I had my first child in 1996. It’s 15 years ago, but it feels even longer. I was a 21-year-old single mom, and sure of very few things- except that I wanted to breastfeed my son.
I had been adopted as an infant by wonderful parents, and my mom was very supportive of my decision, though the mechanics of the process were unfamiliar to her. That was important, because I was living with my folks while finishing college. She ran countless bottles of water to me, as we wondered could he POSSIBLY still be hungry. Because he was born at nine pounds, two ozs, it felt like a round the clock process to keep him full.
But I plugged away, and was rewarded by a sense of confidence in caring for this new creature. We kept up our nursing relationship until he was two and a half.
Then, one day, he fell down in the driveway, and I unclasped my bra as usual- he looked at me as though he were completely baffled by what I could possibly be offering. Shook his head three times, ran away, and never nursed again.
He was seven before I had another baby. When my daughter was born, another nursing relationship began. Jack seemed to take it in stride, as though some distant memory echoed in his mind of being in the same boat.
I logged many hours in the same glider rocker from seven years before. My daughter, though only a seven pounder, nursed just as much as her older brother, and for me, it felt like riding a bike. Her infancy flew by, and when she was eighteen months old, we found out she would have company- another baby was on the way.
She continued to nurse through my pregnancy, and for the most part, it wasn’t an issue. There were times I felt like there was a surplus of physical contact, between being kicked in the ribs by an inside baby and in such demand from an outside baby. But it was important to me to give her as much time as possible to quit on her own terms.
When our next son was born, he was a six-pound bundle of joy. He took to nursing with the same avidity of his predecessors, and my daughter continued as well. Until the third week, when she came down with Hand, Foot and Mouth disease. Though it was crucial to me she didn’t feel forced out by the new baby, because of the high contagion risk, I had to cut her off. She was old enough to understand spoken language, and took the conversation very well.
She still tried a few times afterward, but was cooperative when I explained that we were all done with nursing- I felt somewhat guilty for ousting her, but happy that we got past her second birthday.
The third baby put in just as many hours in the rocker as his brother and sister. He nursed into his toddlerhood, and, with the hullabaloo of three kids, I don’t remember when he quit. I know he made it past his second birthday, and then…we were just done. That phase of my life ended, and, three years later, it seems even more distant in the rear view mirror. When my kids see other nurslings, they say, “Look, mom! I used to do that!”
And I say, “Yes, you did.” And smile.