Dear Breastfeeding Mama,
I see you.
Though it may sometimes feel as though you are living in a world demanding you to cover up and hide away, I see you just as you are: mother and child, bound by necessity, united in love, cloaked with dignity and strength.
I see you whether you have nursed your baby for three days or three years. I see you navigating your journey with a courageous, open heart.
I see you in the moments that have been trying, the ones for which the books did not prepare you.
You are radiant as you sit before the hospital-grade pump, exhausted and worried for your precious baby in the NICU. You are magnificent as you nervously allow the lactation consultant to guide you through the first latch; no one told you it would be so difficult. You are fierce as you work tirelessly to understand tongue and lip-tie, and the alarming dismissal of low-supply.
You are exquisite, even as you cry out with exasperation; if only someone would gently whisper that all of the mothers who came before you also once felt the need to cry.
I see you rocking your baby into the oblivion as the rest of the world sweetly slumbers. In the darkness, you calculate how many nights you have gone without rest. Wondering how much longer you can sustain, the guilt mounts as you dream of trading these moments for a decent night’s sleep.
I see you gazing upon your baby’s delicate face, tears welling in your dark-circled eyes. I see you as the love swells so intensely, you fear that your heart cannot contain it all.
I see you delighting in the precious milk-drunk haze, giggling at those tiny burps of intoxicating sweetness.
I still see your sparkle through the nipple butter, leaking, engorgement, unsightly bras and inconvenient breast pads.
I see you beaming through your work at hand-expression, locating donor milk, and SNS feeding. I feel your love as you push through the pain.
I see you as you bravely venture out for the very first time, apprehensive to feed your baby so openly, so exposed. I hear your worry. What if he cries? What if they stare? What if I fumble? I see you resolve to hold your head high, though your hands may be shaking.
I hear your plea for others to understand, your pride in these moments of feeding is not intended to cause shame. You desire simply to nourish this little one whom you love. You won’t judge if sweet babies are formula-fed; you don’t mind if people prefer to look away. You know we are all good mothers, either way.
I see you in the break-room at work, steadfast and dutifully pumping.
I see you at home gritting your teeth through the tenth breastfeeding sesh of the day.
I see you nursing as you wander the aisles of Target; help your toddler onto a toilet; take-off and come back down from way up high on a plane.
I see you breastfeeding to offer some comfort; survive through teeth cutting in; side-by-side in the early morning light to catch three more minutes of sleep.
I see you marveling at the way your baby has grown, once nestled so delicately in your lap. Now those chubby legs flair and those teeth sometimes clamp down. I see you nursing right on, all the same.
I see you as the time passes, and the hormones ebb and flow, standing before the mirror, transformed. With scrutiny you wonder if you are as delightful as you once believed yourself to be. (You are.)
I hear you as you doubt your beauty, your youthfulness and glow, then tilt your chin upward and softly, but firmly, say “Enough is enough! I am changed, yes, but a goddess emerged. I will be grateful and let go of this grieving.”
I see you holding back bittersweet tears as you realize your big girl is beginning to wean away.
I hear your tears of frustration as you wonder when this will ever end, if your body will ever again exist, unclaimed.
And, dear mama, I see you when those babies are suddenly running and playing, and your pumps and your pillows have all been packed away. Though a tender space in your heart will cherish it, always, these nights and days of endlessly giving will soon be a faraway dream.
So, sweet mama, whether you’ve been breastfeeding for minutes, or what seems like an eternity, take heart in knowing that a moment in time was abundantly filled by your love.
You are beautiful, always, and infinitely incredible. You are seen. You are special. You are loved.