My breastfeeding journey has been a lot longer than I anticipated. When we set out, I didn’t even know if I would make it six months. We battled. It wasn’t easy. It took courage and determination and a whole lot of support for Gabby and I to overcome the hurdles we faced. Once we jumped those early hurdles it started to become easier. There were always challenges along the way, but they changed and we hopped over those hurdles too. If you had told me when Gabby was born that I would nurse her for almost 5 years, I would have laughed at you. Hard.
I have often considered weaning Gabby along the way. At times I was frustrated with how often she was nursing, or she would hurt me and I would not want to continue. Breastfeeding has been the most amazing mothering tool. It solved a multitude of problems without even taking into consideration the nutritional benefits. Hurt? Nurse. Bored? Nurse. Upset? Nurse. Tantrum? Nurse. Hungry? Nurse. Thirsty? Nurse. Sick? Nurse. Whatever problem Gabby may be facing, nursing was the solution. It fixed everything. The emotional bond between us is absolutely amazing too.
About a month and a half ago my breasts were very sensitive and sore. Reminiscent of how they felt when I was pregnant. When I took off my bra at the end of the day I could feel the pain right into my armpits. I was confused. I certainly wasn’t pregnant. I wasn’t close to my period and I wasn’t ovulating. What on earth?! I think though, that I figured it out. Just over a week ago I randomly checked whether I still have milk. I could not yield a single drop. At that moment, I realized that Gabby was dry nursing. It was time to have the talk.
I sat her down and had a brief conversation with her. I told her that I knew that I had no more milk to offer her. She asked how I knew that. I told her that I know how to check. Cheeky bugger. I assured her that she could still cuddle me, hold me, be close to me and spend time with me. I told her she may still touch my breasts, but no drinking. She slipped her little hand into the neckline of my shirt and into my bra, looked up at me and said “Mommy, can I hold them like this?”. I told her she could.
She has asked maybe 3 times since that conversation if she could nurse. I had to stick to my guns and refuse, but I always offered alternate comfort. Sometimes she does not want to cuddle, but if I stand my ground for just a little while, she usually caves and cuddles.
A lot of mothers feel sad at the end of their breastfeeding journey. I have not felt sad. I feel like we walked a long road together and even though that aspect of our relationship is done now, we will always be on a journey together in life. I feel a great sense of accomplishment for having reached such an incredible milestone.
To commemorate this, I had a tattoo done. I toyed with the idea of a nursing image, there are many stunning images to choose from, but when I settled on my choice it felt right. My La Leche League Leader, Kim used to encourage me by telling me ‘Never quit on your worst day’. There were many days when that got me through whichever hurdle I was facing and sure enough, the next day was better.
Most people that see it will not know why I got this tattoo, but generally we all need this reminder every once in a while.
I feel incredibly blessed and privileged to have come this far. Thank you to everyone that supported me. Breastfeeding will always be something I am passionate about. This journey has not only grown me as a mother, but as a woman. I only hope I can help someone else to achieve their breastfeeding goals in the future, even if all I offer is support and encouragement.