I recently came across this beautiful, yet extremely personal picture of me breastfeeding my newborn son – who turns 2 on Saturday – which I can’t believe I’m actually sharing, but it got me thinking about my entire breastfeeding journey (which ended some time ago). Let me start by saying what an unbelievably difficult journey it was! If you too have done it, hats off to you! I’m still am in somewhat of disbelief that I was that die-hard breastfeeding mama that I was. To be perfectly honest, before becoming pregnant, I never fathomed that I’d breastfeed my children – mainly due to the vain risk of ruining my breasts. But then, once you’re actually there, your protective mama bear instincts completely take over, and you fight as hard as you possibly can to give your baby all that you can. And, for me, breast milk was one of those very things. Prior to starting my breastfeeding journey, I knew it was going to be one of the hardest things I ever do – thanks to those dear friends of mine who fully prepared me for the painful experience – but, I became bound and determined to breastfeed as long as I possibly could…with both of my children!
And, it was hard. Really, really hard! And, oh-so painful. Excruciatingly painful! Down right miserable, and completely time-consuming. Yet, there I was, persevering to be successful in this endeavor for the well-being of my babes. And I was, for 14 months with my first, and 18 whole months with my second. Grande, I did have to supplement a little bit of formula the first time around, as I had a difficult time producing enough with my daughter, but ironically had the complete opposite problem the second time around – I produced so much that I became prone to plugged-ducts and mastitis. Ugh!
Like pretty much everything with my firstborn, breastfeeding was kind of a dream scenario. That was until about the 9 month mark, when I was no longer producing enough milk on my own to provide the necessary amount of milk for my daughter’s last night-time bottle. You can read more about that experience here. However, my experience the second time around, with my son was completely different. I produced so much milk that I was oftentimes (about 8 times to be exact) was cursed with plugged-ducts and/or matistis. If you are unfamiliar with matitis, allow me to give you a small glimpse into this torturous condition – it’s like having the flu, while having to care for a newborn (oh, and his 1.5 year old sister…alone…with a needy dog whining at your feet constantly), while still forcing yourself to breastfeed and/or pump from your unbelievably sore breast, when all you want to do is curl up in bed and wish the pain and torture away. Yet, somehow I found the strength to continue on. I really don’t know how I did it. But, I did. Crazy? Probably! And, I continued to time after time, plugged duct after plugged duct, to breastfeed until my son was approaching his 18 month birthday, and I realized it was about time to think about calling it quits. And, it was time. Actually, it may have been past the time. But, I think I know why I held on as long as I did…I knew this was my last baby, and I wanted to hold onto the “baby-phase” as long as I possibly could. So I did. Until I realized that I was comfortable with the 18 month mark being our last time. So, I made sure it was special.
It was my son’s 18 month birthday. And it had become a ritual for me to bring him into bed with me first thing in the morning for a little suckle and snuggle, while I soaked up those extra few minutes of shut-eye. But, that last time was different – perfect in fact. I had my daughter snuggled into my left arm, my son snuggled into my right bosom, and our little fur baby snuggled next to my daughter. I knew it needed to end on a happy note. And I did. I really was perfect. My heart was so unbelievably happy and I felt at peace with ending this chapter in my life. Sure, he occasionally asked my my milk a few times afterwards, but I just told him “All done. Mama has no more milk. Can I get you some water or milk in a cup instead?” and he was totally fine! So, I guess I was the one holding onto it. But, when the decision to have anymore children is pretty much taken away from you, I think it’s only natural to cling on to it for dear life. And, that’s exactly what I did, until the day I realized it was time. He was ready and I was ready to close the door on the baby-phase. So, we did. And, it was just fine. And to be perfectly honest, it was nice to have my body back as my own again, for the first time in 4 years!
My breastfeeding journey may have begun with a slow, somewhat awkward, difficult and straight up painful start, however, perseverance is proof that you alone have the power to turn any situation around. You really can make that very experience that may have seemed impossible, something truly magical. I will forever cherish that final feeding and remember the entire journey as a successful and happy one, regardless of how difficult it may have been at times. If you can do it, breastfeeding truly is a remarkable experience. I feel so very fortunate to have had the opportunity to with both of my babies.