[Disclaimer: I am truly a breastfeeding advocate, but do realize that it is not ideal for everyone. I pass no judgement on those who chose not to, or could not breastfeed. This is just my experience. One for which I am grateful for choosing.]
I've been formulating this post in my mind for months. It has been almost two full weeks since Emma nursed. Seeing that she is 19 months old, many would consider it well past due. There is a large part of me that weeps inside knowing that I will never get the opportunity to enjoy that wonderful bonding experience again. A few weeks ago, I read a wonderful post about another mother's experience with breastfeeding. Anymommy is most definitely a gifted writer and I am sure that my post will pale in comparison.
When I began the journey of breastfeeding almost 9 years ago with my first child, I had hoped that I would be able to nurse her for a while, but was so unsure of what that really would mean. I had no preconceived ideas of how long was the right amount and what I would do if I needed to formula feed. I just fed her and it worked. She had no difficulty latching on and even with a slight bout of jaundice, we were able to nurse with little fanfare. As she was born in February, it was so nice to just snuggle in and get cozy in bed or on the couch and spend uninterrupted time providing for my baby the way nature intended.
When I returned to work, I pumped. I felt like a cow and struggled mightily with supply problems. I took pills and drank teas and tried all I could do. It got to the point where I had no "freezer stash" and was living day to day hoping that nothing would happen. I can't tell you how painful it was to discover that I had forgotten to put my milk in the fridge one day and found it the next morning still in the cooler compartment of the breast pump. I'm sure I violated some tenet of breastfeeding when I poured that precious liquid gold right into a bottle and NOT down the drain. It smelled and tasted fine to me, so I just banked on the magical properties of breast milk to keep it safe. Thankfully, Sarah came out of that just fine and we were able to make it 12 months of nursing and pumping. She finally weaned herself around 15 months and I was fine with it. Part of me missed it as we snuggled at bedtime, but I also enjoyed having my body back.
When Sarah's younger sister Megan was born, we (my ta-ta's and I) were able to fall right back into the rhythm they learned a few years earlier. The time spent actually nursing her was wonderful, the time spent hooked up to a breast pump-not so much! The same supply issues I had with Sarah were still there. Megan always seemed to enjoy the nursing more than her sister and that was painfully evident in the almost 20 months we spent joined at the mouth/breast. I had to force Megan to wean and it was not a pretty sight. But, again part of me was a little sad to be done with it.
When Emma was born, my job situation had changed some and I knew I wasn't going to be able to nurse her in the morning when she woke. Which meant she was going to drink one more bottle a day than the other girls had, and knowing how my supply was with the other girls, I had a sinking suspicion that I would have some real problems keeping up. Emma was definitely a bigger eater than her sister, it didn't hurt she was born 1.5 lbs heavier. Nursing was not an issue, but of course, supply while pumping was. I posted last fall about my meltdown and my realization that Emma was going to be my first child to have formula. At the time, I felt like a failure. Thank God for friends and family who kept me from losing my mind and helped me to realize it was far more healthier for my child to have me sane, than to insist upon breast milk only.
Emma and I both made it to 12 months and lived to tell about it. When one of her first words was "nurse", I knew I had another addict on my hands. (It was adorable when she would walk up to me at bedtime saying "Nurse? Nurse? Peas, peas, nurse?") I knew it was time, but I couldn't bring myself to wean her. Over the past few months I had gotten her nursing down to just at bedtime and then the last few weeks, I've been slowly using other means of getting her to sleep. I would nurse her for a little and then take her up to her room to read Goodnight Moon and then down she would go. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving I decided this would be a good time to try to wean. Her bedtime routine that night consisted of just the book and nothing else and no complaints. Thanksgiving night, the same. And now we are going on almost two full weeks. Now that doesn't mean she still doesn't ask, but after I tell her a few times that its "all gone" she seems to give up. That also doesn't mean that I don't miss it.
I miss the feel of a baby nestled in my arms and rooting for a familiar smell. I miss the tell-tale feel of the good latch of a hungry baby. I miss the sight of a sleeping baby drunk on mother's milk. I miss the warmth and bonding of skin on skin contact. I miss the sweet sweet smell of baby breath. I miss the joy of knowing that I was the sole source of food for my child. I miss the feeling of total contentment and an indescribable emotion when I would look into the eyes of my nursing child; a feeling only another nursing mother can fully understand.