Among the many things I've learned through the process of pregnancy, childbirth, and caring for a newborn is that breastfeeding has not always been held in the same high regard as it is now. In fact, most people in my grandparents' generation used formula to feed their babies, believing it was healthier than breastmilk, a concept which seems laughable in the face of current research.
That's why when I was talking to my grandmother about Ellie a few weeks ago, I was surprised by her announcement that she breastfed four of her five babies. "The doctor always wanted me to use formula," she said, "but I decided to breastfeed."
Intrigued by the idea of my conservative, far-from-rebellious grandmother defying authority and breaking this social norm, I asked her why she had made that choice. Perhaps this was a whole new side of her I'd never seen, I thought to myself. Perhaps she was a rebel in her own right, a crusader for a cause before her time.
Her response, however, was a gentle laugh. "Oh Abby, I don't remember," she said. "It was so long ago."
I had to laugh too. Here I am, the over-researched, hyper-engaged first-time mom who wants to do everything right and has to have a reason for each parenting choice I make, be it breastfeeding or sleep schedules or colic remedies. Every little decision I make seems to have enormous consequences for Ellie's life, and I am terrified of making a wrong choice, of messing her up somehow. And then there is my grandmother, in her eighties with five grown children in their fifties and sixties, who can't even remember why she breastfed her children.
This comforts me in a way. Fifty years from now, all the decisions that seem so huge right now will most likely feel inconsequential. Should Ellie and I both be blessed to live that long, I probably won't even remember how I agonized over handling her fussy spells or when to let her cry herself to sleep. By then, research will have changed, and perhaps people will be feeding their babies some sort of formula again.
By no means is this an excuse for making poor decisions or skipping the research necessary to be a good parent. But it does remind me that in the end, this season of parenting a newborn shall pass, and what seems so important today will one day be a distant memory or perhaps even forgotten altogether.
In light of that reality, I realize that I want to invest most of my time and energy now in the things that will endure - praying for my daughter, laying down my life for her, living in such a way that will point her to Christ, thing my grandmother has done faithfully for her children and grandchildren for some sixty years.
Far harder than figuring out how to best feed Ellie? Yes, but far more important.