Last week, it seems, was breastfeeding awareness week here in internet land. Much was shared and I hope awareness was created. I missed the week dedicated to breastfeeding but since most of my married life as been dedicated to breastfeeding I thought I would be bold and share on that topic this week anyway.
And here I go.
My husband and I are celebrating our 5 year wedding anniversary later this summer. Over these 5 years we have had 3 children and I have breastfed each of these children for over a year each. So, if you do the math, that means I’ve spent almost the entirety of our marriage either pregnant, breastfeeding or both.
In fact, for the very first time since we got married I am currently not employed in either growing a baby in my womb or breastfeeding. Neither. Dommy decided he was done nursing about a week ago and (due to a recent miscarriage) I am not yet pregnant. Emphasis on the yet.
So, for the first time in 5 years my body is entirely my own. And, I’m not going to lie, it’s kind of great.
I’ve written on breastfeeding before, but I feel like I wrote that post under duress. I wrote it a year ago when I had a 2 month old baby. I was still in the fog of the infant days and very tied down with the act of nursing.
Sitting here now, however, as a woman not actually breastfeeding I feel like I have a little bit better perspective on it–and can actually see the lessons God has taught me (or tried to teach me) through breastfeeding. From what I can gather there are 3. Here goes:
1. My Body is Freaking Amazing
Yes it is. Freaking Amazing. Everyone woman who has carried a baby, delivered a baby and then nursed that baby, even the nursing was hard or short lived, should feel this way. Our bodies are incredible! They are life-giving, life-sustaining!
I tell my husband this all the time, lest he forget how incredible I am. Does he realize that human beings have lived inside of me? Does he realize that my body produces milk that has sustained his children? I’m basically a miracle. Seriously, what has his body done lately?
But in all seriousness, breastfeeding has brought me up-close to the miracle of God’s plan and creation. He created women’s bodies to feed their children. No outside help need. We got this! We are perfectly designed. Even the way we are forced to hold our children as we feed them is perfect. It’s just all so perfect.
This was all brought into focus for me by a good friend a few years ago. She had just delivered twins and due to several factors was pumping and bottle feeding the babies. She told me how much work all of that was (and seriously, you mommas that pump and do bottles–you are the real heroes. That is so much work! Bravo.).
In the midst of all this work she was daydreaming about some contraption that could produce the perfect amount of milk, keep it at the perfect temperature and be in some container that never needed to be washed. That would really be something.
And then it hit her. That contraption already existed. A boob.
Breastfeeding has been the ultimate confirmation intelligent design for me. Breastfeeding is perhaps the most raw and natural thing I have ever done–and through my years of breastfeeding I have felt united with all of the billions of mothers before me that have also witness how perfectly their bodies were designed for being a mother.
Having said all of this, I am no way deluded into believing that in order to be a good mother you have to breastfeed. No way. I breastfeed exclusively because I’m lazy. Breastfeeding is just easier for me than anything else–I’m home with my kids, my milk comes in well and I’ve never struggled with a baby that won’t latch. I’ve been lucky. But even for mothers whose milk never comes in, or have babies too tiny to nurse or whatever, through motherhood we have all seen just how perfectly our bodies were made, whether we witness this as we carry our babies in our wombs or nurse them into their toddler years.
You are a woman. You are incredibly made.
Men, you’re okay too. I guess.
2. I Need to Sit and Cherish My Babies
I’ve always struggled to slow down. I thought this would magically change once I had a baby, but it didn’t. There is always something to do, somewhere to go…
But, here’s the thing about breastfeeding. In order to do it well and really satisfy my baby, I need to do it sitting down, relaxed, in quiet room and for a chunk of time. That’s how it works. And no one can sub in for me. Seriously, no one. Dominic took a total of one bottle his entire nursing life. One.
It’s hard. Sometimes the baby wants to eat at the most inopportune time. Often they do. Nursing the baby means eating a cold supper, hanging out upstairs alone while the party is going on downstairs, sitting in a hot car and nursing the baby while 2 toddlers crush crackers into the floor.
It’s hard, but once again it’s God’s plan. I am continuing to learn that having a baby changes everything. I have to let go of the frantic paced lifestyle that comes naturally for me. I have to accept that my schedule and to-do list and priorities are all trumped by the needs of this tiny human. I have to stop and just be with my baby.
No, I get to stop and just be with my baby. God made breastfeeding this way to force me (us all) to stop and love on our babies. And I am so thankful He did.
3. Mom and Dad have Different Roles
I’ve really struggle with the burden of breastfeeding at certain points. In those first days with a new born it really is a burden. I’m all wacky with hormones, I’m engorged, I’m up all hours of the night, I constantly feel like I’m dying of thirst and I’m recovering from just having a baby all while carrying all of the pressure of whether or not this new little human gains weight, gets jaundice and thrives.
And my husband. Well, he’s out doing yard work.
How is this fair?
It isn’t fair. But it isn’t meant to be fair.
Again, as part of God’s beautiful plan, a child enters this world with a father and a mother–and we are each called to do very different work. Which makes sense. 2 parents, 2 very different roles.
Breastfeeding has shown me, perhaps more than anything else, that what I am called to do as a mother is very different than what my husband is called to do as a father. I’m up at night nursing our babies and I don’t wake him (why would I?). But here’s the thing, now that we have older children my husband manages them at night. Sure, they don’t get up that often but I can see now that as a mother I monopolize the baby years, due largely to breastfeeding. But, once they grow dad is suddenly the center of their universe. My son is always telling me that ‘Dad is the fun one’ or ‘Dad taught me that’ or ‘I wish dad was here and not just mom’ and I totally get it. My son isn’t a baby anymore. He is a young boy that looks to his dad more than he looks to his mom, just as it should be.
Dad is tasked with teaching his sons to be men, protecting his daughters and defending their purity and providing for and leading the family.
Wow, suddenly breastfeeding a few babies seems like a pretty pathetic thing to gripe about.
But, once again, this is God’s plan, revealed to me so very slowly over these long years I’ve spent nursing my babies. They’ve been good years, full of snuggles, chubby baby legs and quiet time rocking back and forth.
They’ve been very good years and I can only hope there will be more babies in my future that I will get to love in this way.
I feel so blessed to have been able to nurse each of my babies for over a year each. I’m glad I was able to give that to them and I am so thankful that the Lord has been able to teach me in return.
To all of you breastfeeding mothers out there, reading this in a dark room as you nurse a little one back to sleep: carry on. You are doing good work. The best work.
Sign up and receive 26 Catholic Coloring Pages. Great for teaching the ABC's of the faith!