offered by a doctor, could be a better solution than giving her what God intended when He created us with the ability to nurse our young. Something told me to hold out just a little longer and that Layne was going to be okay.

Three days later, after giving up coffee (revealed to me to possibly be another thing that was bothering Layne), she stopped screaming. She never screamed in pain like those first two months again.

At the heart of motherhood is the definition of sacrifice. To sacrifice means “to give up.” In my case, giving up didn’t mean giving in. It meant giving up focusing on me and my wants to put my child first. If I had given up breastfeeding that weekend and had tried the formula, Layne’s condition probably would have improved (just as it did only days later when I gave up coffee). I never would have learned the true definition of sacrifice and I would have lost the beautiful, sacred connection that I have with my daughter through breastfeeding.

In the end, it was really always up to me. But as a mother, we know that the choices we make really make themselves when we decide to put our children first.