Luke and I, around this time last year...
Fifty-two and a half months. Yep.
That's how long I've nursed babies, altogether. I've been selfless, enamored, annoyed, exhausted, mesmerized and content. It's been an amazing experience, to watch my babies grow on my milk alone, to see them calm down in a nanosecond, to be the one they want the most. And now it's done. I have no plans to nurse again, ever, either Luke or a new baby. I'm done. And it's bittersweet.
I am also in physical pain. I'm about two cups sizes bigger than normal. It neither feels nor looks good. I'm thinking I might have another day or two of this, before my breasts actually become my own again. Before it will be too late to turn back, although I already know I'm down the road I will follow. I'm not wishy-washy. I make up my mind, and I follow through.
And that's why I nursed for 52 1/2 months. I promised each baby a year of nursing, and each one got it plus more. It was really hard in the beginning. Lilith and I had a traumatic birth experience, and neither of us knew the way. I called on lactation consultants often, once even in the middle of the night. I closed the books that insisted I needed to nurse on a schedule. That wasn't working. I closed my ears to those who swore formula was the answer. I listened to my heart and to strong nursing women at the local La Leche League meetings. And I didn't give up.
Before long and every child since, I have nursed with confidence and without apology. Breasts are for feeding babies. The rest is a bonus. Nowhere in the world have breasts become the sexual objects they are in the States. In reality, they are very functional and efficient, very vital parts of women's bodies, with very specific purposes.
And so, I nursed. I nursed at home, in stores, in church, in cars. I nursed at all hours. I nursed when I didn't want to nurse, when others were visiting or barhopping or playing volleyball. When I wasn't able to be with my babies, during work mostly, I pumped. I have pumped in offices, in restrooms, in airports... in cars, in bars and in campers. I've pumped in a "deluxe" Porta-Pot and a sympathetic stranger's tent at Jamboree in the Hills. (Don't judge.) And, thanks to Ohio University, I've even pumped, many times, in a lactation room. What a novel idea!
I've learned a ton about human milk and how to express/transport/store/freeze/use it. I've cried over spilled milk. I've had to dump milk due to spoilage and, sometimes, when I've had too much wine and spirits. I've forgotten pump parts and whole pumps and been more than an hour from home at work. In those times, I've used my email account to connect with other moms, who have been generous in loaning parts for a session, a day, and, in one case, a year. In October, I transported more than 30 ounces of breast milk on an airplane from Denver while on a business trip.
I'll admit it. I'm proud.
I'm really proud of myself and of the support network that helped me through it. I'm proud of my husband, my babies, my fellow lactating women who believe, as I do, that breast is best.
And now, it's done. I'll mentor and encourage and advocate. I'll remember the time I put in, the nights of babies snuggled close and the safety we both felt.
I leave this place with great hope and great reverence and great memories. And two very large, tender reminders of my days as a nursing mother warrior.