I crawled out of the warm wonderland known as my bed after being awakened by the loud sounds of my three oldest kids, ages 4-8, who were stomping and screaming throughout the house because, well, that’s how they roll in the six o’clock hour while the rest of the sane world snoozes.
My wife is still sleeping in the bedroom around the corner and down the hall while I’m starting to write this unexpected blog entry. Even more than usual, she deserves to sleep in.
Last night, Heather, the beautiful mother of our home’s four littlest residents, shared a somewhat painful thought on Facebook:
“One phase of my life is possibly coming to an end. Though it is a welcomed and much anticipated end, I did shed some tears anyway.”
Unless the stork — forget the cuteness — unless God decides to bless us with more children, my wife will never breastfeed again. According to our family’s game plan, Baby Jack is our fourth and final bambino. He’s turning 1 soon, and she decided that his final personal feeding from her would happen two nights ago.
Yesterday was the first time in Jackson Drew’s life — from the day he swam faster than all the others until his 11-month birthday — that he didn’t get nourishment that had a “Made by Mommy” label on it.
In all, Heather has spent four of the last nine years breastfeeding our babies.
Sometimes she’s joked, “I feel like a cow.”
Many times she’s felt an amazing bond with our helpless infants, who bask in warmth, comfort and pure love while pressed against a caring mother’s flesh. In these precious times, mom and child each share something while cuddling so close to one another’s hearts.
Other times she’s cried in agony.
She’s also cursed, grunted, bled, swallowed pride while allowing specialists to give her hands-on help, become chafed in strange spots, been bitten, fretted about latching issues, used a variety of ointments, worn the weirdest bras ever made, pumped precious milk using the weirdest machine ever made, feared that she was going to dry up, feared that her shirt wouldn’t dry up, accidentally flashed a person or two, awkwardly unfastened upper-body clothing while covering up with a cute blanket in the company of others, dragged her feet across the cold slate floor in the middle of the night to soothe a struggling and/or starving infant, put up “Off Limits” signs for a certain someone, gotten a crick in the neck after falling asleep in the rocking chair, and lamented aloud about perky parts becoming stretched and saggy.
All to give our children the healthiest homemade meal possible.
My wife’s body and, yes, her breasts deserve a break.
The mother of our four kids also deserves something else she’s probably never gotten for doing this particular chore: a thank you.
Between moments of confusion and grumpiness, I woke up this morning with that thought on my mind. As I tried to imagine the emotional struggle and sadness she’s feeling, I realized that breastfeeding is among the most thankless and demanding jobs any woman ever undertakes. The recipients aren’t even old enough to say “Mommy” let alone use crayons to make a thank you card.
On behalf of the five non-Mommy inhabitants of this house, I’d like to give a sincere “THANK YOU!!!” to the tired and incredible woman sleeping in the bedroom around the corner and down the hall. She’ll never regret it. I’ll never forget it.
While I’m at it, I should thank the amazing mom who’s currently 14 miles away in my old home for personally catering me for the first part of my life 42 years ago. Life, love and milk were just the first of countless things Momma Patty has given to me.
And in case they haven’t heard it, thanks to moms in South Dakota and South Carolina, merci to the meres in France, gracias to Mexican madres, and mahalo, arigato, spasibo, danke and dòjeh to the rest of the mothers out there who probably never received proper gratitude for giving that early gift of liquid life.
I certainly don’t mean to be insensitive to non-breastfeeding mothers. Moms feel enough guilt. I don’t want to add on. Breastfeeding is not for everyone. It’s hard. It’s time consuming. It’s a mixture of bizarre and beautiful. It’s impractical or even impossible for some women. To those moms, thank you for being awesome simply by being moms.
I’m a guy, so I’m not going to pretend that part of me isn’t happy about the fact that this era is ending. I’d lie if I said I hadn’t been slightly jealous that some of my personal wants were left unsatisfied during those four years. (I re-read that and realize I probably sound like a jerky male. But I am a man. What can I say?)
When I let my brain and heart do the thinking, I know some of my desires are selfish. A much higher cause is being met. Women could use more gratitude than grudges.
To be honest, I can’t fathom how strange it is for nursing moms to have something that multiple members in the family want but for entirely different reasons. Moms also deserve credit for dealing with that.
Over the years, I’ve laughed about how my man boobs — or moobs, to use the scientific name — were false advertisement. I’d hold our children, they’d notice squishy parts on my chest and instinctively lurch for lunch. This oft-repeated experience usually ended with me joking and apologizing before having chest hairs ripped out by unforgiving 3-month-olds.
I know my wife fears that the amazing mother-child bond they’ve forged during feedings and the ensuing cuddle time will come to an end now that other people can give our baby the same kind of food she can. She’s always loved holding them close to her and listening to the sweet sighs they make while drinking. And, hey, this might be the only part of their lives when they don’t complain about meals.
Maybe someday our children will learn to appreciate the sacrifices their mom made to provide for them while doing what she felt was natural and saving our family money. Maybe they’ll never even think about it.
She shouldn’t worry. Moms have a way of giving people new reasons to love them.
Thank you for that, too.