Breastfeeding: A Love Story.

On a blazing hot July day Sweet Baby joined us earthside in the greatest moment of my life.  A bit Rowan Birth intimidated with this beautiful creature, I admit that my shock and awe may have overrode my motherly instincts at first.

Sweet Baby was born in water and soon after her birth we got nestled into the bed.  All I could do was stare and kiss her; as my midwife gently suggested that it was time to nurse…

“Nurse?  Oh, ya.  I had forgotten about that part.  I’ve got to feed her.”

But how??? My midwife and doula helped me get the basics down, and Sweet Baby took to my breast straight away.

“Whew.  That was easy!”

Wrong!  So very, very wrong.

She was getting milk, but her latch was shallow, and since I didn’t know right from wrong,  I went with it.  It wasn’t long until my nipples were tore up.  Cracked.  Bleeding.  Excruciating.  I struggled through every feed early on, (read: weeks), and my resolve was certainly tested.  I was hormonal train wreck, sleep deprived, under-educated about the mechanics of breast feeding, and to top it all off…  Well, there was no top.
It hurt too bad to wear a shirt.

There were times when I felt crazy.  I wondered how I could ever make it two years, let alone one, or one month even.  Would it ever get easier?  Could I ever figure it out?  Why was it so hard?  And why, damnit, didn’t I grow up in a culture where it was second nature?  Where everone was always nursing all the time, and even nursing one another’s babes?  Why? Why! Why?  I was even a little angry.

Rowan 2 weeks old But I never once wanted to give up. 

I was very much the opposite.  For some, breastfeeding might be something they do for their baby because their doctor or society tells them to.  For others, myself included, it became more personal than that.  It became a love affair.  As Sweet Baby grew older, and bigger, she started to open her mouth wide.  Wide as a baby bird; and voila!  We became the greatest nursing duo.

After a while, she turned into a “get in and get out–all business” kind of nursling.  She was efficient, and strong and swift at the breast.  I admired that in her, and was ever-so-grateful at times; but secretly sometimes jealous of the other mama-baby pairs who nursed 3/4 of the entire day.  Sweet Baby has always had a strong drive to suck, but appreciates her thumb more than my breast.  Sometimes she needed to nurse to be soothed, but more often than not, she preffered a deep cuddle with mama where she could suck her thumb at her leisure.  I feel that speaks volumes about her personality.  Fiercely independent, resourceful and passionate.  That’s my gal 🙂

After her first birthday, she had cut her nursing sessions down dramatically!  She was far too busy for mama, and simply could not be bothered to settle down to nurse.  Often times I’d trick her, offering her my breast when she was asleep or still groggy upon waking, and those were times when we’d get our best nursing sessions.  I was afraid that my milk would dry up, and I was desperate (I guess), to maintain our nursing relationship so I kept on.  But for whom?  I sometimes wondered.

I had a goal in mind to nurse her until age two.  For a number of reasons, and I had decided that was the best choice for Sweet Baby and we were going to make it happen!  Together.

But she had other plans.

It became clear a few months ago that we weren’t going to make it.  Goal or not, I had slowly resigned myself to just allow things to happen organically now.  And that was tough for me. The ebb and flow of weaning was slowly taking place and I sometimes wondered and blamed myself, was it my fault; because now I had another baby in my tummy, and did I make her fly away from me?  Did I push her from the nest?

I remind myself that things were slowly happening before Dear Husband and I conceived– and that this is just the way life is, and really there’s no one to blame, because really there’s no problem, and it’s just another milestone.

Milestones.  They’re bittersweet, aren’t they? Rowan Hiking

And I remember:

All the times I looked down at her sweet face, milk drunk and satiated, sustained from my body that grew her and now nourished her ever day.  I did that.  And I’m proud.  I remember 2 times where she was really hurt, one time bleeding a little from her mouth from a fall and she was screaming and I didn’t know what to do so I gave her my breast.  She was quiet.  Or when she got mowed down by an adult not paying attention in a busy space and she fell flat on her back and gasped and cried unconsolably.  Again, not knowing what to do, I offered my breast right in front of “God and Everyone” and just like magic, she was happy.  I remember nursing her while walking– through the forest.  Nursing her on a street corner participating in a “nurse-in.”  I remember countless days and nights nursing her to sleep, nursing her to wake, nursing, nursing, nursing.

What will I do now, without nursing?

I admit that I am afraid, and sad, and angry.  I knew that one day we would wean, and I would be sad that my sweet little baby is growing up, but what I didn’t know is that I would feel all of this ^^^.  What would I do now without my insta-bandaid?  Our routine?  My super-human-immuno-boosting-germ-fighting-liquid?

What;  do we do now???

Saying goodbye is hard.  Letting go is harder.  Finding perspective in madness is a virtue.  Maybe I don’t have it…  Or it just isn’t time yet.  Weaning sometimes feels like losing an old friend.  All you have left are the memories of how you felt, but there’s nothing left to touch.  I’ve never been good at wrapping things up.  Quite frankly, it scares me.  But I understand that things can’t stay the same for ever, nor do I want them to. I’ve discovered many of the same feelings going out of this that I felt coming in.   How do I do this? What happens now?  How will I ever manage?  I try to find solace in that this summer their will be another baby to nurse and snuggle and the cycle will repeat itself.

But it won’t be the same.

At the end of the day, I decide that I am just purely grateful for every moment, every opportunity that we shared during our time breastfeeding.  I thank my body (and my mind) for all of it’s hard, hard work affording me this special gift for my sweet baby.  I feel grateful, and right now that is all.  That is all I really know how to do.

Rowan in Long Beach

Sustain, Create and Flow

7 Comments

  1. What a beautiful story, and so beautifully written. You are also fiercely independent, resourceful, and passionate – no wonder she chose you 😉

  2. This was amazing to read as my son will soon be weaning. It was difficult in the beginning but my husband was there every step of the way and the support was what I needed. My son will be three in April and it is time to stop, for both of us. I will miss the quiet times with my son the most. Our bonding time when I get home from work. The times he falls asleep touching my face. I have so many wonderful memories.

  3. That was beautiful! You should really think about supporting breastfeeding by testifying as a really important breastfeeding bill goes before the WA Senate this Monday. Rally all your friends and win more support for breastfeeding!!

    So proud of you & sweet baby RR 🙂

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