Home > Love, Parenting > The goodness in us

The goodness in us

I flew to Chicago to shave my head in March 2012.

before after

I was excited throughout the trip, but equally anxious. At the time, I thought that I was anxious about the event itself.

Today, I’m much less certain about that.

When I flew to Chicago almost four years ago, I flew with a breast pump. I flew knowing I’d nursed my little man for the last time. The pump was just to relieve pressure.

I flew again almost three days ago. Once again, I flew knowing that my trip would mark the end of breastfeeding a tiny human. This time, though, I ditched the pump. I’d rather have my wisdom teeth returned and extracted again than pump even one more time, and so I left home knowing I was well and truly done.

I didn’t know how hugely I’d feel the end.

The first time around, it was the end just this one time. I was pretty confident there’d be another time. I’d grown up surrounded by siblings and wanted my delightful Li’l D to know the love, joy, and sheer aggravation only a sibling can offer. I was ready to feel like my body was my own again, and not (mostly) vessel to sustain another human.

This time around, I left home marveling that I’d nursed Littler J so long. He wasn’t as interested in nursing as Li’l D once was, so that I’d been confident he was done at eleven months, and then at thirteen months, and again at fifteen. But for some reason, he found comfort starting the day nursing. I, too, found comfort as he gripped my thumb in his fist and searched my eyes for reassurance the day would be kind to him.

wpid-img_20150709_113956.jpg

I left home this time feeling very practical about it all. With me gone, he’d no longer have the option of nursing first thing daily. His expectation and desire would dwindle and then vanish while I was away. Voila!

But then I tried to go to bed my first night without him. I ached. I felt twinges of anxiety I couldn’t explain.

Last night was even worse. My body ached for the tiniest person my own body once sheltered. I awakened repeatedly throughout the night, feeling the fullness in my breasts and regretting deeply the distance between my toddler and me.

Today was even worse. I felt physical pain, sure, but worse was the oppressive sensation that I am supposed to be holding my baby. I am supposed to be sustaining him, with hugs, kisses, chatter, and maybe even nursing. We are supposed to be together!

That uncomfortable sensation felt so familiar to me. Where do I know this from?! I asked myself, until it hit me: I know this from Chicago.

My surprise at understanding this itself seemed surprising almost the moment I recognized it. Of course I’d feel distress at the separation! My body knows the weight and smell and height and shape of my babies’ bodies. It knows the goodness of sheltering those tiny beings first within my body, and then outside of it in dozens of different ways.

Understanding my discomfort didn’t ease it, not one little bit. What did ease it, in the end, was my very own words.

I love it when that happens. It’s not that common, but when it does, it makes me glad to have sat down and documented my journey however many months or years before.

Some understandings are cyclical, not linear.

One old revelation in particular lightens the burden of distance right now. It reminds me that breastfeeding is just the tiniest part of the role I play and will play as a mom. Milk and kisses and touch are a part of that, to be sure, but motherhood runs much deeper than any of that:

I am a good mom. I don’t need anyone else to affirm it, and I’m no longer interested in absorbing commentary from a peanut gallery of strangers. Strangers’ words reflect their own biases, not my tenderness or strength as a mother. Strangers can’t possibly know or reflect back at me my strengths as a mother, most of which they cannot see. The person who can and does reflect back those strengths is my son, and the reflection I see is an affirming one. When my son hugs his auntie while she’s crying, or touches a hurt friend gently and asks if they’re okay, or praises others for a job well done, or expresses concern for my errant actions, I see how vastly I misunderstood motherhood when I thought it boiled down to whether or not I could make breastfeeding work instantaneously.

This phase of my life–the one where I sustain another human being in this intensely physical way–is passing quickly by me this very moment. But what won’t pass, and what doesn’t have anything at all to do with milk, is thinking of my tiny humans growing into their sweet hearts and selves and knowing

that part of the goodness in our kids mirrors the goodness in us.

mirror

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  1. January 21, 2016 at 7:31 pm

    ((Hugs))

  2. January 21, 2016 at 7:47 pm

    Yes! And you will have many more of these moments as they grow! Just like I am having now with my baby about to turn 18. I can still remember the comfort and closeness and bond of breastfeeding. I miss my baby but my young man amazes me every day!

    • January 22, 2016 at 11:54 am

      It’s hard to make the transitions, but man! Getting to see what’s next sure does make them worthwhile. ♡

  3. January 21, 2016 at 8:21 pm

    ((Hugs)) This made me tear up, especially the picture, as Baby Girl used to always hold my hand while feeding her. ❤

    • January 22, 2016 at 11:55 am

      Aaaaw. ♡ Li’l D didn’t do the thumb-holding, but something about it just tugs at my heart. I hope Littler finds new reasons to hold my thumbs in his ever larger hands!

  4. January 21, 2016 at 8:43 pm

    This is so, so beautiful.

    I, too, just felt that ache—that absence—when I was away this week on a business trip. Last night when I nursed my baby for the first time in days, and she fell asleep on me afterward, made me feel like I finally was where I was meant to be.

    Motherhood is much, much more than breastfeeding. Even more than the milk Littler J got in the mornings, I bet he cherished the closeness with you, the reassurance, the quiet moments before the day got hectic. You can still provide that without breastmilk.

    • January 22, 2016 at 11:58 am

      Hear, hear! I’m getting home around J’s bedtime. I hope traffic cooperates such that I get to lay him down for bed tonight. If not, I’ll soak up D snuggles and know morning will come soon enough, and with it more opportunities to snuggle Littler, too. ♡

  5. January 22, 2016 at 5:55 am

    Some understandings are cyclical, not linear. So true. And so well explained in this post. Thank you.

  6. January 26, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    ah… totally understand! Thank you for this great piece 🙂

  7. March 28, 2016 at 8:34 am

    Deborah, I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate this post, and beyond that an even older one on postpartum depression…in which I’ve been denying for a year now. It’s pretty bad. I too nurse, and have been extremely conflicted about stopping so that I can see a dr and start medication. For me nursing is the one thing no one can do but me, and the one thing no one can take from me. I stayed up until 2:30 this morning trying like hell not to cry over the feeling that no longer nursing will mean I have failed and am selfish for wanting to quit. I know that’s just the depression but man, I feel it with such intense sadness. This is my last child. My heart aches to think that I won’t be able to nurse again once I stop but I just don’t know what else to do. I love my baby, and to watch him nurse, to hold my own hand, gaze sweetly in his eyes gives me a joy that gives me momentary peace. I’m struggling, I know it’s not healthy, I’m just stuck and I FEEL so alone, yet I’m surrounded with kids, pets, life.
    Anyway, thanks for sharing and for being honest about your mommy struggles.💜

    • March 28, 2016 at 5:03 pm

      It’ll be a little while until I can reply to this properly, so right now I just want to send a boatload of love. Just oodles and oodles with affirmation that you are doing beautifully, as you will continue to do after you’re done breastfeeding. Your love will take a different expression, but it’ll be there with your kids and your husband and those around you and for those who read your blog. You, too, deserve at least a portion of that love abundant in your heart.

      • March 29, 2016 at 8:16 pm

        Thank you for your kindness, acceptance. As you know, when we feel we aren’t being heard, it goes such a long way just to be listened to.💜

  1. January 22, 2016 at 2:42 pm
  2. January 23, 2016 at 2:15 pm

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