As I sit on yet another flight 36,000 feet above the expansive landscape of the southwest, I find myself thinking about motherhood but specifically, my experience with breastfeeding. Breastfeeding has been the subject of many conversations in the media as of late and also sparked controversy amongst women that are passionate about it and those that choose not to or cannot (anyone remember the Time magazine cover, "Are you Mom enough" - May 21, 2012?). I have friends that breast fed their children for upward of two years and I know people that chose to strictly use formula. Whichever choice was made, the decision did not make one mother better over another. I'm no medical expert so I cannot speak to the medical benefits of breastfeeding over formula or vice-versa but what I can speak to is my experience as a full-time-working-outside-the-home, road warrior traveling, breastfeeding mother.
What has been surprising to me is how discussing the female breast, even in the context of nourishing my daughter, always turns sexual in nature and inevitably, leaves me feeling uncomfortable. I suppose this is due to the fact our society sensationalizes the female anatomy. I'm not the mom that whips out the boob in public without a cover to either pump or feed my daughter but I wish breastfeeding did not cause such a stink! I'm tired of feeling shameful when I have to bust out my breast pump and subsequently my breasts (and my cover), in the middle of a church parking lot in San Antonio, TX or stopping at a hardware store in the industrial area of Denver to buy dry ice to carry my daughter's livelihood back to her in Texas. I completely understand why working mothers don't continue nursing once their maternity leave has ended and they are back in an office environment. It literally is a second full-time job but a job I take very seriously and am thankful I have the ability to do.
There are many things I anticipated while pregnant that have become reality since Elyse's birth. Breastfeeding I thought would be important to me but I could not have known HOW important it would be until it became the only thing I planned that actually worked out the way I wanted it to. From her birth, my goal has been nursing for six months. Even though the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast feeding for a year or more, I felt like six months would be achievable considering my extensive travel schedule for work. What I did not anticipate is the anxiety and sadness I am beginning to feel as she has started nursing less due to the addition of cereal, fruits and vegetables. People tell you all kinds of things, both good and bad, when you are pregnant but not one person, even my lactation leader from the Le Leche League, told me that nourishing my child with my own body would create a bond beyond imagination. I was also not told that beginning the weaning process would tear my heart to shreds and leave me anxiety ridden. How did breast feeding become my saving grace in a year full of ups, downs and disappointments? It's the one thing no one else on earth can do for my daughter.
While my six month nursing goal will be here next week, I don't believe emotionally I am ready to throw in the towel just yet (even though the thought of pumping in one more airport stall is enough to send me jumping from a plane sans a parachute). In the scheme of life, this period of time is a small sacrifice to make for my daughter's sake. I cherish and cling to the encouraging comments from other Moms that have walked in my shoes and I love my husband more and more each day for supporting my decision to stay the course. And in those coming years when Elyse and I spar over everything under the moon, I will look back fondly on this time we shared and thank God for the bond formed over…breastfeeding.