Depending on who you ask, breastfeeding it the most natural, exhausting, beautiful, gross, impossible, essential, painful, perfect experience of motherhood. Some take to it like a duck to water, others struggle for a year to get the perfect latch, others know from the start that it’s not their choice for feeding their babies, some pump exclusively for months before being able to feed from the breast.
My breastfeeding relationship has been filled with many adjectives. It came easily with my first child. He was a jovial baby with all the rolls. He nursed well and my milk came in smoothly. I had to wake him to feed at night in those first few weeks because apparently my milk was loaded with a ambien-like substance.
Then I became pregnant again. My son was two and still an enthusiastic breastfeeder. After a few months, I developed a severe aversion to breastfeeding. Just the anticipation of having him latch caused my whole body to tense. I had had visions of tandem nursing with pride, but that was slipping away with every toe-curling feeding. Because of the pain, I would delay feedings and sometimes skip one, which eventually led to a series of milk blisters. How could this once loving, healthy relationship now be falling apart?
The discomfort subsided enough for me to continue nursing until my daughter was born. She was a cluster-feeder and with her constantly attached to my body, there was less opportunity for my son to nurse. Our bedtime nursing session slowly spaced out from every other night to a couple times a week to non-existent. It was one of those defining moments of watching the baby step to childhood.
My daughter is 22 months old now and still nurses several times a day. There are days when I want to wean her. Desperate days when I just want my body to belong to me again. But then she asks for milk with a special word which must sound exactly like “milk” in her mind. She lays with me, close and still, concentrating on the one thing that grounds her and connects her completely. I feel her relax in a way that only comes otherwise if she’s asleep.
And I think, okay, we can make this work for a while longer.