2,000 Days of Breastfeeding
Of the last 2,000, not one day has been spent without a child at my breast. That’s approximately 5 1/2 years, the age of my eldest, Arlo.
I started writing a quippy top ten list about gazing longingly at the tunics I cannot wear and the plastic surgery to which I look forward but I found I was forcing the words and the quip.
Breastfeeding for 2,000 days deserves respect, reverence even, and a closer look at that kind of personal commitment.
Before I had a baby, whenever I thought about breastfeeding I would inventory all the liquids that secrete from my body and nearly gag at the prospect of someone drinking one of them. (I confess that I was not 12 but in my 30s with this thought.) When my teacher told me milk is produced via a different endocrine system than say, snot, it eased my mind considerably. Suffice it to say, I was not a woman born to breastfeed her babies. I acquiesced to nursing for the recommended six months but in the end, Arlo breastfed until he was three-and-a-half and Farrah Star, two, still nurses at least four times a day.
It is difficult to articulate the power and pull that comes from feeding your child and this is where the reverence comes in; breastfeeding is a holy communion. It is more than love. You become more than you because someone else lives through you. Yes, there are hormones and chemicals brewing but the attachment is undefinable. To this 2,000th day I have a visceral reaction to being separated from my children for more than a few hours. To the end of their days my children will carry me inside of them. Breastfeeding has been more than a bond, it is transubstantiation; milk into motherhood.
As a woman and not a machine however, I have experienced pain, fatigue, frustration and many tears surrounding the extreme dependence that exclusive breastfeeding demands. In 2,000 days though, I have never considered weaning. From the first latch I understood breastfeeding was theirs; something they did, not something I gave. There was never a time when I wanted to quit yet there were a number of times when I was told to quit, and that is one tip I offer: surround yourself with people who will support you even when it’s hard. I often needed help through not out, and this help came time and time again from my midwives, La Leche League and fellow doulas.
I have nursed my children during four cycles of IVF, two hurricanes and multiple stomach viruses. They have breastfed in the subway and atop a mountain, on the beaches of Bermuda and this morning, as she does every morning, Farrah Star breastfed on the stairs of her brother’s Montreal preschool.
I don’t know how long Farrah Star will go. I turn 45 in a couple of weeks and I am a nursing mother. Will I be 46 with a 3-year-old at my breast? Maybe. Only Farrah can know and she is welcome to stay close to me for as long as she requires. It is my privilege to nurture as she needs, as Arlo needed. It’s how we take communion.
Thank you for reading.