After 13-and-a-half months, I’ve finished nursing my little guy. I have to say, even writing the title of this article, I’m sure there will be some that will roll their eyes and say to themselves, Good grief, is she hurting for material THAT badly that she’s writing a good-bye piece to breastfeeding?? And to those people I have this to say….
Before having children, I had ideas of what motherhood would look like. I would do the right things, say the right things, and I would always know what the best thing for my children would be. And then life didn’t go as planned. When I wasn’t able to conceive and we chose to foster Cameron and Taylor, I missed the baby stage entirely. We got our two beautiful children, but we lacked that crucial bonding time in the beginning of their lives. I didn’t get to rock them to sleep, cuddle them in my arms, give them their first baths, or watch their first steps. No, when we adopted our older two, they were already little people. There was the occasional butt wiping and helping them undo the buttons on the tough shirts, but overall, they came pre-grown.
And then, when my husband and I found out that the kids’ bio mom was pregnant with Isaac, we were hesitant to bring him into our home. After all, we had gone from no kids to two kids overnight, and the thought of adding a baby to the mix just a few months later, a baby that we knew was going to be born addicted to drugs, well…. That just sounded like lunacy.
But we are just the right type of crazy and lunacy sounded like a fantastic way to round out our family. We brought Isaac home from the hospital and he was with us through all of his baby stages. We did get to give him his first bath, and we cuddled him in our arms, rocked him to sleep, and saw his first steps. But even though I was there for it all, Isaac was Pat’s baby. He was the mother and the father for that first year. He stayed home with Isaac because his job allowed him to. He did most of the feedings, most of the baths, most of the cuddles. By the time I got home, helped little ones with homework, cooked dinner, and cleaned up the house, I got to spend a couple of hours with Isaac, half of which he slept through. I felt like a well-liked babysitter, not like a full-fledged Mama.
Perhaps losing Isaac made conceiving Wyatt all the more precious. This was the first time I would know what it was like to have a baby grow inside of me. To watch my belly change shape with each roll and kick. To feel my body physically respond to the life inside of me. This was my chance to truly bond with a child in a way that I hadn’t been able to before.
But even though I was given such an amazing blessing, a difficult pregnancy often hampered those “good feelings” I was hoping for. I held on to the day of delivery, knowing that his arrival was going to be the best moment of my life – the moment I would be able to push him into this world and hold him close to my chest for those first few precious minutes of his life. I could hardly wait.
But due to complications during his birth, I wasn’t able to have those precious moments either. In fact, I was so ill that I barely recall the first several hours of his life. I couldn’t lift my arms to hold him. I couldn’t take in his sweetness. However, I was completely aware that these special moments to bond were quickly slipping through my fingers.
I felt cheated. This was finally my chance to bond with a child, and all I had to show for it was a whole lot of sickness and very few “good feelings”. But nursing… nursing was going to be my way to connect with my new son. This would be the way I would finally get to connect with him!
Except guess what? Breastfeeding completely sucks! For 6 weeks, all I did was cry. All HE did was cry. We cried and I was in pain and I was constantly worried about my milk supply and my pump and my nipples and my engorgement. I couldn’t leave the house. I couldn’t feel happy. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. No one had prepared me for it to suck so badly.
Then, after a good 2 months of our nursing schedule and all of its horribleness, something amazing happened. Nursing stopped being wretched. I stopped feeling constant pain. My nipples stopped feeling like they were being ripped from my body by a tiny beaver. I stopped shooting milk across the room because of engorgement. All of a sudden, what had been so hard for so long began to feel easy. Natural. Connected.
Pretty soon I found myself enjoying that alone time with my baby and not dreading it. Those moments were ours and no one else’s. So many people were all about public nursing and fighting tooth and nail for that “right”. But to be honest, I wanted our moments to be private. I loved to stare into his eyes and rub his tiny fingers as he fed. To caress his cheek and hear him giggle, producing little milk bubbles in the corners of his mouth as he did. I loved to watch him fall asleep against my chest and to able to be the one who could comfort him better than anyone else. I liked being his one and only, if even just for a time.
It was my plan to get him to 1-year-old. When he turned one, I knew that he could drink whole milk and that he would have several teeth… he was going to be turning into a toddler and it was my choice to pull the boob-plug on him at that time.
And then his first birthday came and went. Little man hated cow’s milk with a passion, even with breast milk, almond milk, or chocolate milk mixed in. The doctor said to give it time, but that I could always keep nursing in the meantime. I jumped at the opportunity in a way that I never thought I would. When I was younger, before having these little people in my life, remember those preconceived notions I said that I had? Yeah, I thought people that nursed past one year were kind of…. Icky.
Now, after knowing how sweet those times of being near my little one is… knowing that in a few short months he would no longer be a baby… knowing that he won’t need me in the same way anymore… friends, I struggled. It was not icky. It was not inappropriate. What it was, I quickly found, was grief.
Pat and I have decided that we aren’t going to try for more children. We have two older kids, a toddler on the weekends, and a full-time baby. Quite frankly, we don’t have the car space! Whereas a lot of mamas can stop nursing at a year and feel like they’re regaining their booby freedom, I feel that I’m saying goodbye to the one pleasant bonding experience I’ve been able to have with just the one child I was able to have it with. Other mothers will start planning for their next child, and I’m saying goodbye to babies forever. I’m saying goodbye to an entire stage in my life. The stage that I wanted for so long is over in an instant.
Point your fingers, tell me I’m being crazy, look at me with judgment if you must. But I’m guessing that I’m not the only mama out there that has grieved the ending of their baby era. I’m aware that I could keep nursing if I wanted to, but I do feel that it’s time. It’s time for him and it’s time for me. “You’ll know when it’s right,” is the phrase I’ve heard over and over. And it’s true. It’s our time. I can actually hear my milk drying up like wind blowing through a hollow tree stump as I type this!
I know that I’ll always be his Mama. And I know that my kids will always need me and love me. So, with a fond farewell and tears in my eyes, I say a sorrowful goodbye to breastfeeding. Four sets of little hands will grasp mine as we walk together into our next stage of life. So much thanks for this time. So much love for them all. So much still left to come.