My friend wanted to meet for coffee next week, and I asked if Chick-fil-A was ok so that my two-year-old could hang in the play area. “Sorry,” I said, “I’m 43 and still in the toddler stage.” She laughed, and of course, understood but wow…I went all-in with this mommy gig!
When my husband and I got married, he was 36, and I was 31. We wanted a big family even though we were off to a late start, biologically speaking (not culturally speaking). I spent my 20s earning a master’s degree, living overseas, and developing my career. When we started our family, I wanted to retire into full-time mommyhood for the baby years.
This backstory gives you a little context for why exclusive breastfeeding was right for my babies and me. I was well educated about the benefits for both mom and baby, and while it’s not the healthier choice for other moms in other contexts, for us, it was a perfect fit.
Over the past decade, I’ve nursed all of my 5 sweet babies. I loved those years of snuggling up with them and I wouldn’t trade those years for anything. Yes, there were sacrifices and inconveniences, but that will be the case no matter what path you take in your mommy journey. There were times I needed to pump due to travel or work. There were times we used formula because I was sick. There was mastitis. There were times where I was bored and felt unfulfilled. For the most part, it was me and my baby in the recliner bonding, healing and nourishing each other.
Somehow this topic is a hot one in the mommy wars. Well, there is a sordid history. Many of us have mothers or grandmothers who were given shots to dry up after delivery after their male doctor told them they didn’t need to “do that” as if it were gross. That mindset needed a hearty cultural push back and it is one that moms still battle today. Just this week someone asked me if I was still “doing that” referring to nursing my 2-year-old.
The sad reality is, no matter how you choose to feed your baby, there will be cultural push back, that if you let it, can lead to mommy guilt and shame. I’m tempted to feel guilty for not using my gifts in the marketplace and contributing to the family income. I’m tempted to feel shame for nursing my two-year-old because shouldn’t we be done with “that” by now. There is no escaping guilt and shame in a broken world.
One thing I have learned along the way is that managing guilt and shame are basic life skills that all of us have to acquire. The world will not quiet down and be more supportive of our diverse choices as mothers. However, we can grow in our self-confidence and self-respect. Personal growth is the hand that turns down the volume dial on other people’s opinions. Trust yourself, mama. Whether that means child care and formula or pumping or staying home to breastfeed on demand, you have a path to walk that is uniquely yours. Hold your head high. So, however you feed your baby, it is your love that nourishes him or her. Let that love be your guide.
Peace be with you, mommies. And yes, I’m 43 and still doing “that”.