I have been very lucky. I have had the choice to breastfeed all of my children. Not everyone has the choice; not everyone wants the choice. But, though I have had my own share of hurdles in the adventure that is motherhood, nursing is something that has been relatively easy and effortless for me. Not painless, mind you, but mostly free from the trials that some women face.
Some days, I need to remember why I choose to breastfeed at all. Those are the days when I feel like if another tiny human touches me again, I might scream. They are the days when my breasts are sore and cry out for a week without a bra on 24/7 or any sucking action whatsoever, whether by baby or pump. Some days, I would do anything in my power just to wear a normal Le Mystere instead of my saggy, uncomfortable nursing bra.
But I know that in another six months, when I am beginning to wean my very last baby, I won't remember the gruesome details so much. The experience will already be part of my memories, and after four babies, my memory itself is unreliable. I have approximately two brain cells left now, I am convinced, and they are needed in their entirety to walk straight and drive the car. So before the Mommy Amnesia sets in, here are ten things I will miss about nursing my babies, though please note that these things are not breastfeeding-exclusive. They just happen to be the things I think of when I think about nursing.
1. I will miss the quiet moments of nursing, the forced time to sit and be still. As a parent, stillness is not only rare; it is luxurious. I savor the time I can claim just to sit or lie down with the baby and be together, focused on her. After four babies, I have mastered the art of walking while nursing, but I try not to practice that skill. The chance to hit the "pause" button -- even now, when it is definitely complicated to do so in the midst of three other children and the rush of daily life -- is too precious.
2. I'm going to miss lying beside the baby and feeling her little feet and tiny toes flex rhythmically against my stomach or leg while she nurses. I love those dainty toes connecting with me. Too soon, her body will be long and lanky, like her brothers'. She won't be the chunky ball of wonderful rolls and curves that she is now. I bury my face in her sweet cheeks and scrumptious neck while I still can.
3. I'm going to miss bright eyes looking up at me, and the way she stops and stares at me quizzically all of a sudden, like she just noticed I was there too. It takes her so by surprise that she stops nursing for a moment and just looks at me, locking my eyes with hers. When she was tiny, she stared for a second, then continued to nurse, though slowly, like she was taking me all in or making sure that I was something she was okay with having right above her head. Now that she is older, she will stop, pause, and sometimes break into a big, milky, gummy smile. It is tough to hold a latch when smiling. Those gummy smiles are the sweetest.
4. I will miss the chance to stroke soft little cheeks and tufted wisps of baby hair, the smell of soap and milk together.
5. I will miss the way the baby sometimes balls her fists up and holds them so they are together, as if this act of nursing takes all her concentration and might.
6. I will miss when those teeny-tiny hands stroke and fidget while she nurses. She loves me, and she doesn't even know what love is yet.
7. I will miss the way she bobs her head from side to side when she is preparing to latch, stretching her lips and wildly searching for her target like a baby animal. It's a little scary seeing that coming for my breasts, but it's also cute.
8. I will miss dozing off beside a nursing baby, waking up to a baby asleep with her chin on my breast. In a few short years, will that little face really tell me in a fit of anger that I'm not her best friend anymore, like her brothers did? How will I ever send that face off to Kindergarten to be cared for someone else for the majority of her waking hours?
9. I will miss the feeling of being her homebase. There is not much in a baby's world that cannot be solved or soothed by nursing. In so much of parenting, I feel a little helpless. In contrast, nursing is like holding a superpower. I know that as time marches on, my baby's little problems will become the bigger problems of bigger kids. I know too well. I'll miss the ability to create world peace for her with just a simple gesture.
10. Most of all, I will miss the baby I am nursing. In no time at all, she'll be running after her brothers and leaving me behind. I'll get to wear my proper bra and drink a beer guilt-free, and my breasts will dry up and once again look like tube socks half-filled with uncooked rice. But I will never have my baby back again. And that will be all right and as it should be, but that does not mean I won't miss her.