Some blog posts I get super excited to write, like a fun new craft or recipe. This one… not so much. I came up with the title at least a year ago, knowing that one day, this would happen. I would be here. Here was a really scary place. I cried about it numerous times in public and private. I thoroughly dreaded the day it would happen, and I wondered how I would handle it. And now we’re here. And it’s just as scary as I thought it would be. So much so that I can’t just write the words. But I must.
I will never breastfeed again.
That was painful. Super painful. I will never breastfeed again. I’m done. Life has taught me that sometimes the things we most strongly oppose at one point in life can be our most driven passions later on in life. Parenting graces us with an identity we never realized we would experience. When you’re getting ultrasounds and registering for strollers and carseats and stuffing your face with ‘food for two’, you have this lofty idea that parenting is about adding a new addition to your family, someone to love on limitlessly, someone to stick in cute clothing and photograph.
And then your baby is born, and the reality of caring for this being that was just a part of your body, but now exists outside of you, can be truly overwhelming. Prior to having children, I had a large lumpectomy in my right breast, had a breast augmentation, a lift on my left side, and a correction to the left when the implant started to bottom out. I assumed I would be unable to breastfeed, and I kinda didn’t care since I grew up thinking it was somehow wrong or disgusting. But when I realized my body was producing colostrum, I knew I wanted to give her colostrum. That was really my only breastfeeding goal in advance: a week of breastfeeding.
But honestly, from the moment Lydia was born, I instantly forgot about all that I had thought I wanted to do and all of the gadgets I registered for and the cute outfits and hair bows. I was in survival mode. How do I care for this being that my body nurtured for almost 10 months? How do I keep her alive and safe? And at that point, the only thing I wanted to do was breastfeed this baby. Around the clock. Whenever she wanted it. Until she no longer wanted to nurse.
Lydia weaned herself, cold-turkey, at about 14.5 months. I did not encourage her to give it up. She honestly woke up one morning and had no interest in nursing anymore. A few weeks later, I was pregnant with Bryce.
I promised Bryce 14.5 months, just like his sister. I promised myself that I would have the patience to embark on this journey once again. A year of this incredibly powerful symbiotic relationship. Women who choose not to breastfeed their babies or who are unable to for whatever reason miss what I believe to be the most beautiful part of nurturing a newborn, infant, and toddler: the powerful relationship breastfeeding creates. When you are a work-from-home mom who breastfeeds, your child is often attached to your body hours and hours every day. Every 30 minutes, 30 minutes at a time, all day and night. If he wasn’t nursing, not only did he feel it, but I felt it, too. I did not pump for Bryce. He took ONE 2-ounce bottle once so I could go get a haircut on my birthday when he was about 7 weeks old. Every other drop of breastmilk this child received came directly from my body to his.
Take note, I have in no way referred to breastmilk and breastfeeding as food or eating. Anyone can feed a baby. Modern advances have allowed mothers to physically detach from their young starting at birth. Breastfeeding is what allows the modern mother and baby to connect with what nature has decided is right for us to survive as a species. It is the most brilliant expression of our creator’s understanding of the life we have been given. It is a true blessing, allowing our adult bodies to nurture our babies after they have exited the womb.
It has always been pretty clear to my husband (not so much me) that we are only having two children. When you know this, you realize that each moment is your last. Your last pregnancy, last birthing experience, last time holding your newborn, last time seeing all the firsts (first birthday, first words, first steps), and last child to nurse.
The last time Bryce nursed was the day after his 3rd birthday. I breastfed him for 36 months.
It’s been about 6 weeks since he stopped, and I finally have the courage now to write about it. All my children have weaned. As much as I have whined about my children’s poor sleeping habits over the years, I am incredibly grateful that even though Bryce has weaned, he still comes in my bed every single night to snuggle with me. He gets close to my body, looks into my eyes, and his little body still shows me how much he loves me. With tears in my eyes, this is my reminder to never forgot how important the bond that breastfeeding created for us has been to our lives.
These choices we make as parents – every single one – they shape our identity. They create advocates and friendships. They polarize and unify. They cause us to be insanely intuitive and confidently uncertain. My greatest fear when I contemplated Bryce’s choice to wean was that I would lose my identity. But now I know, the choice I made to breastfeed and naturally wean my children created an identity for myself I will never lose.
My emotions and body are both eternally grateful.