I never went through the touched-out phase that so many mothers experience. Granted, I suffered from what felt like near-fatal levels of exhaustion and subsequent disdain when my sleepless daughter used me night after night as a human pacifier, only ever sleeping for 45 minutes at a time before waking up and settling only for milk from my breast — but any adverse feelings that ever accompanied nursing never came as a result of too much physical touch, nor were they ever negative enough for me to put an end to our breastfeeding relationship.
I've said in the past that two earlier versions of myself — one not yet ready for motherhood, and one happily pregnant — assumed that I'd breastfeed my children, but only to the extent that once they were old enough to communicate with me through words, we'd close the book. I talked about how I assumed that a year would mark that point, and that anything beyond that veered dangerously into territory that was assumedly bizarre and unnatural.
I never meant to condemn a woman for choosing to breastfeed for an extended period of time, neither privately nor publicly, but I certainly could feel within myself a niggling discomfort surrounding the topic, and surely enough so that I'd somewhere along the line made up the decision that I'd never travel down that road.
So. A year it'd be, I said. Then after that, my children would be on their own.
Two things happened, though, which chiseled away at the person I once was and reformed my line of thinking completely.
I became a mother. I so severely underestimated the parent-child relationship, my own capacity for love, and what myriad purposes and solutions the act of breastfeeding serves. That girl of mine hit her first birthday in what felt like the blink of an eye, and also somehow in roughly the span of a thousand years that were dripping in molasses and melancholy. Never at any point in the days and hours leading up to that girl's birthday could I fathom the concept of ending our breastfeeding relationship; we needed each other. Having her at my breast was as much a necessity for her as it was for me. We were glued to one another, and that's how we wanted it to be. So I crawled through the cracks in the walls I'd built up around myself, and delighted in what light and freedom there was in following my daughter's lead rather than my own stringent and uninformed statutes.
The other thing that happened, of course, was that I lost the opportunity to give my daughter a sibling. Raising an only-child has meant that there was never any bickering in my house, no vying for my attention, no competition, and no other sort of chaos that pulled my body and my breasts in varying different directions. There was me, and there was my growing girl — my companion and my comfort, ever at my side while I weathered the loss of my second baby, and wandered hopelessly through the grief that followed a diagnosis of secondary infertility. She stayed with me through my defiance, my denial, my pleading and every other aspect of my tear-stained existence.
I never had the chance to get touched-out. I never lived through anything that led me to feel overwhelmed in the ways that parents of multiples do. My heart was only ever pulled in one solitary direction: here, toward my tiny True North.
So here we are.
Less than two weeks ago I was sitting in my mother-in-law's kitchen talking with my brother-in-law and his partner — two of the people dearest to me in this world — and she, having just three days prior having given birth to her first child, asked me in passing how long I had nursed my girl for.
"Four years and counting," I replied. I never thought it would've gone on this long, I told her, and she's weaned for better or for worse, but every now and again she comes back to me not for milk, but for comfort and connection... I went on. Knowing the bond we have, where we've been and what we've weathered, I don't yet feel the need to turn her away if once in a while she needs me in that way.
I told them that before I gave birth, I assumed it'd be creepy; and that it wasn't until I became a mother myself that I realized there was nothing creepy about it — that it only became more natural, more settled and so much easier.
To this, my brother-in-law jokingly retorted that the point at which it stopped seeming creepy to me is exactly the point at which it starts being creepy as hell to everyone else.
Welp, it's a good thing that I stopped giving a shit a long time ago about what people think of me and of the things I do.
So cheers to each of you women who are breastfeeding their children and keeping it creepy; and cheers to all of you who recoil in horror at seeing a potty-trained preschooler at the boob. I don't care, I won't ever care, and I will forever keep doing what I'm doing — that being, of course, precisely whatever it is I want.
Women, mothers, this world is ours.