Sunday, September 18, 2011

All Done

I've started this post so many times and just as many I have erased everything to start over again, only to restart the cycle. I don't know why it is so hard for me to put the occasion into words, I don't know why I can't articulate our newest milestone. So I'll guess I'll just throw it out there and see where I go from there.

After 16 months and 27 days, Baby self weaned herself from breastfeeding. I knew it was coming for awhile, around 14 months she went from nursing one or two times a day every day to once a day and then it became every other day. She stopped asking to nurse almost entirely and for the most part I stopped offering. I could tell it wasn't a nursing strike and felt it would have been very unnatural to ask her to nurse more than she requested on her own.

My nursing story is full of pain, crying (lots of crying), anger, frustration and resentment. Nothing could have ever prepared me for breastfeeding and not only the physical toll but the emotional one. I never even came close to understanding just how hard it is to breastfeed. I'm stubborn though and refused to give up. I've always had a hate relationship with my breasts and I wanted them to fulfill their purpose. So yes, the first six or seven months (and yes, I mean months not weeks) I breastfed through the pain, I took various supplements and prescription medicines to "fix" the problems, I took on a second full time job researching how to make breastfeeding work for me.

And then around seven months things just got better. Breastfeeding still hurt, but it was manageable. I figured out Baby had an upper tongue tie (oh how I wish I had known that from the start) and what adjustments needed to be made to make it hurt less. She embraced solids and wasn't nursing for 100% nutrition (though I do believe under one, just for fun when it comes to solids). In summary, I was able to just be a breastfeeding momma vs a woman who breastfeeds. I even began to enjoy and savor our nursing sessions (which by this point were only last five minutes tops).

I am so thankful that I breastfed my daughter. I found a passion I didn't realize I had. After all the misinformation that I was given, from family to friends and most importantly doctors I have become outspoken and very opinionated about breastfeeding and other women's issues. I feel like I have to throw out this disclaimer that I do not think I am superior or any other reputation that a lot of "lactivists" get. There are many women out there who judge parents that formula feed their children but I am far from one of those. It literally took hours of reading every day, communication with people from online communities, and an extreme amount of family support for me to keep nursing. I have never experienced the level of pain that I had from nursing (and that is saying a lot, as I had a drug free birth). I have never felt the emotional ranges of stress to anxiety to anger than while nursing. So I understand why women will make that choice not to nurse.

But I did, and I am proud of myself. Not only did I grow my child for the first nine months, but she sustained life for the first six months exclusively because of me. That to me, is an extremely powerful thought. I made many sacrifices for giving her the best food possible. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, but for me, it was never a choice. I have always known that my child(ren) would be breastfed. So yes, I am very proud of myself.

When I realized that Baby was weaning, I made myself memorize every single nursing session. I took in the way I cradled her, the way she would play with my teeth. I would breathe in her baby smell, sometimes she smelled sweet, sometimes she was a stinky/sweaty mix. I would memorize the weight in my arms and how she would look up and smile at me while nursing. I can still hear her say, "Ahhhh!" when she was done. The last time she nursed, at 16 months and 27 days was during a bath. She nursed for only a moment and then kissed my breast and did the "all done" sign. My sweet, silly, loving baby girl really is all done.

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