I just sat and looked through a People magazine slide show of collected pics of celebrities nursing their babies in honour of World Breastfeeding Week. It made me feel so connected, in that way I do when I see women nursing their kids in different cultures around the world. It's that shared thread, that way we all pick up our babies and bring them to our chests, to feed, to bond, to cuddle. It is universal, without language. If we all did it in the same room together, with the lights dimmed, we wouldn't see our cultural differences at all. We would hear the same suckling noises from our babies, we would sigh the same happy sigh.
I am still nursing Summer, and this is the longest I have gone with any of my babies. Abby weaned about 11 months, and I stopped nursing the twins at 10 months because little miss surprise baby was on her way and sucking the life force out of me. I am happy to let this taper off at her request. This is my victory lap, after all. Of all the sense memories I have from the baby stage, from folding little onesies to smelling milky heads, the thing I will miss most is breastfeeding. I know our breastfeeding relationship is one of comfort now, more than nutrition. I am happy to provide her this comfort, and am not worried about bad habits like nursing her to sleep. Because I know this is fleeting, and I am doing this as much for her as I am for me.
I have made sacrifices to keep nursing her. Indeed, it was a very rough start those first four weeks, and every feed lasted almost 45-minutes, because the process included breast compressions, pumping, breastfeeding and a bottle of formula to top her off. This to ensure that while she learned to nurse effectively, she also was getting enough to grow. I have sacrificed sleep, time with my other three kids, attending certain events and I have been prevented from being away from her for any period of time longer than about 12 hours.
But oh, it is all worth it, now. When she received her one-year vaccinations and was crying, shaking so hard from the indignity of being poked with three painful needles, I sat in the waiting room and had her calmed down within minutes of beginning to nurse her. When I lull her to sleep at night, often after a harried, hectic bedtime (x4), I am granted a serene moment to sit holding Summer in her rocking chair, in a quiet, dark room, and stare down into her deep blue eyes. I hum lullabies, run my hand over her round, soft head, and take time to look at all her little parts before she goes to sleep and grows them all overnight.
So tonight, I salute you, mamas. I honour the sacrifice it takes to breastfeed, and the love it fosters. Rather than polarize formula from bottle from breastfeeding mamas, (who are all doing their best and make their call out of love), I am taking this moment to clink glasses with those who have also missed events, stayed up through the night, made everything all better and given life-giving nourishment to their babies. It's a beautiful bond, worth cherishing.