February 11, 2013

What Do Sore Nipples and Pastoring
Have in Common?

Before I  wax eloquent about the commonalities of sore nipples and pastoring, I have an  announcement to make...

Today is my debut at Adoption Voices Magazine. I was recently asked to serve as a regular contributing writer there. After they see I am writing a post about nipples it may change things. The first post they have chosen to publish is one that ran here first. Apparently they kinda like what I write here. I'm humbled and, still finding my way. All of you who read here...thank you. I wouldn't be at Adoption Voices were it not for you. 

Now, on to pastoring and sore nipples.

 Service had ended at the church where I serve as co-pastor. After greeting  a few people, a young lady approached me and quietly said, “PD, can I talk to you for a minute?”

She said something about it being “kinda personal” so I motioned to her to join me in an area off to the side, away from other groups of people who were milling around, talking.

Leigh*, a young teenage girl who had just given birth, was raising her baby, Tyler*, with the assistance of a caring extended family member, and the support of the church family. Things hadn't been easy by any stretch, but when is parenthood ever easy? For a teenager, the challenges are certainly increased.  Sadly, her parents (who did  not attend the church) were not supportive and she was living with another family member.

On this day, Leigh had a question for me about breast feeding.  Tyler was getting enough milk as she nursed, but she was so sore, she could barely stand to keep nursing. She had no idea what to do and the hospital where she gave birth didn’t instruct her properly before releasing her to go home. Her goal was to breast feed because she felt it was best for Tyler. She was nervous that she wouldn’t be able to keep nursing, the pain was so great. Many thoughts loomed in her mind, among them, “What if I can’t keep doing this? Does that mean I’m not a good Mom?” and “How am I going to afford formula if I can’t keep nursing?”

I  set her at ease by letting her know the issues she faced were entirely normal. I encountered them with my first child as well. At one point I was so sore I felt like somebody had lit a match to my breasts! It had been a long time, but how well I remembered the pain. There was evidently no lactation consultant in the hospital when I had my first child, so I too left the hospital with no clue as to how to nurse properly. I just assumed you put a baby to your breast, and it would all work itself out. Wrong! 

I shared with her about the proper techniques of breast feeding (the ones I wish I knew before I started) and also referred to to LaLeche League for more help. Then I reassured her that although her desire was to breast feed, if for some reason it did not work out, she could turn to WIC for help with formula. She and Tyler would not be left without resources.

Some may judge Leigh and say, “She should have known that having a kid takes a toll on you physically both before and after birth."

Others might say, "If she can’t afford formula, she's not ready to have a baby." She should have put the baby up for adoption with a couple who can afford formula and essential things like that."

When I became a mother for the first time, I had no idea of the challenges my body would go through before, during and after pregnancy. I thought I was prepared. But what really prepares you?

My husband and I also couldn’t afford formula on our then-meager pastoral salary. With our first baby, the pediatrician asked me to supplement nursing with formula.  We relied on WIC for help, for the first eight months of our son's life, as we simply couldn't afford it otherwise. 

Nobody ever said (and probably never thought), “Larry and Deanna have no business having a baby or keeping one…”

So what's my point? 

The first question we need to ask pregnant girls and women is, “How can I help you?” not “Have you considered adoption?”

As Christians, the Bible calls us to disciple (mentor) people. That means investing in their lives spiritually, but it also means helping them in practical matters. Churches have marriage ministries, family ministries, children's ministries and more. But how often do we reach out to preserve families by keeping babies with their mothers?

Seasoned women must take up the call to come alongside younger women and make an investment in their lives. Some people believe that when a young lady is pregnant, the best help we can give them is to direct them to the nearest adoption agency. I believe we can help them by mentoring them to become great moms and assisting them with practical help as they are learning.

So, Christians... let me ask you this. What is happening with mentorship in your church?

Mentorship must rise up, formally and informally.  I schedule a monthly meeting to meet with the young ladies of the church to instruct them, mentor them, and most of all to listen to them. They are encouraged to invite other girls who are not a part of our church, to attend. In addition, I make myself available anytime  informally, that they can approach me.

It takes more than the pastor, or pastor's wife, to mentor girls and women effectively. An army of women are needed, to address all of the needs of our church and community. Leigh just happened to come to me that day for help, but truth be told she could have gone to many other women within our congregation who stand ready at a moment's notice to help.

Most infant adoptions do not need to take place, if family, friends and the church step up to do what they should do.

Sometimes in the course of my work I pray with people or teach them the Bible. Other days, I advise them about what to do about sore nipples.

All in a day’s work.

*All names and identifying details have been changed