Friend: When did you wean your son?
Me: Last week.
Friend: What?! He’s almost 16 months old!
Me: It was so convenient it was hard to let it go.
Friend: Convenient? It seems inconvenient to breastfeed.
Me: No, its simple, no bottles to wash, no formula to buy.
Friend: So you enjoyed the experience
Me: I loved it. It wasn’t a problem.
I walked away from the conversation feeling uneasy. While I’m looking forward to drinking ten cups of coffee back-to-back with wild abandon [if I wanted to] and sharing the nighttime routine with K, nursing was a special bond and its end is bittersweet. Nursing was also much simpler than preparing bottles at 6:00am so why does it feel weird to say nursing was simple, and convenient?
Oh yeah, because it wasn’t.
Those first few months of motherhood nursing was so difficult bottles of formula waltzed through my fractured dreams like the hippos of Mickey Mouse’s Fantasia. The daily samples of formula piling up in the pantry didn’t help my resolve either. It’s only thanks to a good lactation consultant, a supportive non-judgmental husband and family that I made it through. Over time it got easier, convenient, wonderful- but not for a while.
There are many heated debates on the topic of nursing. Those that judge who don’t. Those that judge who do. Though we are in a very pro-breastfeeding era there are those who argue that to nurse your child past one year of age is not just unnecessary, you’re a bad mother for doing so, with the author of the book I linked to actually stating that perhaps a mother who nurses past 12 months just doesn’t want to make an extra effort to figure out how else to bond with her child. Yes, really. Waleed’s own doctor said its up to you but followed up with words that indicated she too thought the idea preposterous scoffing at self-weaning by saying a kid will never self-wean; at some point a parent must parent.
Maybe this is why I reacted so cheerfully to my friend’s astonishment that I still nursed my son. If I smiled and said it was easy, I would not be judged. But it wasn’t easy at first and those early months I thought myself a lochness monster for finding what I was told was the natural order of things, more difficult than running ten miles on stilts. My astonished friend is not yet a mother and I’d hate for her to look back at our conversation one day and think Aisha said it was easy and worry-free but this is hard. What’s wrong with me?
As woman we should support each other, hold one another up, but instead so often, we judge and bring each other down be it over nursing, the choice to work or stay home, sleep routines, etc. My instincts are to smile and say all is well, because its a knee-jerk reaction akin to responding great! when asked how its going, even if its really going the complete opposite. But I can’t do that. I can’t remove my honest experience with a knee-jerk feel-good response. To do so would be to potentially hurt another person struggling through what I did and to make them feel alone when they are not.
Nursing was great. Nursing was hard as hell. I wrote this post so I won’t forget.