I always knew breastfeeding was going to be time consuming, but I didn’t know just HOW time consuming. I always knew breastfeeding was going to be difficult, but I didn’t know just HOW difficult. I always knew breastfeeding was going to be bonding, but I didn’t know just HOW bonding.
For the first 11 months of my daughter’s life I gave her a gift. I gave her all that my body had to offer, including the milk from my once perky boobs. I aligned my life so that I could nurse her until she was a year old. My work schedule and quite frankly life schedule, was dictated by when my daughter needed to eat. I nursed her when I could and pumped for her when I couldn’t. Even if I was away from her, every four hours I pumped so that my milk supply would sustain until her August 22nd birthday.
When I first began to nurse, it was a whirlwind. I was confused. My body had only ever been form and had now it was function? The shift was strange. Furthermore the going between form and function was infinitely difficult for me to reconcile.
After I got the hang of it, breastfeeding became a source of pride. I was eating and drinking the best that I could so that my baby could in turn ingest excellent nutrition. I tried and my efforts seemed to pay off. She was healthy, hardly ever sick and her growth was off the charts. She was always tall and hearty and it made me feel great. My milk, my efforts were helping her grow. It was beyond rewarding!
But then, we hit month 10 and I started to squirm. Nursing her was great, but pumping was the bane of my existence. I just didn’t want to do it anymore. I had pumped, and pumped and pumped. I was over it. When my daughter turned 11 months I emailed a girlfriend for help on how to wean my daughter. I also wanted to start tapering my milk supply. I was ready to have MY schedule back and not have to pump, pump, pump! The bright light at the end of the tunnel was so inviting!
Well, the day after my daughter turned 11 months her papa bathed her, put on her jammies and handed her to me to nurse before she went down for the night. I cradled her, just like they taught me to do at the hospital, and she latched for a few seconds and sat up. That’s strange. I switched sides, cradled her, she latched for a few seconds and sat up. Weird. We repeated the cycle a few times until she sat up and faced me. Her olive eyes stared at my brown eyes for a few seconds and I knew. I felt it — she was done. She didn’t cry or fuss, she had the sweetest, calmest look on her face. She was saying, “Mama, it’s okay now. It’s been great, I love you and I’m all done.” It was like nothing I had ever felt.
I sat with her, tried to memorize her beautiful face, and took a few pictures as I knew it was her last time.
The weeks before she had been nursing less and less but I had NO idea that she would wean herself. I had no clue. I thought that I was going to have leave town — that weaning her would be a huge production, but it just wasn’t. She took care of it for me. We shared a moment, I warmed a bottle for her, she drank every drop and went to sleep.
After she fell asleep I cried and my husband consoled me. I KNEW it was the natural progression, I was even preparing for it, but my emotions were nothing like I expected. My time, our time, that intense bond, I felt, lessened a little.
It’s been two weeks since I have nursed her, and it feels different. It’s freeing but it’s also been a little sad. I’ll always be proud of the year (we’re rounding it out with pumping—I guess my pump is having the last laugh!) and just because the year is over doesn’t mean our bond has actually lessened, it doesn’t mean she actually needs me less and it doesn’t mean I still don’t give her EVERYTHING I have to offer. But it does mean that time is moving on. It does mean that she’s growing up. It does mean that my heart broke just a little.
I always knew breastfeeding was going to be bonding, but I didn’t know just HOW bonding.