Saturday, March 30, 2013

Once Upon a Time, I Was a Nursing Mother

It amazes me that, in three-and-a-half long years of nursing my daughter, there were exactly two photos taken. The first, minutes after she was born: I have the most comical pained expression, captured by my mother, as Ella latches on (powerfully, I might add) for the first of uncountable times.

The other photo is this.

She was so tiny and hungry. Sometimes she nursed all day and all night, in the early days.

I always intended to nurse past a year old, but I had no idea that I would still be nursing my baby years later, long past her babyhood, and well into the time of a walking talking school-attending little girl.

I nursed Ella day in and day out, night after night, through illness, bad days, blizzards, hot summers, in subways, on trains, in restaurants, at zoos, concerts, empty grad school classrooms. I nursed her to soothe hurts and hurt feelings, tantrums and nightmares, tummyaches and sore throats. I nursed her when I didn't feel like it, and I nursed her in the quiet early dawn when there was nothing I'd rather be doing.

I nursed her when she could only ask for the breast with little guttural whimpers and ostentatious sucking sounds, and I nursed her when she could walk right up to me in her little mary janes and say, "mama, would you mind please nursing me?"

In three and a half years, though it became less frequent, we never missed one single day of nursing.

I don't really miss it, the tight way I was bound to her. It wasn't easy. Sometimes, in my worst moments, I imagined Ella and I were like Chang and Eng, the famous conjoined twins, claustrophobic and entwined. Then sometimes I was afraid I would lose something irretrievable when I weaned her. And I thought surely I would be like a soldier with phantom limb twinges, that the ghost of my nursing baby would haunt me forever, the pull at my nipples felt at odd moments like a visceral flashback.

And yet, it was okay in the end, the weaning, that separation. I got my breasts back all to myself (with more than a sigh of relief), she learned other ways to soothe herself, and is an independent and self-confident girl.

I think it was the best and rightest thing I have done in my life.



kylie said...

what a beautiful post!

it warms my doula heart
and my mama heart
and my friend heart


nick said...

A wonderful post, written with such love. A sense of profound connection between you and Ella. The weaning must have been quite a wrench.

And how polite and formal she was - "Mama, would you mind please nursing me?"

Chantel said...

Having experienced so much the same, I relish the experience through another's eyes. Another's heart. There truly is no replacing this tangible bond.

Beautifully said, this was.

Leah said...

Kylie, you continue to inspire me with your journey!

xx Leah

Leah said...

Nick, nursing a toddler and then an articulate pre-schooler yields the funniest possible moments.

x Leah

Leah said...

Chantel, it is always a sweet moment to discover other manas who have taken the same journey...

x Leah

Chef Files said...

Speaking of journeys, I believe your time away has returned you to the top of your game once again. A welcome return I might add.

Scarlet Blue said...

I missed out on this special connection... and I think I was a bottle babe.
It's good to read this.