Alright. It’s time I write about this.
About being tired of breastfeeding.
So tired I was hating it. So tired… and no longer looking forward to it. How could all of me feel like “I love him and I love this” and “I don’t want this to stop yet,” but at the same time all of me worried about feelings of “I hate this.”
I wanted to feel normal again; I wanted to feel my breasts cry of milk instead of pain.
I didn’t want to tell anyone about the dark side. I feared the raised eyebrows, the lack of understanding, the assumptions. Pregnancy made me both too sensitive and too impatient to tolerate much:
“Why don’t you just wean him?”
“Enough is enough…”
“He’s old enough to be done.”
“You need to take care of yourself, too.”
“It’s time to let go.”
“Don’t you think this is nature’s sign to stop?”
I feared having to explain how I don’t need to wean him; he’s already weaning himself.
…how he still asks to nurse, so enough is enough does not apply.
…how age isn’t a measuring stick for readiness to fully move on.
…how taking care of my heart is an important part of taking care of myself, too.
…how ‘letting go’ doesn’t mean quite what they think it means.
And how nature does give us signs (they say “You’ll be okay, keep up the good work.”).
I was afraid to attempt to describe it for those who can’t feel what I feel. It’s a lot to expect of others, you know — to demand a full understanding of the maternal heart and this connection with my young child who changes and grows every day. I can barely keep up with it myself.
And it’s a lot to explain, under threat of needing to defend oneself against a certain unwanted reaction. That stony, uncomfortable facial expression or critically high-pitched “we all have our own opinions” opinion inspired by a mother’s admittance of “Breastfeeding has become awful, but yes, we’re still doing it.” The reaction that unfairly pegs her for a martyr or a masochist instead of what she actually is — a mother.
I can explain why I kept nursing, though:
…because MaiTai kept nursing. Is it unfair to put all the responsibility upon him? I don’t think so. He owns his wants and needs without my influence. I would happily fulfill his request for a hug any day, and so I treated nursing as the same. I happily (though fearfully) fulfilled his requests to nurse; I assured myself that pain was a separate issue and it need not separate us.
…because I also kept doing other things for him that he needs or wants, including things I don’t particularly enjoy (like cooking homemade meals, washing his laundry, picking him up when he’s tired AND I’m tired too).
…because the milk was gone, but gone was not the hope that it would return. MaiTai continued to ask for ‘nanoo’ weekly, sometimes seemingly disappointed that the well was dry and other times continuing to suckle without much mind. He kept coming back as if he knew, instinctively, that the milk would one day come back, too.
…because it’s never painful forever. The pain was contained in its present; it did not linger. He would ask; we would nurse; I would wish it didn’t feel so horrible between the dried-up ducts and his worsening, ever-tightening latch. Then he would say, “Thanks Mommy, I’m all done now,” would stop nursing, and everything fell neutral again. After a nursing session, all I was left with was love, connection, and gratitude that drew a black-out curtain over memory of the temporary torture.
…because, of all the times we could’ve purposefully stopped nursing in nearly 3.5 years, this one of pregnancy-induced pain is but a player in a short chapter. Nature gave me instincts and they whispered reassuringly of this as a phase rather than a finality.
…Then Colostrum Jumpstarted the Mammary Memory
Unsurprisingly, I greatly look forward to nursing a newborn again. So tender, so sweet! — this is what I think after diving into my baby-feverish haze of memory. Then reality sneaks in the sucker punch of “But remember how physically draining it was? Remember how mentally exhausting? Remember how awkward and uncomfortable and unsure and fully responsible you felt?” Remember, remember, remember…??
Yes, thanks for that, brain. But let’s stay positive! The truth is the anticipation still makes my heart swell.
My brain, let’s get on the same page as my heart, shall we?
And on the same page as the rest of my body, which is getting pretty excited about nursing a baby too, if evidenced by the colostrum I’ve recently begun producing.
Hmm, yes, I had speculated a big change was afoot when MaiTai nursed six times in two days. I felt confused by his sudden steep increase of interest, but a-ha! — then I saw it. The goldleaf of thick yellow colostrum wet on my nipple, revealing what my body had been busy whipping up in the previous days or weeks.
Now a few weeks removed from my discovery of the colostrum, I notice that nursing no longer hurts like it did before when my milk had dried up. I don’t hate it! I’m not too tired of it. It doesn’t make me wish for an epidural for my nipples.
The nursing sessions these days are tip-toeing back to a state of painless (albeit still uncomfortable) neutrality that can be sustained. It helps that he just nurses long enough for a taste of the liquid gold and has no interest for long-winded nanoo marathons.
“I like when the nanoos have MORE like this,” MaiTai said, approving the reappearance of milk (even though it’s a different type than he likely remembers).
“What does it taste like?” I asked.
“Ummmm. Strawberries and blueberries!”
(I’ve heard colostrum tastes like straw, but I’ve never tried it so I’ll have to defer to MaiTai as expert on this one).
I told The Designated Dad, with a bit of nervousness in my laugh, “Soooo I guess this means we’re probably tandem nursing then…”