1066 days (or 2 years, 11 months, 2 days).....Wow, nearly three years. What a journey.
My overwhelming feeling when I think about my breastfeeding relationship with my daughter is gratitude.
I feel so thankful that I was able to nurse my baby right away without any real difficulties. That I had the support I needed in the beginning. That I knew to reach out to non-traditional resources when I had questions or struggled along the way. That my resolve never wavered.
I feel thankful that I was able to leave the house, go out to dinner, travel to other states, go on long car rides, go to concerts and festivals, and go hiking without ever having to pack up a bottle. Wow am I thankful for the portability of a breastfeeding baby!
I feel thankful that my work supports breastfeeding mothers. That blinds were put on the window to my office before I even returned to work so that I had a comfortable place to pump every few hours. That I felt comfortable enough to tell my field work crews that I needed to leave the job site for a while to go pump somewhere in my truck. That I was able to feed my baby ONLY my breastmilk for the first year of her life, even after going back to work.
I feel thankful that I opened the eyes of my family and friends to the benefits of breasfeeding. That people who I never would have guessed would handle it well eventually became used to me discreetly nursing Sadie while eating at a restaurant or anywhere else...if that meant we could all have a nice peaceful dinner together...why not?
I feel thankful that I was never publicly chided or made to feel uncomfortable for nursing in public. That I was never subjected to the humiliation that many nursing mothers are for simply feeding their children in front of strangers.
I feel overwhelming gratitude for the other committed nursing mamas in my life. That I always had someone to call or email with questions. That some of these mamas nursed well past what is generally accepted in American society and supported me in my journey as I passed Sadie's first and second birthdays with no end in sight. That I had other mamas I could talk to about how I believe nursing IS THE BEST thing you can do for your baby. That I could be a militant breastfeeding mama in front of these women and not have to worry about hurting anyone's feelings. That when I nursed Sadie for the last time, I had dear friends that I could immediately reach out to for support. That they gave me the best advice ever which helped me get through those first few days after we were done nursing (on a physical and emotional level).
I will forever be thankful for my loving husband's support through this journey. That he understood my devotion to nursing from day one. That he figured out very quickly that when I said I need water in those early months...I MEANT IT! That he still made me feel beautiful even when I felt like a milk cow in those early months. That he was always proud and unabashedly supportive of me nursing Sadie whenever and wherever it was needed. That he truly understood the great healthy start I was giving our daughter. That he was able to expand his mindset along with me as we realized that Sadie would be nursing well into (and through) toddlerhood.
I feel so lucky that my breastfeeding relationship with Sadie ended in a way that was true to my mothering style and honored the importance of nursing for both me and Sadie. As soon as Sadie neared two years old, I could sense how I wanted this to end. I knew in my heart that what would be best for her was to wait until she could understand. I wanted to be able to talk to her about stopping nursing and to have a conversation with her about how we both felt about it. Starting about six months ago, I would occasionally tell Sadie that when she turned three we probably wouldn't nurse anymore. At the time, this would make her very upset, so I didn't talk about it very often. And that showed me that she wasn't ready.
About two months ago, I started to feel like she might actually be ready by three. It's amazing how much she's grown up in the last three months! The night before our last night of nursing I told Sadie that pretty soon, she'd be three, and she'd be such a big girl that we wouldn't be nursing anymore. We talked a little bit about how that would make us both sad, but that we'd still be able to snuggle and sing songs every night. She snuggled up to me but eventually asked to nurse.
The next night I told Sadie about the plan that I'd been hatching for a while. I explained that when she was ready, we'd start filling out a sticker chart for her. And every night that she went to sleep without nursing, she'd get to choose a new sticker in the morning. And when the whole chart was filled up, she would get to go to the movies! (she'd never been to a movie before) I expected that we'd still talk about it for a few weeks...but I thought wrong! As soon as I presented this incentive, she told me she didn't want to nurse anymore, snuggled up to sing songs, and went right to sleep. As I lay there next to her, I tried to remember nursing her to sleep the night before, in case it never happened again. I wanted to remember every part of it. I kissed Sadie good night and went downstairs crying. And that was the last time. Although I was sad that night, it didn't last. I don't miss nursing. I don't miss the closeness (because we still snuggle and are very physical). I don't feel like it ended too early. I feel very much at peace with how things ended, and I believe that Sadie does too.
I truly believe that my breastfeeding relationship with my daughter is the foundation for helping me become the mother that I am today. The ability to nourish my baby with only what my body can provide has truly taught me the magic and amazing power that I have as a woman. I feel endless gratitude that through my breastfeeding relationship with Sadie, I have come to understand the miracle of motherhood!