The Last Menagerie

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Breastfeeding. Is there an experience as bittersweet? I have devoted almost three years of my life to nursing. No bottles. No pumps. And – to the great shock of many – I still have a career outside of the home. Some would call this an accomplishment…or insanity.

Lately, however, something has been coming between my daughter and I. Two things actually. Ivy the Otter and Elton the Elephant – they must be held while my little girl nurses.

It’s a transition that has emerged slowly, but now my youngest’s message is clear: Mom, I am learning to find security outside of you.

But this isn’t my first circus – I know what comes next.

And every day I am left to wonder: Will today produce the last menagerie?

They say things feel different with your second child, and it’s true. Life begins to outpace you, the parent. But, if I’m honest, I never expected to know two other beings so well. Breastfeeding has granted me that opportunity.

My son, for example, is fascinated by textures. There is a little mole under my arm he used to find when nursing. When I hug him now, he still checks to ensure it is there – almost as if it harbors all of my love.

With my daughter, I knew I had a problem solver from the beginning. A pensive look of determination used to come over her during a feeding. Why? Because she had to manipulate an object in her hands when she was latched.

The hard part about breastfeeding, however, is not the physical act; it’s the time. If I look back I can see missed social events, professional tardiness, and friendship challenges…all because I was able to nurse my children until they were ready to wean.

But, for all I have sacrificed, I have discovered strength deep within me. With spit-up on my sleeve, with bags beneath my eyes, and with a child perpetually attached to my hip, I became a mother who learned that love – the kind you wait for your entire life – is the endless giving of self.

As for my work? I knew the right job would accommodate my motherhood dreams.

And it did.

Last night my daughter cried out in the middle of the night – pleading for the first time in many months.

I held her, gathered her animals in the dark, and offered the comfort that can only be transferred when two humans know one another completely.

And it will be this, not the menagerie, that my arms remember.

One Year Ago: The Breast Commitment

5 thoughts on “The Last Menagerie

  1. It’s such a beautiful and touching post. I love breastfeeding but it’s definitely hard right now as I’m trying to get my baby to take a bottle which she hates so bad, and she is teething and biting out of frustration or pain… oh my… when I’m tired and angry I tell myself I will stop breastfeeding completely, than she smiles and snuggles during feeding and melts my heart… bittersweet for sure.
    I love this post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for the kind words. Even though I have been able to breastfeed both children for over a year, I encountered challenges all along the way. The most significant being teething (as you mentioned). If little ones weren’t so cute and vulnerable, I’m not sure any of us would commit 🙂 In all seriousness, the rewards are magical and priceless.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Mirror & Soul and commented:
    I would like to share with you this touching post about breastfeeding. Each mom has a different experience, I myself didn’t have a very good experience in the beginning with the first child but with the second one it was much easier! When it works well, it’s a magical way to bond with your baby. Thanks for letting me share it, Lauren! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing your stories for so many who need encouragement. I had triplets born prematurely and they lived in the NICU for a month-ish. Through exhaustion of pumping enough times three, traveling back and forth to the hospital to be with them and them using preemie nipples at the hospital, they were never able to latch on. I pumped once they were home and had to do so round the clock between tending to and feeding the trio. Before long it was evident, my sleep was essential to all our thriving and since I’d wake up and pump x three, then feed the trio with my husband’s help, then sleep or try to for a brief time, then wake up to pump again, we lasted as long as possible until it was unhealthy for me to continue. Everybody has an individual story. Hopefully some help the ones who need to read them.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Your experience pulls at my heartstrings! How brave you were to pour all of yourself into the endeavor. I can only imagine the healing that has taken place since. Sleep is absolutely essential…as is sanity. I think we all have to find our own path. The little ones, after all, depend on it 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

      Liked by 2 people

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