By: Jessica Masaya
For 262 days I grew you.
For 7 hours and 19 minutes I labored to bring you earth side and hold you in my arms.
Our first latch was something that I will never forget. Staring at you, not knowing how to do this motherhood thing, wondering if I would be able to feed you the way I wanted to...but you latched and, my love, for 1,007 days I have nourished you.
I didn’t take nursing pictures for the first few months of your life. I tried to use a cover when we were out and worried endlessly that you weren’t eating enough. It wasn’t the case. You were thriving and we relinquished our cover very quickly. We were growing and you, my little bug, were nourishing my soul. When you were 3.5 months old I finally took a picture of you nursing to sleep though I’ve never shared it with anyone until now.
I started my journey into motherhood knowing I would nurse you but unsure of what that meant. I didn’t understand the connection and bond we would have in this relationship. I didn’t understand how much you would liberate me from the social constructs I thought I needed to adhere to. That you would propel me into being an advocate for natural term breastfeeding and nursing without a cover. That you would change me into the strong, open-minded, ever learning, feminist I am today. For those 1,007 days you nourished me too and broke open my soul. You helped me rebuild everything I thought I knew of motherhood and the world.
The pictures I have of you nursing are still some of my favorite. I look at them with both happiness and heartache now because 73 days before your 3rd birthday my milk began to dry up and 69 days before your 3rd birthday you quit asking me to nurse. On the 66th day we both cried when you tried one last time. For 1269 days my body held you and fed you and comforted you. Those were some of the most amazing days and nights of my entire life.
I’ll never forget the feeling of you drifting off to sleep. The way you’d place your hand on my chest or the sighs of complete contentment you breathed while you ate. Those quiet, calm moments where we’d reconnect and share so much love. Your little fluttering eyelashes. The way your head smelled. Trying not to kiss you awake because I missed you while you were sleeping. All of it. Every single moment is forever ingrained in my heart.
But this one. Those eyes. The look all babies give to their mothers while they feed them. This is what made all the long nursing nights, the leaking milk, the loose latch, the inability to feed you on my right side, all of the struggles...so very worth it.
This gorgeous picture that I was always too afraid to share because I thought I’d receive judgment, because I worried what people might say or think. The moment that I’ve kept to myself because I thought it showed too much. But after 1,007 days I’m no longer afraid of that because this is what breastfeeding is. It’s beautiful, and raw, and natural. It’s me feeding you with nutrients and love. So much love was shared between us in these days. When you were hurt I nursed you. When you were sad or scared. When you were tired or bored. When you just wanted to feel close to me...I nursed you.
We nursed through teething and toddler gym-nurstics. We nursed through tantrums and hard days. We nursed through colds and sickness. We nursed on sunny days and rainy days and all the days in between.
And you found calm here. You found safety and warmth. You had peace and comfort. My chest was your goodnight and your good morning. My chest was your home when my belly no longer held you. My arms and my heart held you ever so tightly but no matter how tightly you grew. But even when you grew you still came home.
In our last months of nursing you’d come and go quickly. You just had too much to do to stop for a while. I watched as you learned how to talk and walk and run. I nursed all your owies while you navigated your new found abilities. Putting breastmilk on all of them for good measure because it’s so much more than just food. When I’d hold you, you felt so big and so little at the same time. You still do. I stopped commemorating our nursing moments as much during your toddler years. There was no particular reason but now I regret it. Those moments were so special too and I had no idea they would be ending soon.
Our last nursing picture was taken 90 days before my milk was gone. We smiled and laughed. It was almost bedtime. You looked at me in that special way and my heart melted as if it was the first time.
Almost a month later we would find out that you’re going to have a sibling soon. I didn’t know I would lose my milk so quickly or that it would be this hard to say goodbye to our breastfeeding relationship. I didn’t know how much I should have counted those last moments or stopped just to enjoy them. I had no idea I would miss nursing you so much.
It’s been 37 days now since you last nursed. When my milk was gone I explained that it’s because I have a baby in my tummy. You understand and you’re excited to have a brother or sister. Just a few days ago you said that you could have “na-na’s” again once the baby was out of my tummy. That it’s your favorite. That you miss your na-na’s. You remember those moments too. I hope you always do. Once the baby is here, if you want, you can try again because breastfeeding doesn’t lose it’s benefits just because you’re almost 3. It nourished your body, heart, and soul and helped grow you into the strong willed, happy, independent little person that you are today. I’m so proud of our journey and my body. I’m so sad and so happy that you’ve done so well without your beloved na-na’s. If I had known I would have taken 1000 pictures in those last days. I would have breathed you in and tried to hold tightly again. I would have thought back to those harder nursing days and been more grateful to still be nursing you. I would have stopped everything to take in those last moments. They are gone now but I’m so grateful that we had them. Thank you my love, for 1,007 beautiful days that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
I love you.