When you think of breastfeeding, what do you think of? Beautiful images of mothers cradling their babies, all soft and nurturing curves and love? That’s somewhere along the lines of what I came to mind for me. And I have friends who represent that to me. Selfless, pure love being provided for their babies. It is a beautiful thing.
But I’m going to come out and say it. It takes a goddamn lot out of me to be that pure, selfless mother. I’m not even sure I’m very good at it. Because, in order to breastfeed, you have to put yourself aside. You are never truly “alone” or “free,” because every moment is just a count down to the next feeding. Planning an outing requires planning it around feedings (or pumping). Planning an outfit requires the same. Because, damnit, your baby needs you. Which, remember, is a beautiful thing. Really, it is. I love being needed by him in order to keep him happy and healthy. And….at the same time, it’s fucking hard. The idea that, for the next year (?), my body will be so connected to his in such a physical and inescapable way is absolutely mind-blowing.
What am I saying? I guess I’m saying that, for me, breastfeeding has made me realize that my body, time, and life no longer belong to just me. And I know what you’re thinking…well, duh, that’s called being a mother. Yes, yes I know. But it’s more than that. If I want to run to the store without my baby, I better be back in time in order to feed him. Or be somewhere I can pump. If I want to drink a glass of wine, I better time it correctly or be prepared to give the baby a bottle. Etc, etc, etc. Everything is related back to the baby and my boobs. Because it’s not just about him. This is a symbiotic relationship. It’s not just him that needs to eat, it’s my breasts that need to feed him. Or else I could get physically sick. And then there are the trivialities…the sour milk smell always scenting my skin, the need to change milk-soaked shirts 3 times (or more) a day, the need to always wear a bra to support my sore breasts, the engorgement, the pain…not to mention how will my breasts ever be a fun part of foreplay again?
My husband and I are close. But this relationship takes things to an entirely new level. My baby needs me and I need him. Every three hours. I suppose you could argue that it is a lot more freedom than being pregnant. That is true. And yet…
I don’t know. I don’t know where I’m going with this. B keeps saying, But, didn’t you know?? Didn’t you think this through? I guess not. I knew breastfeeding would be hard. I knew it would put restrictions on me. But I don’t think I was prepared for the depth of the connection and need that would be required of me. Am I saying I’m selfish? Maybe. Maybe I am not one of those women who represents beautiful maternal nurturance. Or maybe this is just something others feel but don’t say.
The irony of this is that I’m writing this right as I’m settling into breastfeeding. I no longer have such terrible pain (although I’m still only exclusively pumping on my bad side – waiting to heal) and I no longer dread feedings. I’m happy to feed him now and it feels good to know I have what he needs and wants. I wake up with him, on the same rhythm, in order to feed him during the night. And, watching him feed? Amazing. The moments have become sweet and tender, as they’re supposed to be.
So. Again. What is the point of this post? I guess I’m just putting it out there. Breastfeeding requires more from a woman – from a mother – than I ever imagined. Once again, something that a man will not experience, possibly can’t even understand. Even for a mother who chooses not to breastfeed, this is still something that she is touched by. My mother, who could not breastfeed me, still feels sad about this. My mother-in-law still has regret for choosing not to breastfeed her three children. It touches us. Each of us. And, if you choose to do it, you are making a choice to give of yourself. And, by giving, you find a connection that is powerful, scary, and demanding. I suppose, that is love.