Nursing, the End

Written May 26th:

Last week was yet another week of this pregnancy kicking my butt. By Thursday afternoon at work when my husband called to say he was sick again, I knew we needed help. There was just no way I could do another night of single parenting, so we called in for reinforcements. Nana and Papa to the rescue! They picked up Stella from daycare and took her to their house for the night – Charlie and I were in bed at 6:30pm. The next morning my MIL called me and said her friend had offered to watch Stella for the day if that would help me out (I have Friday’s off from work). I only hesitated for a moment before Charlie talked some sense into me. Stella went over there for the day, and then late that afternoon Charlie called me and suggested we take one more night to be child free and sleep. I was reluctant because I’ve never gone that long without seeing OR nursing Bells, but he talked me into it, and it was great. By 7pm, we were in bed again.

*****

And that was how our breastfeeding journey suddenly, without huge fanfare or time for me to really acknowledge or grieve the suddenness of it all, came to an end.

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around writing this post for nearly six weeks now, and I’m really not sure what’s about to spill from my fingertips. I’ve written before about how my birth experience with Stella was my first huge step towards healing after our IF journey. Feeling strong and healthy & confident in my body’s ability to do something was truly amazing, and thankfully breastfeeding just continued that path of healing for me.

I know a lot of people struggle with breastfeeding, but after the initial few days, we really didn’t. I don’t mean it was 100% easy in the beginning, because it definitely wasn’t. Stella was sleepy and puking up a lot of gunk those first couple of days, and the peds doc in the hospital was all over me to supplement because she wasn’t nursing “enough” (whatever that arbitrary term is supposed to mean). They even made me syringe feed her 2-3 mL of formula before they would discharge us! However, once we got to the comfort of home, both of us were able to relax and really get into a rhythm with each other, and it just got easier from there. At times it was definitely all consuming and exhausting and painful while Stella and I figured things out – but at the same time it was wonderful and exhilarating and touching and perfect. I can’t begin to estimate how many hundred (thousands?) of hours I spent rocking her little body and drinking in the perfection of every part of her tiny being.

Before I became pregnant again, I was so afraid of the day Stella would choose to wean herself – I was petrified I’d never get to experience that bond again, and as much as I wanted to start TTC again, I wasn’t willing to give up nursing for only that purpose. When my cycle came back on its own at 15mo postpartum (after three months of nursing only 2-3x/day), I was hugely relieved that I wouldn’t have to make that decision. Nursing was an incredibly emotional journey for me, and I’m so thankful we were able to continue it for as long as we did. It was very bittersweet when I got so nauseous and touched out during this early pregnancy that I suddenly needed Stella to be weaned because I never wanted breastfeeding to be something I dreaded or regretted doing with her.

I came across this beautiful letter a few months ago and immediately knew that I’d like to write something similar for Stella, so here goes nothing.

*****

Dear Stella,

For 521 days – that’s 17 months and two weeks – you and I were connected in one of the most intimate ways possible. When you were first born, I had no concept of the magnitude of how amazing it would feel to hold you in my arms and literally feed you with the milk of my own body. That being said, I honestly didn’t have a hard and fast goal in mind for how long we’d continue on our breastfeeding journey together. When I found out I’d be going back to work when you were 8 weeks old, it made the end goal seem even more uncertain. Sometimes I thought six months would be all we would do, sometimes one year. At some point after a year, it became more of a fluid goal, moving and changing by the month. By the end, you could run over to me and sign “milk please” while saying “mama, gook peeeese!” – and it was the sweetest thing in the world. Anyone who says that no child should nurse past the age they can ask for it is ridiculous — or realized that a newborn’s mewling cry is also them asking for it.

We have nursed all around the country, you and I, in Colorado, Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri, and Wisconsin. We have nursed on 20 planes, in countless back seats of vehicles, and on numerous airport shuttle buses. We have nursed on park benches and back porches, in church pews and and rodeo grandstands, at baseball games and in restaurants. We have been blessed to almost always have supportive people around us who weren’t freaked out by the natural act of nursing – instead they celebrated it!

Sometimes you’d nurse for a minute, sometimes you’d nurse for an hour. I pumped at work four days a week for nine months to ensure that you’d have mama’s milk to drink every day of your life that first year. For six months you had nothing but my milk, and for the next six months you had nothing but my milk and solid foods. When we switched to cow’s milk at one year during the day, I was SO proud of you for not even giving it a second thought when I handed you a sippy cup, but I was also a little sad that the one food source that had sustained you for so well for so long was no longer the only thing necessary in your life.

Nursing was a source of comfort for both of us. If you were tired, or sick, or we simply missed each other after a long day apart, nursing was our time to reconnect. You slept in our bed for the first six months of your life, and you and I were both learned to be pros at the middle of the night cuddles and feedings while remaining half asleep. I loved (nearly!) every minute of it.

Thank you Stella – thank you for being patient and learning with me. Thank you for knowing when I wasn’t ready for it to end, and thank you for going with it when I needed it to end so abruptly. Thank you for every caress of my cheek and pull of my hair. Thank you for every loving gaze and milk drunk grin. Thank you for being my daughter, and for loving me as much as I love you.

Love,

Momma

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Because of the GPOMB (gratuitous pictures of my boobs) I’ll be PWP this post after a week or so, just FYI!

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30 comments

  1. I remember you texting me the picture of the day your milk came in. She was so TINY. And then I remember singing to myself “big ones, small ones, some as big as your head.”

    Love you both!!!

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    1. LMAO, I love you too Ann. I remember that day and being absolutely in awe (and a little scared) of the fact that my boob was suddenly larger than my child’s head. I mean, what the actual hell?! The human body is pretty crazy.

      Like

  2. This is just beautiful, Josey! Stella isn’t my daughter (clearly, ha!) but I totally teared up thinking about her nursing her own daughter late one night and reading your letter! Such an awesome heirloom!

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  3. What a blessing that nursing worked for you both through so many changes!!!! I love that you have so many pictures, what a great evolution for you both!

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  4. Well, this made me cry 🙂 Wonderful post, Josey! It’s truly a bitter-sweet time when nursing ends. I love that you have so many pictures of you nursing Stella.

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  5. Great post! I still look at my little guy sometimes (he’s now 2 1/2) and remember the connection we used to have when I was nursing him. I breastfed him for 14 months and definitely had mixed emotions when we finally stopped.

    I love your letter to Stella!

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  6. mcmissis · · Reply

    Such a beautiful post. Your hair was so short! Very cute. And that pic of her holding her doll while she nurses is the sweetest ever.

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  7. Such sweet pictures of the two of you nursing! What a beautiful end to a beautiful journey =)

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  8. Oh my gosh. Such a small little thing in the beginning! And um… was your milk EVER in in that pic! This is gorgeous, Josey. Each and every word and everything in between. Someday, Stella will be so very touched to have these. And as she moves through her life, they will touch her in new and different ways.

    This reminds me to take more pictures of nursing MJB. Starting today. 🙂

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  9. Gorgeous. I didn’t think this would make me cry but reading the letter and then looking at the images! I love breastfeeding.

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  10. I am tearing up… Such a special post, what a treasure. Keep those pics in a safe place, they tell an amazing story….

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  11. THIS!!! This is why it devastated me to not be able to nurse Raegan. This is why I exclusively pumped for 7 months. This is why I’m terrified once again my body will prove to me how effed up it is and I won’t be able to nurse this child either. Missing out on THIS….I’m grateful for what I was able to do for Raegan and she had breast milk for 10 months of her life that I fought hard for, but THIS this is what I missed out on and it breaks my heart EVERY SINGLE DAY!

    This is a beautiful post and Stella will know one day how much you loved her by this wonderful gift you were able to give her. This special time and bond that only you two had together. Cherish this as you are one lucky mama…and Stella is one lucky baby girl!

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  12. I’m nursing my own baby girl as I read this, and bawling. What a sweet, touching, beautiful letter. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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  13. If I hasn’t been nursing Bryson while reading this, I would have been in tears. I so get this. Stopping nursing is hard… So hard!

    I’m so glad you get to do this again, Josey!

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  14. I’m so glad you wrote this post! I feel better now. 🙂 I’m so afraid of Everleigh wanting to wean earlier than I do, and I was sad for you and Stells and needed some kind of blog resolution to it all. 🙂 I loved the slideshow, and wish I had taken more pics of Bfing. I’m at work and am MISSING my baby so much right now. You are so right, it is such a way to reconnect. When I get home from work and pick her up from daycare, and everything feels like too much, I take her into her room and nurse her, and nothing else matters anymore. We are both full and happy and relaxed.

    A beautiful letter to your daughter. 🙂

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  15. lparsons15 · · Reply

    What a beautiful post! I hope it goes just as well the second time! Awesome pics, I love how stella was holding her baby in some of them!

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  16. mandski · · Reply

    Really lovely, Josey.

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  17. What a beautiful letter to your daughter about a beautiful experience you both shared. I’m sure you both will treasure it always.

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  18. Agh why is it so sad! I have loved every minute of my breast feeding journey. I feel slowly its becoming much more normalized! You’re a good mama Josey.

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  19. […] of course, those same hormones are having an effect on me and my piece of mind. I read Josey’s post today and literally sobbed hysterically through the beautiful words to her daughter. I’ve […]

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  20. Love. Nothing better.

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  21. So sweet, Josie! I loved the little slideshow and watching her grow up!

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  22. What a beautiful, wonderful post and letter. I agree that nursing is one of the most amazing things that my body will ever do. It is a gift – to your daughter and to yourself. I know so many women who say that they never expected to nurse as long as they did, but once you get into it you just realize how natural and wonderful it is. It’s hard to stop. I’m sorry that your nursing relationship with Stella had to end a bit abruptly, but it’s also great that you were able to recognize what YOU needed emotionally and physically. You’re right – you would never want to end on a negative note.

    The pictures are beautiful and have made me realize that I need to take more pictures like this when I get the chance again.

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  23. This is such a beautiful, perfect letter to your girl after such an amazing journey together. And these photos?! I love them so much! Like so many others said, they make me wish I had taken more along the way. Now that we are down to one feeding at night, it is always too dark for good photos. The photos of her when she was so tiny make me flash back to those first days nursing Lids. Crazy how far we have come.

    So so glad you were able to breastfeed Stells for as long as you did. You should be very proud.

    Like

  24. […] – In July I finally found the words to write about my breastfeeding journey with Stella. Honestly, I still cry if I reread that post. I also wrote out my thoughts about how we chose to […]

    Like

  25. […] 8w pregnant with Harvey and absolutely wiped out, and it’s actually the weekend I ended up weaning Stella cold turkey while she stayed with her grandparents 15 minutes away from us. For this trip […]

    Like

  26. […] time!), and once when I was super sick and pregnant with Harvey she spent 2 nights there (when we quit breastfeeding cold turkey), but other than that, there’s just never been a reason to leave her for longer than one […]

    Like

  27. […] of that, this has been an entirely different experience than I had with Stella. With her, I dreaded the end of our nursing relationship. I cried and refused to wean her for weeks, even though I was pregnant with Harvey and horribly […]

    Like

  28. This made me cry. Such a beautiful letter and fantastic slideshow. (Also, your teeth are amazingly white!) I think I must write such a letter to my girl. Thanks for this ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It seemed like something I could see you doing 😉 still makes me cry to read as well!

      Like

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