This may quite possibly be the last post I will write specifically about my breastfeeding journey, and I have honestly been working on it bit-by-bit for months until now. Bryce weaned last September, the day of his 3rd birthday, but in some ways… my real breastfeeding adventure had just begun. Well, for my breastmilk anyway. So, to tell the story of my breastmilk’s epic journey around the world, I thought I’d give you my ‘Breastfeeding Bucket List’, a collection of interesting tales that happened while breastfeeding!
1. Scolded at the mall (August 2010) – In my 4+ years of breastfeeding, rarely did I face any disapproving stares or odd looks while in public, When Lydia was about 11 months old, an elderly women approached me at the mall while I was nursing at a table where I was actually working and said “You can’t do that in public!” She went on to say she was going to get mall security over to reprimand me for discreetly breastfeeding my baby and that she was calling her daughter who was a lawyer to cite the law for me that said it was illegal. I don’t have any pictures from that particular day, but I did find this picture from around that time. I mean… seriously? How can you tell a mother not to breastfeed this beautiful girl?
2. At a bar (July 2012) – I breastfed Lydia for just over 14 months when she weaned on her own. She simply lost interest altogether. That means that most of my breastfeeding stories involve Bryce. Summer 2012, we took a big family road trip with Richard’s oldest brother and sister and all of their children. On a day outing, we visited Decatur, Georgia. Richard and I sat at a bar with the kids and each had a beer. I breastfed Bryce while sitting at the bar. Based on my facial expression and sloppy tank top, my guess is this was just after.
3. On a theme park ride (November 2012) – When Bryce was about 14 months old, we took the kids to Disney World for the first time. Bryce breastfed on demand for three full years, wherever and whenever. Here I am breastfeeding him on the “It’s a Small World” ride.
4. Received praise (June 2013)- Most of the time, I believe I nursed my children fairly unnoticed. I was always discreet, but rarely covered up. While on a trip to Kentucky, we dined at a nice French bistro. After nursing Bryce, our waitress came over and explained that she was from Canada, where everyone breastfeeds openly in public, and she praised me for breastfeeding Bryce uncovered in a classy restaurant. This picture was taken right after that. I was never looking for praise; I just did what was best for my family. But it did feel nice to be acknowledged by this woman for pushing any societal barriers Americans have against breastfeeding in public. I didn’t set out to be an advocate, but sometimes advocacy comes naturally from a place of passion.
5. Underground (June 2013) – This was an eventful month! A few days later, we decided to explore Mammoth Caves in Kentucky. While the caves were beautiful and interesting, they were also absolutely terrifying. I felt like I was going to fall off the edge somewhere and die immediately, or even worse, that same thing would happen to my children. Totally traumatizing! I panic just thinking about it still. When we were about 300 feet underground (the lowest point) I nursed Bryce. I remember thinking I needed him to make me feel safe and comfortable at that time much more than he needed me. This is a part of a good breastfeeding relationship that some mothers unfortunately miss out on: the symbiosis that exists between mother and child.
6. An adopted child (September 2013)- I had this idea in my mind that I never wanted my milk to dry up (and it still hasn’t entirely) because I never knew when a child would need it. Not even just my child, but any child. I had this vision of a newborn being left on the side of the road who I needed to rescue. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it just made so much sense to me. I had this liquid gold that my body was producing, and I needed to use it to help someone. Well, in September of 2013, my friend Shelley adopted a beautiful baby boy the day he was born. She asked me to go to her house and nurse him as soon as she brought him home and she asked me to pump for her. Unfortunately, I was only able to give her a few small bottles, but I loved being able to share my best gift with another child. Here we are together on his first birthday.
7. During a church wedding (December 2013) – My friend Amanda invited us to her wedding, and of course we had to go! It was in a Catholic church in Central Florida. The children were invited to attend as well. It was a traditional Catholic service, which tends to be lengthy, so I had to find a way to keep Bryce quiet (all he wanted to do was run around). The solution? Nurse him! Wow, now that I miss…
8. In a movie theater (February 2014) – Generally, nursing in a movie theater would not be such a big deal, but it was for me because it was the last time I nursed Bryce in public. I actually wrote about “the last time I nursed in public” Summer 2013 because it had been a while, but this time was definitely the last time. It was a serious challenge to get Bryce to sit through Frozen! It was also the first time I took the kids to the movies with their friends. Although I don’t have a picture of Bryce actually breastfeeding, I do have this picture of Lydia with her friends Zoe and Layla.
9. A preschool-age child (September 17, 2014) – When people used to ask me “Isn’t he getting too old?” or “When are you going to wean him?” my answer was always “when we’re ready.” I don’t know why anyone was concerned, but they were. Bryce breastfed for the very last time on his 3rd birthday. This means that for one day, I breastfed a 3-year old. A preschooler. He truly lost interest after that. I would offer, but he didn’t want it. Beyond all of the emotions I had tied to breastfeeding, it was hard at first to adjust to not being able to soothe him to sleep or nurse him when he was sick, but you learn to adjust and find new ways. This picture was taken that day, on his 3rd birthday.
10. My breastmilk’s solo journey – So you’re probably wondering “If #9 is when she weaned, what else could be added to this list?” As I wrote above, in some ways, my breastmilk journey just began. A real journey. I was never much of a pumper, but I manually expressed a small bottle of breastmilk toward the end. It took me weeks to get about 2 ounces, but I was determined to get just that. Why? So I could get a breastmilk necklace made. I’m sure that sounds crazy to some, but I felt like if I had to give up this huge part of my life, something I spent over four years doing, I wanted something tangible. Something I could keep with me. Something that reminded me of the relationship I built with my children. I found out about Beyond the Willow Tree through Facebook, and I contacted the owner. I received all the information necessary to send my milk from South Florida to Australia. Yes, Australia. I took one last picture, packed it up in a box, and sent it abroad. Remember, these were the last two ounces.
After two weeks passed, I contacted the owner to see if the milk had arrived. It had not, but I was assured it would arrive soon and that it could take up to four weeks. I started to get a feeling of doubt. And not just doubt, but anxiety. It was like I had amputated part of my body and lost it somewhere. I would wake up during the night, wondering what happened to my milk. I contacted the owner several times over several months, but nothing.
Well… freakin’ 14 weeks later, my milk FINALLY arrived! I had actually asked for a refund shortly before, but instead I changed my order from two small charms to the locket below. I added additional funds for better shipping, too. The “L” and “B” are made out of my breastmilk. They are small charms inside the locket. My milk, my memories, my experiences… they are mine forever.
Breastfeeding is incredible. It’s one of the best gifts I gave my babies, and beyond that, one of the best gifts I ever gave myself. It helped me connect with my body, understand my body, and love my body. It was such a beautiful experience I will never forget. I sure do miss it, but I’m glad to see that it helped create two healthy, happy children.