Before his arrival, I was feeling confident of my motherhood skills. I potty trained our daughter before our son arrived. Mastered my abilities to feel the calm before the tantrum and to whip out cheddar bunnies before I lose my chance to browse my clothing section at Target. Perfected grocery shopping to be done on a Tuesday morning and give only smiles to those who cringe at my daughter’s cookie covered face. Our daughter grew to love the time we spent together and give understanding to our hero when he is on duty.
With my daughter, the part of motherhood I was never able to high five with accomplishment, was nursing. Although breastfeeding my daughter was my plan, it seemed it wasn’t hers. She had an issue with latching and would scream when it was time to eat. Nursing proved to be frustrating for her and soon for me. I felt she was refusing to nurse. Pumping and bottle feeding worked best for her. It took a long time to let go of the pesky mom guilt and the sadness in my heart. Even though I pumped and packed a freezer full of milk, I felt as though I missed out on something special with my daughter. I craved that “special bond” I heard comes when nursing your little.
When our son was born, love seemed to burst through the delivery room. He arrived quickly and calmly. After an hour of kangaroo care my midwife gave me the nod to begin my breastfeeding journey. I didn’t feel ready. I felt scared to battle another baby who refused to latch, yet screamed for milk. I cradled my son and he seemed to look into my eyes to let me know “we can do this momma, let me lead the way”.
So I did.
He latched! And we became a breastfeeding team. I’m pretty sure we should have worn uniform shirts because I was just so proud of us!
Breastfeeding was so new to me. I knew how to pump, bottle feed, track ounces, store milk, thaw milk, and prep night time bottles. Whipping out a body part to feed an every hungry infant had me frazzled. I’m confident one boob was always hanging out from my shirt the first month home. I felt lost in this adventure; the one adventure I prayed to be on. I kept questioning if I was doing it right. Was he eating enough? Should I pump too? My breasts were so full!
So I reached out. I called a dear friend who just weaned her daughter and let my emotions seep from my heart to hers. When I cried, she made me laugh. When I doubted, she gave me courage. When I felt like giving up, she gave me a shove. My husband was my biggest supporter but there is just something soothing about another Momma’s words who has traveled your same road. “I know it’s hard. I know you’re tired. I know you feel like a 7-11 on Free Slurpee Day. But you’ve got this”.
With time it got better. I learned how to nurse while making breakfast for my daughter, sitting in the splash zone during bath time, ballet class, helping dress a Barbie doll, eating meals, changing batteries in a toy, and even while pretending to eat cupcakes in my daughter’s play kitchen. Mastering the bedtime routine was a challenge. When I started letting my daughter watch a movie while I nursed our son to sleep, I felt like I deserved a high five when I left his room.
I became quick to learn nursing while carrying my son in the Ergo. It was a secret a sweet friend shared with me and it saved my sanity! The college kids stocking shelves at Target gave me weird stares, but hey! I was surviving the day. Enjoying both my daughter’s love for Target popcorn and feeling my son’s heartbeat while he enjoyed his favorite snack.
As I begin to end my journey with nursing and settle into a new pumping routine (I return to work next month), I will never forget those moments with my son. We were a solid nursing team for 10 months and I am proud. I am proud of every parking lot he nursed in while sitting in the car. How he kept his composure while eating in a dressing room while his sister pretended to try on clothes. How he never lost focus when eating during the fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom. I let my son lead the way on our breastfeeding adventure. I thought I had it all planned out. I knew the parent I wanted to be. But he changed me. He taught me how to slow down more and enjoy the quiet time when I nursed him. He was patient as I was (still am) learning to let go of my personal expectations and just let me figure out how to balance being a mother of two.
When I reflect on my moments breastfeeding my son, I think of my dearest friends who weren’t able to nurse. Our bodies aren’t always working in our favor and the frustration of a plan falling through. I know from experiencing both sides of baby feeding; breastfeeding my son made me no better of a mother. Yes, I had an excuse to unsnap my bra under a cover at Ikea, but I didn’t kiss the ouchies of scraped knees any better than a fellow momma. My peanut butter & jellies tasted no better because of how I fed my son. My clean needed to be folded laundry sat just as long no matter if it was a boob or bottle my son found nourishment from.
The guilt of any momma who is unable to nurse is carried so close to my heart. I know how it feels to see other mothers breastfeeding while I used hot water from Chick-Fil-A to warm a bottle. MY heart felt heavier when I nursed in front of my two best friends who tried endlessly to produce milk. I feel like I was waving my milk boobs in their face saying “hey look what these things can do”. They never cared and only laughed when my shirt would have two perfect circles from leaked milk. They only gave their support and love. I am grateful for them.
As we are all on our own adventure trail through parenthood, finding our place in this world where judgement and social media can sway our mothering choices, I stand proud to have nursed my son. I stand proud to have bottle fed my daughter. Because I am learning to be the mother my children need me to be, not the mother I planned to be. Breastfeeding my son gave me new experiences and memories to bank. I am grateful for the time he and I spent together. The long nights, milk soaked bra, and sore boobs, made this year as a mom a little more awesome.
Leah is a St. Petersburg native. Married to her real life hero, Ryan, of 4 years. Leah stays busy chasing after their little ones; three year old daughter Rylee and ten month old son Jake. She has enjoyed the past year as a stay-at-home momma and returns to work as a teacher of visually impaired students at the end of summer. Although not a chef, Leah spends mornings making her famous pancakes and teaching her daughter the secrets of her almond cheesecake. Free moments are spent with her family strolling the streets of the Magic Kingdom, completing a DIY project in their home, and Sunday family dinners. You can follow Leah’s memories in the making as she continues to learn to be a working mom of two, holding the household together with glitter glue while her husband is on duty at the fire station. Visit her blog, Paper Mache Hearts and follow her on Instagram for tiny snapshots of life.