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