There would be voices in my head telling me that no one wanted to hear another sappy story about a woman nursing her child. There were voices telling me that a post about breastfeeding would come across as insensitive to the people who don’t or can’t breastfeed. What about the new babies who have two dads? Surely, the world doesn’t need another post proclaiming the health benefits of breastfeeding. This isn’t a post meant to convince you that what you’re doing with your baby is anything but fine.
But if I’ve learned anything since becoming a mother, it’s that the world doesn’t have enough talk about breastfeeding. Or natural childbirth. Or postpartum recovery. Or child-rearing generally. At the same time that we’re utterly bombarded with “mom” articles, I’ve found myself wanting more. So I’m writing.
There are days when I think of breastfeeding as my superpower. My impossibly tiny boobs are feeding a human being. I am purely mammal: a blue whale, a leopard, a kangaroo. Improbably pumping out a magical, nourishing elixir for my own human animal. It’s staggering.
But there are other days when breastfeeding feels like a burden. I can’t wear half the dresses in my closet. I had to wear breast pads for at least five months and still, when I nurse in the middle of the night, whatever boob isn’t being suckled spurts milk. I have leaked through my clothes in public. I have rushed home to pump with aching breasts.
I have cried when I couldn’t pump enough milk to fill a bottle. I have sat strapped to my electric breast pump wailing against the inborn patriarchy that means that I have to be the one to nourish our child.
I have cried because I can’t think of a single thing sweeter than the tiny hand of my daughter reaching back to play with her hair while she nurses. Or the way that she stretches her fingers to touch my lips when I look down at her. Or the way that her lips crack into a smile and she can’t continue nursing because her grin is too wide, laughing at her own private joke.
I’ve wept because I can’t wait to stop nursing. And I’ve wept because eventually I will.
In the first days of breastfeeding, the physical transformation was mind-boggling. My breasts were so engorged that I couldn’t put my arms down, like a bodybuilder whose bulging muscles keep his arms permanently lifted away from his sides. My nipples were tender. My armpits were lumpy. I texted friends for advice. I bawled to my sister who hopped on a subway bearing nipple butter and a breast pump. I drank cup after cup of tea to help with my milk production and fortify my spirits.
But eventually Faye learned to nurse and I learned to nurse her. Together we made it happen. The misery lasted for two whole days, which is not very many days. The slight discomfort for just a few weeks, which is not very many weeks. I’ll get to nurse this baby for a year or two, which is not very many years.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, all blessings are mixed blessings. But they’re blessings all the same.
This post was sponsored by Traditional Medicinals, whose Mother’s Milk and Mother’s Milk Shatavari Cardamom teas I’ve enjoyed regularly as a part of my breastfeeding routine. Thank you for supporting the thoughtful, sustainable companies that support this blog.
Photo by James.