I read a lot while I was pregnant with Isaac. A stack of books yea high. And blog posts. And articles. They weren’t really “how to” books/posts/articles as much as they were “this is what will probably happen and there are about a hundred different ways to deal with it” kind of books/posts/articles. Because how can anyone really know? Right? I read about pregnancy. I read about labor and delivery. I read about the first year of babyhood. And I read about breastfeeding.
I’m not sorry I read as much as I did. Knowledge is power. But I’m not going to pretend that actual experience hasn’t been the best teacher. There are a lot of things I wish I could have been better prepared for, but – in the end – simply walking through parenthood day by day is all anyone can do.
Nothing can prepare you for carrying another human being in your womb for 9+ months. Nothing can prepare you for the intensity of bringing that human being into the world. Nothing can prepare you for holding that human being in your arms for the very first time.
And absolutely nothing could have prepared me for the new journey I would embark on the moment Isaac first nuzzled my chest, searching instinctively for his new source of nourishment. Paling in comparison to the journey of pregnancy. And the journey of labor & delivery. Our nursing journey has asked more of me than I ever thought possible. It has also blessed me in more ways than I could ever count.
The first couple of months were hard. Everyone’s experience is different and hard is relative, I know, but I would say those first two months were hard. As much as I read about breastfeeding, a part of me always kind of shrugged and said, “Sure, I’m going to nurse my baby. No big deal.” Haha. BIG DEAL. Breastfeeding is a dance. A team effort. In short, it takes two. It’s not just a mother. It’s a mother and a baby learning how to work together. It’s also about a hundred other things at once. And for a new mother, a first time mother, it can be completely overwhelming.
There were times I wasn’t sure if I could do another feeding. Nights I was so tired I don’t even remember nursing at all. There was lots of crying – from both me and Isaac. There was frustration. And pain. There was a hunger I’d never known (they say you eat for two during pregnancy, but you eat for an army when you’re nursing). There were growth spurts and nursing marathons and learning how to feed a baby who wouldn’t stop screaming long enough to latch. There was the awkwardness of needing to nurse in public because baby wouldn’t wait.
After the first couple months we made it out of the rougher parts. The pain diminished. The beauty of our nursing journey began to rise to the surface. I relished the fact that Isaac needed me. He was dependent on me. He couldn’t live without me. I loved his reaching hands, his soft baby smiles, his contented sighs. Slowly but surely we were getting this thing. Our dance was becoming a little bit smoother.
At about six months we hit a rough patch again. I worried I was losing my supply. There were so many times, just like in those first months, I really thought I had nothing left to give. But motherhood requires that you keep on giving even when you think you can’t. Miraculously. Graciously. God gave me what I needed. The journey continued. Seven months, eight months, nine months…
It was at about the ten month mark that I started to feel like myself again. I had found my new normal and I was feeling good physically, emotionally & mentally. And it was also about that time that the full weight of just how far Isaac and I had come in our nursing journey really hit home. Up to that point, I would have said it was something I had done because I loved him and I was his mother.
But now my heart was in a different place. Yes, those two things were true. But now I realized how much Isaac had done for me, too. He had given me so much, was giving me so much. The quiet moments when the world seemed to stop, his hand reaching up to touch my face, his eyes locked on mine. Those moments when every hard thing, every ounce of pain and every sacrifice I had made seemed to melt away and seem oh, so insignificant. I was giving, but Isaac was giving as well.
I laugh at my first-year self now, looking back. The first year was our Everest in so many ways. I did something I really wasn’t sure I could do: breastfeed for a full twelve months. I worried about so many things. I felt dragged down by so many things at times. But we rose to the top – Isaac & I. Together. Now it’s second nature, all the awkwardness is gone. We’ve nursed in places I never thought we’d nurse. And with ease. We’ve survived months of night nursing. And multiple growth spurts. And teething. And I will cry many tears when Isaac weans.
Because nursing is a journey. And it’s been one of the best of my life. As hard as it’s been, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. And I’d do it all over again in a heart beat.
P.S. I’m so thankful for all the support that I’ve had, from Matt and my mom, my midwives and close friends. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding was invaluable those first months. Along with plates of food, gallons of water and a list of favorite TV shows on Amazon Prime.