Quick Disclaimer: Much of this blog post is written tongue-in-cheek, and from my very personal standpoint. My story is in no way intended to act as judgment upon anyone else’s parenting choices or philosophy. I hope y’all appreciate this post for what it is: a deeply personal, non-medical, non-psychological viewpoint of one mama’s journey.
Late 2014 or Early 2015:
I’m huge, ok, like, super huge. I’m around seven or eight months pregnant with my first baby, and I’ve decided to breastfeed, so I think, “hm…I should probably read up on this breastfeeding thing.” I mean, I’ve got a free pump, I’ve got a lactation consultant on call, I’ve even been given books on this specific topic. Perfect. So, PB&J balanced on my growing tummy; I happily tuck into the world of breastfeeding in order to familiarize myself with what lays ahead. No big deal.
Fast forward one hour, my PB&J lays untouched (a thing of wonder given the way I devoured these morsels of deliciousness while pregnant), and I am staring, horrified, mind boggled, mouth agape, at the book entitled “The Glowing World of Wonderment that is Breastfeeding your Child” (or whatever it was called…) I have just read. I’m not sure of anything anymore. It’s all so technical, so primal, so…crunchy? So touchy-feely. I’m a city-dweller, ok? I wear fancy strappy sandal wedges every day. I carry my purse on my forearm. I take the time to ribbon-curl my hair with a flat-iron 2-3 times per week. I enjoy my Starbucks latte accessory. I don’t intend to be an attachment parent or a “natural” parent (although I fully support those who do follow this deeply committed form of parenting, it’s just not me though! Is it?). I’m nursing my kid because it’s cheaper than formula. I know there will be sacrifice raising a kid. I know that. I’ve been around kids forever, so I get it. But this whole breastfeeding thing is just so…so…so…EARTHY. I don’t even camp, y’all. Needless to say, I am freaked out.
My baby stopped nursing last night. He’s 14 months old now, and we were down to just one nursing per day, at bedtime. It was our cuddling time. Our relaxing, soothing, bonding time before I laid Baby Bean in bed. But last night, with his daddy out for the evening, after I took care of the bedtime duties we normally split, I never offered, and Baby Bean never asked. It was as though we had silently, mutually, agreed we were done. The end. Moments after laying Bean down in his crib, I went downstairs to do the dinner dishes and cried over my loss. Then I texted a dear friend the news with loads of crying emojis. Meanwhile, a little part of me was bubbling back up to the surface. While mommy-me was bawling like a baby (ironic, right?), this other me was sarcastically sitting in the back of my brain, latte in hand, stacked heels strapped on, hair smoothed back into a chic ponytail, rolling her eyes. This sarcastic gal then took over and texted that same friend that I should probably just give up now, buy a mini-van and some elastic-waist mom jeans. LOL.
My So-Called Journey:
This whole scenario got me thinking about my nursing “journey,” if you will. Sorry to be so cliche with my terminology. But for me, it truly was a journey. I chose a path, I went places, I did things I never thought I’d do, and I came out the other side changed. My breastfeeding journey took a reluctant girl and made her into a devoted mom. The kind of mom I never thought I wanted to be. A mom I never thought I could, or would be. A mom who is completely devoted to her child, many times at my expense. I mean, I’ve been nearly topless for the past 14 months on an almost continuous basis! Milk – MILK, people! – has shot out of a part of me that isn’t my nose at what seemed like warp speed! Every single day for the past 14 months I have had to choose my outfits based, almost, entirely on how easily I could whip out a boob at feeding time. Whaaaaaat? 25-year-old me would be floored. Shoot, 29-year-old-me would be floored. I was 29 when I got pregnant. Man, that girl had no idea what was about to happen to her upper body. And not in the amazing-Michelle-Obama-biceps way, but in the went-up-three-cup-sizes, have-to-wear-a-bra-to-bed-every-night, oh-shoot-looks-like-I-leaked-in-the-middle-of-Williams-Sonoma, kind of way. Yep. That girl went on a journey and came out the other side as me. I started as a naive preggo, planning to breastfeed because it was cheaper than formula, and came out the other side as a mom who nursed until the bitter end.
So what exactly happened to me? Well, simply put, I became a mom during this proverbial journey of mine. I had always assumed that the things that would make me feel like a mom would be the rocking, the soothing, and the feeling of having my baby want me above all others. And yes, those things do help me feel like a mom, but ultimately, it was nursing my baby that really brought it home for me. That sarcastic, too-cool-for-school, pre-baby gal, was transformed (somewhat), into a giver in the most primal way possible. I made sacrifices to be able to nurse my baby. I gave up dairy, something I swore I could never possibly do. Life without cheese? What kind of life is that??? Well. It was my life. For seven cheese-less months until my baby finally outgrew his milk-protein allergy. I gave up my time, my privacy, and my modesty. And, yes, I gave up my job. I became selfless, in many, many ways that the old me, and in some ways the me of today, could hardly believe or understand.
I went through excruciating pain to nurse my baby. The kind of pain that makes your toes curl and your body recoil. I took sassy-pants, latte-toting, wedge-heels-every-day, me and devoted myself so wholly to something that I became a mom. A mom who would sacrifice much of the world as she knew it to nurse her baby. I’m on the other side of this now, and as I emerge from the world of selfless-mommy-dom, this all sounds a little nutso to me. But I guess my point is, we all have that moment when we sit up, look around, and realize, “holy crap, I’m a mom.” For me, that came through months of nursing, and all the associated hardships and joy that nursing brings.
So why nursing? Why not rocking, and soothing, and all the other delightful mommy duties and roles? Many women can’t, or don’t, nurse their babies (I support you mamas whole-heartedly, BTW, ain’t nobody’s business how you feed that baby, just so long as that baby gets fed), and yet they have that same “I’M A MOM” dazed look of
fear joy in their eyes. Well, I don’t know. It’s probably different for everyone. Just like everyone’s love stories are different, our paths to motherhood are all different as well. My journey is not yours, and vice-a-versa. For me, though, it all started before the immense nipple pain, the months-long suppression of my dairy addiction, and even before I decided to stop working. For me, it was very simply that after my pregnancy-induced hypertension, bed rest, induction, an epidural, twelve hours of labor, and ultimately a C-section, that baby of mine went into the metaphorical kitchen and got himself somethin’ to eat. I was in pain from labor and my surgery, I could barely move, I was numb, but I could feed my baby gosh darn it! And it just continued from there. At home, I was exhausted. Naps were a huge struggle for many months. But I could feed that baby! This was my triumph. Nursing allowed that girl, who had just a few months earlier cringed while reading a breastfeeding informational book, to become confident. To follow her dreams. And to bring her out of the land of urban coolness, into the world of selfless mommy-dom, and all of the enormous joy and reward that is a part of that world.
Sometimes I wonder if I’ve lost myself during this journey. But I don’t think I have. I’m a multi-faceted person, and I think we all are, or should be. Both “sides” of me have a role to play. An important role at that. One side keeps me fresh, independent, reminds me that I should probably not wear yoga pants for the 5th day in a row, and I need to go get my hair done because it looks awful, oh and also, I LOVE getting my hair done. The other side keeps me engaged in my family, focused on my baby, and enjoying the life I’m living right now without regretting or missing my old life.
Now that Baby Bean has stopped nursing I’m no less of the mom I was while he was nursing. But I’m excited about the next phase. Hopefully, my old, childless self will have a chance to come out a bit more and mingle with the new, baby-centered me. I’m looking forward to again wearing all the summer dresses I couldn’t fit into, or weren’t practical for nursing. I’m looking forward to having some wine, or a cocktail, without calculating how long until I have to nurse again. And most of all, I’m excited for my first night away since Baby Bean was born. I miss nursing less and less every day. But I’m so grateful to myself, and to my husband, and my mom, and my wonderful friends and all the others who supported me through my nursing journey. Had I not wanted to, or been able to nurse, I know I would have become the mom I am today via another path, but this was the path I took, and it was perfect. It had ups and downs, scenery, and drudgery, but most of all it got me to where I am today. And today, I’m pretty happy with my life.
What was your journey, nursing or otherwise? When was the moment, or what event, made you have that “I’M A MOM” realization? Does your sassy-pants, too-cool, pre-mom self ever make an appearance? Please share in the comments section below.