The story I’m about to tell brings one of one of my earliest parenting dilemmas full circle. It only took a whopping eight years.
Eight years ago, in a lifetime far, far away… our youngest son was born.
He came into this world just like his two older brothers, via C-section. Apparently I married a giant man with giant genes who produced giant children. Children who weren’t advised to pass Go and collect $200. They were all surgically removed. And with that fact, even from the earliest days, I was content.
Unlike his two older brothers, our youngest came into a completely different home environment. He instantly gained two siblings upon his first breath. Two very busy, very young, very loud, and very demanding male siblings. At the time of our youngest’s birth, our other two were just four years and the other 22 months. Welcome to The Skow Zoo and Observatory.
Like his two brothers, I did many of the same mommy things. I swaddled him, I tried to get him to take a pacifier, I rocked him, I snuggled him, and I breastfed him. And this is where the first dilemma arose.
It was a scorching hot August afternoon and I was left alone with the three kids to figure out how to be a stay-at-home mommy of three. The hubs had returned to work, my mom back to her home, my mother-in-law back to hers, and I was… alone. Alone to figure out our new normal.
As the day progressed, that evil demon “mother’s guilt” kicked in, and I started feeling “bad” for my youngest two who were trapped in the house. I decided to let them out into our back yard while I would stand guard just inside the house with the screen door open in case they needed help. This, I figured, was the best of both worlds. Baby would be cool indoors and boys would be burning off some steam outside.
After a while baby needed to eat. So, like with my other boys, I obliged and began nursing him. My older two boys were getting a bit braver than I was comfortable with, climbing the play set ladder to the slide, and I sweetly asked them to keep their feet safely on the ground. However, rather than listen to the rational pleas of their lactating mother, they proceeded to switch tactics and climb the ladder to the monkey bars.
I immediately saw the danger in this and started to run outside… with a suckling attached to my breast… in full view of the neighborhood. You may ask, “Why Marti, why wouldn’t you have removed the suckling before heading outdoors?” Good question. The answer is simple: because when you are postpartum, lactating, and home alone, rational thoughts are hard to come by.
So, I’m gingerly balancing baby boy at my breast while quickly guiding boy #2 across the monkey bars to safety. This is where it hits me. I am insane. At this rate my breasts will be like shoe leather by the time I’m 30. I will not be able to breastfeed baby boy #3 and lead the life I want to with boy #1 and #2. The way I will nourish the body of my baby and the spirits of my older two will have to look different than my first two times at bat.
Mom Guilt: Take Two
That evening, when my husband came home from work, I sobbed, “I can’t breastfeed the baby any more.”
He sweetly replied, “Okay.”
I go into a tirade about my mommy’s guilt associated with breastfeeding two boys and not the third. I insist, “He will feel neglected. He will be hurt. He’ll feel slighted.”
Logical husband says, “Babe, do you seriously think some day, around the dinner table, our son is going to say, ‘Man guys, that’s sooo unfair that you got to breastfeed longer than I did!’”
I dismissed his absurd comment, we continued the discussion, and ultimately, baby boy ended up being fed formula from a bottle. And thrived.
Fast Forward Eight Years
Our family of five was gathered around the dinner table at Culver’s. (Do you know where this is going?)
A rabbit trail conversation ensued which landed our dinner conversation on the topic of breastfeeding. One of our sons asked, “How long do most moms nurse their babies?”
My answer was that there is a wide range of time spans and some nurse for much longer than others. Little did I know the conversation that was about to follow.
My oldest asked how long he was nursed. I told him around nine months at which time he weaned himself. My middle asked how long he was nursed. (I was starting to panic as I knew my baby would also soon demand answers.) I told my middle he was a little longer. Somewhere around 10 to 11 months. And then came the question of the evening.
My baby. My sweetly under-suckled baby asks,
Mom, how long did you breastfeed me?
I start offering some feeble answer to which he was not content. “Mom, how long?” I knew a truthful answer was deserved.
I shamefully told him the truth, “Buddy, I only nursed you for about three weeks.”
Silence. And then…
“YESSS!!!! I AM THE STRONGEST!!” my sweet cherub replies in confidence.
“Strongest?” I questioned him. “How does that make you the strongest?”
“Who wants to breastfeed from their mommy? Babies. Who breastfed the longest? Not me… I am the strongest!” he insisted.