I realized today, as I was considering that Chickadee appears to be intent on weaning, that I have breastfed my children for a combined total of about 50 months. So, just over four years. That number probably seems small to other mothers of large broods, but it’s a lot to me. The numbers don’t totally average out…I didn’t ever have a specific amount of time I breastfed for. For some children, early weaning came at their demand, for others, out of necessity (and yes, it can be necessary to wean, and if anyone feels the need to argue about it, bring it. I’m ready!). I had one extended nurser in the mix, too, who throws the averages off even further.
In those 50 months, I have, at times, hated breastfeeding. I hated being the only one who could get up in the middle of the night with a hungry baby. I hated that my body still wasn’t mine, and was, instead, at the mercy of an oftentimes demanding little person, the same little person I carried inside of me for nine months. I hated the occasional pain that came with breastfeeding…and yes, breastfeeding sometimes hurts, even when you’re doing it right. I hated that I couldn’t do something as simple as wear my favorite article of clothing, a dress, without major consideration as to how that work later in the day when the baby needed to eat. I hated the inconvenience of planning where I would go to feed the baby when we were out in public (I prefer to nurse in private…after having five children, I think I have the right to have that preference, and not be militant about breastfeeding in public!).
But, in those 50 months, I also loved breastfeeding. I loved those early days, when I realized that the baby “got it,” because it doesn’t always come easy, and so when it does, it’s a triumph. I loved knowing that I was continuing to “grow” the baby, just as I did throughout pregnancy. I loved how powerful I felt, knowing that I was providing for my child in the unique way God had designed me to do. I loved the quiet hours, looking down at a sweet, often sleepy, hungry little face. I loved the way little hands would reach for me, or pat me, or play with my hair as we sat together. I loved the convenience. I know, I said it was inconvenient, and sometimes it was, but it was also so easy to feed the baby without having to go downstairs, or mix a bottle, or get out food of any kind.
Like many things, breastfeeding was both a blessing and a curse to me. But the “cursed moments” kind of fade to black, and all that really stand out in memory are the many blessings of being able to care for my baby in this way.
50 months. Just over four years. In some ways, not a long time at all, and in other ways, an eternity.