For part one of this story see my previous post here.
I wrote about our breastfeeding struggles and story back in August. After publishing that post, I received several messages and texts from friends essentially saying "me too." Just knowing that other women were going through struggles, whether drastically similar or different, gave me so much peace. Not in the "I'm glad you all are suffering too" kind of way, but in the steady way of knowing that there is a common thread, a bond, between us moms.
I thought it was time to share an update to how our breastfeeding relationship continued and ended. My first post was very much the "broken" with my fists clenched tight around the hope and belief that giving my child this gift would in fact pay off in the long term. I could see strands of beautiful in the haze of new motherhood, but it was faint.
If you don't already know this about me, you should: I'm an investigator. I want to educate myself as best I can and once I feel comfortable with the knowledge I have, I jump. I've always been this way. So deep down inside I knew that even though nursing was physically, emotionally and mentally taxing, to persevere meant so many good things for my child and myself.
You should also know that this personality trait lends itself to pride. Over these past 15 months, I've wondered if I was continuing to breastfeed out of the motivations of pride, stubbornness or shame.
Pride says: "look what I did. I muscled up enough strength to get through this. Are you at my level?" Stubbornness says "I will white knuckle this until I get the results I want, even if it kills me!" and "I'd rather suffer through this then pay $16 for a tub of formula." And shame that told me "you have to keep breastfeeding. You've seen the pictures of the living organisms and nutrients in breast milk. Nothing compares to that. Do the right thing or you'll be plagued with guilt forever." I'm not sure of much in motherhood, but one thing I am positive about is that NONE of these motivations are right or helpful.
Despite the roller coaster between pride, stubbornness and shame, there was genuine care and love coupled with a deep desire to provide for my daughter. As I wrestled, I came back to this love and actual desire to nurse, which always helped me to make the decision to continue breastfeeding at least one more day. Looking back I see it as a genuine connection with her (which I rarely felt at the time, but now miss) and the true desire of my heart was to lay down my life for her.
Let me back up to the point where I was at when I wrote my first post. Around 7-8 months in, my supply dipped dramatically and I actually thought I would have to stop involuntarily. I went to the hospital's lactation support group and they gave me very little hope. They told me my 7 month old was weaning. I refused to believe it, seeing as how she had just started solids and was eating very little of them. Turns out my instinct was right. After talking to several friends, I found out that the low milk supply around month 7 was actually pretty common. I started to pump again, took all the herbs, and nursed frequently. It took about a month, but my supply was back up and feedings began normalizing for the first time in my daughters life.
Somewhere during her 8th month of life, we completely turned a corner. What had been a roller coaster somehow turned into a bearable experience. Then slowly, an enjoyable one. It finally didn't feel like I was working to get my child to simply eat. Once that shift came, I knew we could keep going.
No matter what we go through in motherhood, the experience undoubtedly shapes us. It makes us a wholly different person. It brings out all the things we were once scared of and lays it on the table. That's a sweet and sacred thing.
I want to be clear. I don't believe that just because you can do something means that you should. For many of my friends, breastfeeding had to go for the sake of their personal sanity and well being. I also want to say that in no way do I feel "better" than anyone else for sticking with it for as long as I did. See above for my confession of pride :) My heart has been humbled quite a bit through this experience. Humility is one of my words for 2015, and I think it's amazing how God really broke up the ground on that in 2014 through new motherhood. I'm expectant to learn much more about that this year as I sift through it some more.