Nothing can totally prepare you for motherhood. We know this.
When I was pregnant, I did everything I could to learn about breastfeeding. I read books, took a class, sought advice from other twin mamas, and got the best pump I could afford. But it was still a completely unknown world to me, and I was nervous. Would I be able to produce enough milk? Would they be able to latch correctly? Would I ever sleep again? Would they gain enough weight?
I tried to hold on to the idea of nursing lightly. Like much of motherhood, the things you hold onto most tightly are often the same things that get painfully ripped out of your hands. As I anticipated, feeding turned out to be a huge challenge during those early months. My son took weeks to latch, and I remember at an outpatient appointment, the lactation consultant kindly looked at me and said, “How are you doing with this? Do you want to keep going?” She offered support and encouragement, but I was also relieved that she offered me permission to quit. As we talked, I choked back tears of exhaustion and frustration. I was about one feeding away from giving up completely.
I knew in my head that giving up breastfeeding wouldn’t mean I had failed as a mom. But when reality set in and I struggled to provide for my son in the way that I wanted to, I couldn’t help but feel defeated.
And then he latched. I was sitting up in my bed, nursing pillow strapped around my waist and the basket of burp cloths, wipes, and snacks stashed within reach. My husband tended to my daughter, who had already been fed with ease. I held my son close for what seemed like the thousandth time, mustering up the energy to give it one more try. And just like that, discouragement made way for relief and I cried tears of joy as he fed. We had reached the turning point I thought we’d never see.
There were still struggles, of course. I gave up on tandem nursing. My daughter would finish eating way before my son, but due to her reflux, she’d spit up all over him. I’d end up wiping her regurgitated milk off his head while he ate. And with that, I concluded tandem nursing was not for me. Instead, I listened to one baby cry while I nursed the other, no hands free to comfort whomever had to eat second. I was exhausted, to say the least, but weariness was tempered by determination. We were doing this. We had clumsily jumped over one hurdle and were slowly regaining our footing before the next one approached.
My supply continued to increase, and we stopped supplementing with formula. I continued pumping after every feeding, and the freezer door started to fill with clear, five-ounce bags of milk, carefully marked with dates written in black sharpie. After the first six months, my apprehension about nursing twins seemed long behind me.
Eventually, we moved those little bags downstairs to the freezer in the basement. One by one, they lined the shelves, and every time I walked down to add another bag, I felt grateful. I didn’t have to worry about my supply and we had plenty of milk if we wanted to go out for a date night. I had it all planned out, too. I could stop nursing at ten or eleven months but have enough milk stored up for my kids to last until their first birthday.
It was around month eight or nine that it happened. My husband walked downstairs to add another bag to the cache of liquid gold. He called upstairs, his voice sounding concerned and confused.
The freezer had died.
I thought for a second maybe it died just a few minutes before, and the milk would be fine – we just had to find a place for it upstairs. Nope. Everything was completely defrosted. Warm even. It very well could have been dead for weeks.
All that work. All that pumping. All my plans to be able to stop nursing early while still being able to give my kids breast milk. All those hours of sanitizing tiny plastic pieces and listening to the pulsating hum of the pump…all of that was literally thrown in the trash.
I cried. Hard.
In the grand scheme of things, my freezer dying is not that big of a deal. I’ve moved on, remembering that despite the frustrations, I was able to nurse, I had a good supply, and my kids gained the weight they needed. I don’t take those things for granted, and I’m thankful I had extra bags of milk in the first place.
Yet I’m reminded that for every motherhood moment for which you feel an inkling of preparedness, there are a thousand others that catch you completely off guard. You do the best you can to research, learn and plan ahead. But meticulously researching pumps and enrolling in breastfeeding classes won’t make you immune to a faulty freezer.
Some parenting hurdles are bigger than others; some, like a broken freezer, knock us down for just a moment or two. Others result in a long, heartbreaking season. But we keep going. We figure out how to make dinner out of a pound of pasta and a few leftover carrot sticks. We adjust our budget to buy special formula we didn’t expect to need. We deliver via C-section even though that wasn’t our birth plan. We become experts in a medical diagnosis we previously had never heard of. We plan and prepare as best we can, but mostly, we figure it out along the way, often shedding more than a few tears while we’re at it.
And eventually, we look back and realize it wasn’t the planning and preparing that made us the moms we are, although those things are helpful and good. It’s the unexpected moments. It’s the surprise hurdles that sometimes we leap over, other times we stumble over, and yet other times we’re carried over. It’s the moving on, the forging ahead, the adjusting, learning, changing, growing, adapting to whatever is thrown our way that shapes our journey of motherhood.
Baked Oatmeal with Apples, Bacon + Maple Syrup
Yields about 6 servings
Cooking spray or butter for greasing the pan
3 cups rolled oats
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups milk
1/3 cup maple syrup, plus more for serving
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 ½ cups diced apples
8 ounces cooked bacon, chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 3-quart (or similar capacity) baking dish and set aside.
In a medium bowl, add the rolled oats, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs slightly. Then whisk in the milk, maple syrup, and melted butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until fully incorporated.
Gently stir in the diced apples and chopped bacon. Pour the oatmeal batter into the prepared dish.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until batter is set and the top is slightly browned. Serve warm, drizzled with maple syrup.
Quick Tip: This is a great meal to bring to a new mama, a sick family member or a friend who could use encouragement. Double the recipe and make two dishes - one for your family and one for someone else!