I was going through our vacation photos from our recent trip to Grand Cayman when I came across one of Gillian breastfeeding (what a surprise!). We were sitting on the beach and Mr. P was trying to get a good shot of myself and the kids. It was one of our last days, she was tired, homesick and needed the comfort that nursing provides her.
(Of course, I could have offered her a sippy cup of water, but for my then 20-month old baby, it wasn’t what she needed. When offered a handshake from your spouse at the end of a rough day, do you feel loved and reassured?)
What struck me about the picture is that she looked huge — less like our baby and more like our little girl. It would be easy for a passerby who has never been through the emotional battlefield that is breastfeeding to look at the two of us and wonder why I’m still offering a breast to a small person that can chew sandwiches, think independently, open doors and partially dress herself.
It’s easy to think that way and people do. Even easier is to label mothers who breastfeed their children beyond infancy as lazy, disgusting and selfish women with attachment issues. All of those labels have been assigned to extended breastfeeders this week, sadly on this blog and in a certain national newspaper. And as I said to todaysparent.com editor Alex Mlynek this weekend “I never thought that I would be a crusader. But between the National Post, Facebook and the negative comments on www.todaysparent.com this week, I’m feeling like I need to find a superhero cape.”
So let me take my nursing coverup, flip it backwards and wear it as my reluctant superhero cape, to share with you what I see and don’t see when I’m feeding my daughter.
What I don’t see
World Health Organization statistics that tell me that breastfeeding can be continued up to 2 years and beyond
The editorial panel of a national newspaper that I generally enjoy reading telling me I have self worth issues
How disgusting I am and how I’m setting ourselves up for attachment issues (the first comment on my post last week post about weaning our daughter)
What I do see
My ravaged breasts. Stretch marked, scarred, deflated and more than a little sad looking. To anyone who thinks I am selfish for sharing my body the way I have with both my children — breastfeeding is one of the least selfish things you can do for your babies. No one warns you that the Girls will be obliterated. Some things that improve the more you use them — well — breasts aren’t one of them.
The infant I delivered by VBAC and then emotionally rejected. During those first weeks mired in a pit of postpartum depression, I was convinced she wasn’t my child and the hospital gave me the wrong baby. My breasts and my milk kept her alive, even though my brain was unglued and I was disconnected from her. It was in the middle of a late-night feed when she turned her head and looked at me in the eye did I fall in love with her.
I see only love, promise and the future of a brave woman who is — gasp — attached to her mother and family.
FILED UNDER: Breastfeeding your toddler