In the next couple of weeks, Matilda will be done nursing. I have never been a super producer of milk (I would’ve been a terrible wet nurse!), and now that she’s bigger and drinking more, my body just can’t keep up with her. And since I don’t have a job that allows for a flexible pumping schedule, I can’t pump enough during the day to encourage more production. “Okay, kids, here’s your essay. I’ll be back here at my desk with my breasts hooked up to a machine, expressing milk for my infant.” (I’d make the news at least.)
I always knew that I wanted to breastfeed, but nursing hasn’t always been easy. I had friends and coworkers who talked about breastfeeding like it was this magical, enjoyable experience. One coworker would light up when she talked about nursing, and even told me that it was such a rush, like having orgasms but not sexual. Um, weird, but okay! Nursing seems like it’s this natural thing that’s easy because I mean, duh, that’s what they’re for, but for me it was really difficult. I struggled with both babies to get the latches right, became tight with the lactation consultants at the hospital, and fought to maintain milk production. I’ve sacrificed planning time and lunch time at school to pump, and lost many an hour of sleep nursing a baby in the middle of the night. There have been clogged ducts and mastitis and pain and tears and gross potions that are supposed to increase milk production for pregnant ladies without hurting the fetus and too many oatmeal breakfasts to count. I think sometimes nursing was even harder than being pregnant or actually giving birth. And in spite of it all, I love that I did it. To have been able to provide Charlie and Matilda with a stronger immune system and the dozens of other benefits—well, that made it 1000% worth it.
As much as I kind of wish I was, I’m not and have never been a breasfeeding La Leche League earth mother. I did it because I knew it was the best thing for my babies (and the health benefits for me and the not having to trade all of our dollars for formula part was just a bonus). I’m really proud of myself for sticking with it, and for persevering during those difficult and painful moments. It proved to me how tough I really can be (and, let’s be honest, I already thought I was pretty tough). I don’t want to be too annoying about all of this: I’m not going to make you read a Some Ecard that has a lady talking about how she’s a superhero because she makes milk (um, by superhero did you mean mammal?) or anything, but I did a really hard thing for a long time because it was best for my babies. For that I am proud.
One day in these next weeks, I will listen to that eee-uhhhhh-chhoo of the Medela and then wash those damned pump parts for the last time. One day in these next weeks, I will nurse a baby for the last time, listening to her sweet nursing hum, cradling her, yelling when she bites down and then pulls and then getting mad when she laughs. The funny thing is that I probably won’t know at the time that it is our last nursing session, so there won’t be confetti or celebratory shots of tequila because finally I don’t have to worry about making my baby a booze fiend. Nope. It’ll just end. Just like that.
It’s been two and a half years since I haven’t been pregnant or nursing or both, and hell if I’m not ready to take my body back, to sleep on my stomach, to wear a bra that doesn’t look like it doubles as stripper wear with its easy access straps and hooks, to pick out clothes because I like them and not because they’re nursing friendly.
I’m harboring conflicting emotions about being done nursing: pride, sadness, ridiculous amounts of excitement. Like so many of the milestones and closed chapters that lie before us will be, this one is a little bittersweet.