“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us…”
…and about there the metaphor would get too depressing and thankfully inaccurate. This isn’t a post about London and Paris in the French Revolution – it’s about my boobs. More specifically it’s about breastfeeding.
An act that is fulfilling yet sacrificing and ripe with optimism teetering on potential heartbreak. So many feelings are wrapped up in caring for our children and the very vulnerable act of nursing seems to carry a special emotional impact for many mothers, or at least it always has for me.
I’m standing at the beginning of the end of my time as a breastfeeding mother and bittersweet doesn’t begin to describe it.
Let’s get the political part of this out of the way right quick, shall we? My stance is clear: Your boobs, your body, your business. I know tons of fabulous mothers who formula fed their babies. You go ladies. Love your babies and do what works for you. I breastfeed because it works for me and that choice isn’t a judgement on anyone’s decisions. We have enough to worry about without making each other feel like crap. OK, now that’s done.
My son got his last drop of breast milk around 7 months. He was born early and never really got the hang of nursing. We would occasionally nurse for comfort but he was never good enough at it to take his meals that way. I pumped. I pumped A LOT. For the first two months I triple fed (first you nurse, second you bottle feed breast milk or formula, third you pump, then after a a short break you start all over) – which is to say I did nothing but worry about milk. After two months I gave up the nursing piece of puzzle and just let myself become an exclusive pumper. It was fine I suppose, but it’s a logistical night mare. I was proud of my dedication to pumping and given the fear wrapped up in Max’s premature birth I think it gave me something to feel in control of. It was fulfilling, but it was exhausting. When I stopped pumping I felt free. Perhaps a bit of sentimentality came with that, but mostly I felt as though a burden had been lifted. I knew that if I had to do that again with our second child I may not make it very long.
Eleanor came along and turned everything I knew about birth and babies on it’s head. Her birth felt nothing like Maxwell’s and her demeanor was similar. Within 20 minutes of being born she found her own way to my breast and nursed for almost a half hour. Since then she has (lovingly) picked up the name Eleanor “I could eat” Magilton. I was unfamiliar with those early weeks of marathon nursing session. Max had been in the NICU his first two weeks, then after that he mostly bottle fed. Eleanor and I spent hours camped out on the couch nursing. This drove 2.5 year old Max nuts, but was generally heaven for her and I. Eleanor is an excellent nurser and I am excellent at nursing her.
She will be a year old in about a month and half. She does not seem remotely interested in weaning. I’m beginning to feel a bit differently. After her birthday I plan to begin a very slow decline to weaned. I’ll hold on to the nighttime nursing for a long while I’m sure, but even that is just part of the inevitable end. Eleanor is our last baby, biologically anyway, and the gravity of that is not lost on me. This is the last time I will nurse.
I sincerely hope I don’t end up knowing when our last moment of breastfeeding happens. I don’t think I could handle it. I’m ready to move past the world of babies and into the world of children and I’m more than ready to have my autonomy back – but that closeness, that sense you’re endlessly needed, the bond.
I’m really going to miss that.