I remember early on when I was 3 months pregnant, then 6 months pregnant, then 7 months pregnant around my baby shower and finally 9 months pregnant, and the proverbial “ready to pop,” that people asked me a legitimate, yet scary question (scary to me, at least): “Are you going to breastfeed or bottle feed?”
Each time, my answer was the same…a confused, uncertain and resounding, “I don’t know.”
And that is why the question was always daunting and made me bajiggity: As a first-time mom, I really didn’t know what I was going to do; I was completely clueless. Not just about breastfeeding vs. bottle, but about many things about babies and motherhood. I had zero clue what to expect with a lot of it; as a type A, OCD, always planning-ahead type individual, it was quite terrifying at times not knowing.
I ultimately decided I was going to leave the answer to the breastfeeding question all up to my baby boy; how he responded to my, um, boobies would determine the route we would go!
That brought me peace of mind, and also bought me some time to push the semi-nagging thought away and try not to worry about it. It would be in his hands, well, technically, in his mouth, but let’s not digress.
I bought a pump (I’ll spare you the details of that exhausting debacle with the insurance company, who originally decided I should just get a manual pump…eek!) and bottles, just to be prepared for either scenario. By the way, there are SO many brands and sizes and types of bottles out there, y’all. I think registering for baby stuff was one of the most stressful things I have ever done; it was fun to scan things, yes, but my husband and I were not always quite sure if we were scanning the right things, or at least the things we would need (and not just buy because they were cute, like a polka dot pacifier carrying case which we never used. Sigh.). To this day I still have three different sets of bottles that we never even used.
Anyway, oh man, fortunately, from the time our beautiful boy entered this world, he totally knew what he was doing with nursing, even though I totally didn’t. But since he understood, it was absolutely great.
I will never forget how he just latched on for the first time and started nursing right away; he instinctively just knew what to do. And I still didn’t, but my boobs were out and free, and I had just successfully delivered an almost 10-pound baby, so it was a victory nonetheless! Holding this little angel and watching him do his thing truly took my breath away.
On a random side note: I had no idea that so many people would see my boobs. Nobody gave me the “heads up” that 18 nurses would be coming in and out of the room a gazillion times a day, examining me and my lady parts. I learned to just let it all hang out, literally. I had no choice, as these nurses (which most were very sweet, by the way, and apparently did not scare easily of big nipples or constant vagina in their sight). I have to believe that part of my self-conscious nature died that day and instead a “Here I am, bitches!” attitude emerged. Tee hee. (Oh, and nobody told me I would have to watch a billion videos about nursing, thus seeing other women’s boobies nonstop. But that’s ok, because, yay for boobs and all they can do!)
Throughout our breastfeeding journey, my son and I developed an undeniable bond. I cannot explain the feeling I got knowing that to my son, I was basically his everything…his mommy, his provider, his safety net, his comfort, his biggest advocate; I knew I would not forever be his “everything,” but definitely for the beginning stages of his life it sure felt like that. His daddy loved him so much, and he loved his daddy, but the breastfeeding component definitely created an unbreakable attachment; I would be the one who got up with him at all hours of the night, and I would be the one he would stop crying with as soon as I held him and got him set up to nurse.
I remember the challenges that breastfeeding posed for my husband. OH MY GOSH. When I had to go to work, my husband had the hardest time feeding our son, who resisted the bottle so adamantly and defiantly; he wanted nothing to do with anything but my boobs. I can’t blame him (just kidding), but he just was so stubborn and only wanted to nurse. One night I came home from work, and my hubby outlined the crazy night he had, and how he had to feed our son from a medicine dropper; it was like he was a baby bird, being dispensed little droplets of breast milk that I had pumped. Dear goodness, and hello high maintenance baby! (Who we totally adored, so we made it work.) But when I had to leave, my hubby dreaded the cries that would ensue when our baby boy was hungry, because he was not having a bottle (of any size, type or brand). He wore his “Boob guy” onesie proudly…and that sh*t was SO real! Total boob magnet and advocate.
On another random note, and TMI alert, the undeniable bond led to some undeniably unexpected outcomes. He favored my right breast, for example, so that grew ginormous and my left breast was constantly needing some loving and catching up to; thank goodness for the breast pump, which I developed love/hate relationship with…so many parts, so much hassle at times, and so much oddness to it all, at least to me. Uneven boobs just aren’t my favorite thing, so at least the pump helped with that…
Now that my baby is four, and the nursing days are long gone, I sometimes reflect happily on those times. The best was when he would look up at me while nursing, eyes wide, a big gummy smile emerging on his face. Or when he would fall asleep mid-nursing time, drunk on milk. When I could just watch him and look at his cute little fingers and toes and body, thanking God for my greatest blessing.
It wasn’t always easy throughout this journey; but I will always smile at the sweet moments, and giggle thinking about him burping or growing little teeth and scaring me a bit at times, or about the funny onesies he would wear, like “I love boobies” and “I don’t always drink milk, but when I do, I prefer dos tatas!”
I never knew for sure how long breastfeeding would last, or when the journey was supposed to end; my goal was to do it for one year because that’s what the pediatrician said would be idea.
And wouldn’t you know it? My son must be OCD and by-the-book like me, because I fondly remember on the evening of his 1-year-old birthday party, we nursed that night. And it was the last time, exactly one year on the dot. I had mixed emotions; I was ready to reclaim my body and move on from the intricacies of the nursing phase, yet, I knew I would in some ways miss those sweet times and incredible bonding moments.
I still occasionally miss those days, but ever since, have embraced all of the other phases that followed nursing, like walking and talking and constant discovery and potty training (woo); currently I get to revel in the utter chaos and curiosity and excitement of a 4-year-old’s life, and I patiently await all of the exciting changes still to come as he grows and grows.
I am so very thankful that breastfeeding worked for us; I am a big fan of moms doing what is best for them and their babies/families. In our case, I am excited that our boy is healthy and happy, and I reflect fondly on our nursing phase, knowing it was the right thing for us, and it worked out the way it was supposed to for our boy and family. Even though it means that one boob is still kind of bigger than the other…