Monday, January 18, 2016

The Milky Way

Simple. Complex. Beautiful. Awkward. Natural. Easy. Hard. Fast. Time-consuming...

Those are my feelings on breastfeeding - a touchy topic for many moms, deeply personal decision, and for some, a source of heartache when their bodies just couldn't follow through with what their hearts desired for their newborns.

If you breastfed, formula fed, used a mix of the two, or even used donor milk: that's great!  You chose what was best for your baby and for you.  

I never knew how mixed my feelings would be about feeding Lila.  There were times when I loved the quiet moments of just the two of us in a rocking chair as I fed her - and other times when I wanted to pass that baton to someone else.

Now that Lila Rose is almost one year old, my body has decided it's slowly shutting down production.

I thought I would look forward to that day.  But oddly, it's bittersweet for me.

I certainly won't miss lugging around my pump and cooler each day.

I won't miss seeing the clock in three to four hour increments each day, figuring out when I'll hear the motor running again.

I won't miss finding places to pump when I'm out and about...

Or slumping down in the backseat of my car.

I won't miss zipping off set at work as soon as our morning show ends to "relieve myself" or the concerns I had of leaking through on live TV...which unfortunately happened.  Talk about a close head shot that day:)

But I will miss giving Lila something only I can give.

I will miss seeing her look up at me with a big, milky smile.

I will miss the way she rubbed my back while she nursed.

Feeding Lila has been an interesting journey since day one.

When the nurse put Lila on my chest on delivery day and told me to feed her, I was lost.

I didn't want Matt to look in our direction.

Everything in that moment felt foreign for me.  But not for Lila.

For her, it was natural.

In the early days and weeks, I literally logged every feeding: which breast, how long, did I pump, how many ounces, etc.  It was exhausting, and felt like a full-time job at times, but was something that I felt like I was doing successfully in the midst of my own doubts about my adjustment to motherhood.

When I returned to work and had to rely on multiple pumping sessions each day, I began feeling like I was drowning in a milky world.

My body must have thought the same thing, because I started making lots...I mean lots...of milk.

Morning pumping sessions before leaving for the office started reaching the 17-20 ounce mark.  I had much more than Lila needed.

Enter what became a beautiful new world, that I have to admit I found odd pre-baby: milk donation.

I loved being able to share with other moms in need and feeling the connection that this universal club of motherhood brings.

But now, my body has stopped making extra...

I can no longer share.  I am depending on a dwindling stash of frozen milk for Lila.

It's the end of this chapter and the clock is ticking down to retire the ole pump.

I stopped nursing a couple of months ago, when Lila decided making faces at me and giggling was far more fun than eating.  Oh...and then she got several teeth:)

I never marked a day that defined my final session.  That would have been too emotional for me.  Instead, it just sort of happened.

This milky season of life has opened my eyes to the struggles of moms who work outside of the home, moms who wrangle other children while juggling breastfeeding, moms who feel judged when choosing formula as plan A, and heartbroken moms who tried so hard to make this whole nursing/pumping thing work.

If I'm honest with myself about why this transition has been harder than I expected, the answer is pretty simple:

I don't want to be less needed.

I think we have to remind ourselves that whatever choice we make or our bodies make for us does not affect the unconditional love of our little ones.

Lila doesn't care about the source of milk in her bottle.  She cares that she's fed.  She cares that the person feeding her holds her tightly and lets her touch his/her face as she eats.

She's like every other baby, who just needs love and security - that's something I know I can give through every season of her life.