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    « conversations with a 21 month old | Main | thrifty sunday: monday »

    body politics and the willies

    When I made it through the first trimester of pregnancy with my milk supply intact and no soreness like I'd been warned of, I thought George and I were free and clear to keep nursing through this pregnancy. My goal has always been to breastfeed on demand until two, when we'd switch to the no offers/no refusals game plan, which would lead to weaning in due time. George has nightweaned himself, with the transition from our bed to his own, and, anymore, only asks to nurse a few times a day; on some especially busy days, he's only asked once. Regardless of frequency, however, it's a part of our relationship I don't want to give up, and certainly not prematurely (not to mention: it's my only way of getting him to sleep without the aid of one adept papa). 

    One thing I hadn't worried about and, hence, hadn't prepared for, was the nursing heebie-jeebies. As in, a total aversion to breastfeeding my child. We've had a great and easy road and I've never felt even a twinge of the body-related resentment toward George that I'd heard expressed by some other mothers or discomfort with breastfeeding created by the over-sexualized and unfriendly-to-nursing culture in which we (unfortunately) live. So when, a few weeks ago, slight soreness gave way to OH MY GOD DON'T YOU DARE COME NEAR MY BOOBS, KID I was shocked and bummed and guilty-feeling. My poor, sweet, little dude just wanted some noms. I hoped the feeling would go away -- that it was just a fluke -- and I'd be able to enjoy that part of our day like I had in the past. But it hasn't gone away. And it's kind of messing with me. 

    I am so incredibly comfortable with enforcing my need for personal space. Anyone who's shared my bed can tell you that I am not to be bothered in the middle of the night. Cuddling? Hell no. I don't like to be tickled, either, so call me a joykill but stay away from my knees if you value your nose's structural integrity. I can say no, believe strongly in my right to do so and can safely say I've never willingly compromised my body for someone else. Until now. And I'm doing it three + times a day. 

    Maybe I just need someone to feed me cotton candy while I nurse?

    Every time George's little hand opens and closes to say he wants milk, I cringe. It hurts, it's hot and I just want it to be over. And I feel like the world's worst asshole. My supply is dipping, so there's no telling how much he gets, and as though he's trying to make up in time what he's lacking in product, he wants to stay latched on FOR. EVER. Through the entirety of the morning -- 6:30 to 8am, and again through his whole nap, waking when I desperately extricate myself. I've read so many articles and blog posts  for tips, and some of the suggestions work, if briefly. Some of the voices are genuinely reassuring. But I'm still having a hard time parsing my belief in respecting my own body and limits while maintaining what's obviously an important facet of my relationship with my son. 

    Parenting comes with a healthy dose of self-sacrifice and I daresay anyone who argues otherwise is doing it wrong. I don't think, however, that you're obligated to hand over all body autonomy if doing so is giving you the willies. To forsake my own comfort especially around such a potentially intimate body part seems innately un-Feminist. Is it? Is there an intersection of feminism and motherhood with a permanent red light? It seems that the short answer is yes; the long answer no with a but. And that makes me uncomfortable, too. To be the first woman to yield to my son -- whom I am (with luck) teaching that women's (and everyone's, really) bodies are to be respected and protected, especially in a political climate that decreasingly supports that idea? I'm probably over thinking it, but it seems to set a precedent I don't like. My best bet may be to grin and bear it: to never let him think he has to convince me, both because that's the kindest way, and because it doesn't teach him that coercion is an option. 

    I'm devoted to child-led weaning, so I'm sure I'll continue gritting my teeth until oxytocin overcomes the heebie-jeebies, George gives up on his own or the new baby brings back my supply, any illusions of control over my own chest wash away with a new, never-ending batch of spit-up stained laundry, and breastfeeding becomes the hormonal love-fest it used to be. And I'll continue to question my own politics, my own motivations -- to check in with my methods -- because doing so is healthy. It keeps me relevant, or at least as relevant as a stay-at-home mom can be (ha!). 

    Reader Comments (4)

    absolutely. all of it. especially the last sentence. thank you for putting it out there and being one of our role models. love you big.

    September 8, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertara

    My two older children each weaned during subsequent preganacies, both before they were 2-years-old. I, too, felt a strong physical aversion to nursing while I was pregnant even though I really wanted to continue because I could see how much my children needed to nurse.

    Sometimes I think that these mysteries of motherhood are part of the great strength of womanhood. Aknowledging the desire to nurse as well as the difficulty it presents is perhaps enough to give you the peace you need. Whether your son continues to nurse or chooses to wean, you have given value to both his experience and yours.

    September 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPatti @ Jazzy Mama

    I TOTALLY know what you are talking about. I felt the exact same way when I was pregnant. One thing that helped, of all things!, was taking vitamins! It was as if my body was saying, "Back off toddler, there isn't enough for you TOO!". And I found it less irritating when I was totally healthy. Mind, my milk went away totally at the end. So at the beginning nursing made me want to vomit (and I did!), second trimester it was just horribly painful (which is funny, because it never hurt when I began is common), and then in the third trimester I would get terrible braxton hicks during.

    BUT, all this nursing paid off. I had TONS of milk for my daughter, and apparently of excellent quality, because it filled her up and she slept four hours even when she was little (as opposed to my son waking every two hours when he was new). At least my midwife believed that the extended nursing is what did it. Anyway, it IS worth it (though it may not feel like it). Now they are both nursing (though not often at the same time) and they love one another. I'd love to hear how it goes for you. I don't know a lot of women who nurse throughout pregnancy and then tandem afterward. Good luck!

    October 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKimberly

    Hi Stefanie, I found your blog the other day. Just having a read of some previous posts of yours & really relating to them & enjoying them! Especially enjoyed this one & the one where you showed how to make toys! Hopefully will try to make one this weekend. Great blog, I'll be back again & again : )

    October 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterÁine

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