Above is a picture of a glass of milk. It is my milk. It comes from my body.
I have been thinking about two things lately:
How would you react if you came to visit me and I gave you this glass of milk, and after you'd drunk it I said that it was human milk, that it came from me? Most likely, you'd be surprised, and quite probably, you'd be disgusted, and maybe you'd even be angry. If I did the same, but said it was from our cow, you most likely wouldn't have flinched. Drinking milk from a cow is normal, drinking milk from a woman is weird - if you're not a baby (not even then, in many circumstances today! I'll get to that later). This alienation of human milk puzzles me. I remember a few years ago, there was a story about a Norwegian poet, she was also a mother, who had been interviewed in her home, she had served the male journalist waffles, and when they were done and he was leaving, she told him the waffles were made with breastmilk. It created quite a commotion, and sparked the discussion of long-term-breastfeeding (this poet had breastfed her child for six years). This discussion goes on, and on, and on, and it seems like it stirs something deep in some people, people can be so angry about it. Like you're doing something wrong by giving your child your milk. But cow's milk is ok? I don't see the difference, except that human milk, well, is for humans. So many of our behaviours are simply products of our culture, and that doesn't necessarily mean they are right, or that they automatically should exclude other behaviours. I read this blog post some time ago, and it proves my point: Just as much as extended breastfeeding is shamed in our culture, is it praised in another. In Norway, breastfeeding your baby is generally supported, and we have a high percentage of breastfed babies (80% are still breastfed when they are six months old). But as soon as you step out of that box, and breastfeed longer than the norm, it is suddenly not ok anymore. People feel disgusted by it, just like they would be disgusted if I tricked them into drinking that glass of milk. I find it strange. (If you want some hilarious points on the subject, check out this video.)
The other thing on my mind lately, is of a more emotional nature. I have breastfed my three first children, and was intending to do the same with Ulv when he came around. When we found out that he has a cleft palate, it slowly dawned on me that he wouldn't be able to breastfeed, he can't make the necessary vacuum. His instincts were intact though, and while he was searching for my breast, sniffing and licking and trying to latch on like newborn babies do so excellently, warm tears were streaming down my face. We both wanted to, our primal instincts were strong and we were drawn to each other like nature intended, but there was a void in the middle, the physical impossibility. It took some time to get over that. I had the choice; either give him formula milk, or pump my own breastmilk out for him. I had pumped once in my life before, when Ronja was little, but I was impatient and didn't really have to pump, so I got bored and never did it since. The choice was easy, I wanted him to have my milk, but I didn't really have much faith in myself. I was sad and tired and scared and had little faith in anything just then. But then, my body led the way, and the milk came in, and I had lots, more than enough for him. And it made me so happy, so fulfilled. (He had donor milk the first couple of days, and I have sent so many thanks to those mamas who have given their milk.) Giving him my milk was important to me, it was essential in my healing process. He was born at home, and our wish was for everything to be natural, non-invasive, smooth. And then suddenly, after a dream birth, we found ourselves in the hospital, and our baby had plastic tubes in his nose, and we were surrounded by beeping machines, and there were people in white coming in all the time, and I cried, and cried, and cried. And pumped. After I saw that I could do it, that I could feed him exclusively with my milk, I said to the nurses that I was planning to do it for a year. They carefully warned me against that; with the best of intentions, and with complete respect, they said setting myself goals like that might wear me out and that I should be happy with every week I did it. I realigned myself with the earth and dropped having a goal, but still felt strongly about pumping for a long time.
I have given him my milk exclusively for five and a half months. That's pumping seven times a day, for 20-30 minutes every time, day and night, around the clock. That is pumping a litre of milk every day. Now that he is six months in a couple of days, I have started to decrease and feed him some formula as well. I thought I would be sad when it came to that point, but I felt relieved. I felt like I have done a hell of a job, and that it is slowly coming to an end, that I am slowly letting it go. I felt freedom creeping in. It has been the hardest thing I have done in my life so far, and the thing I am the most proud of. It became so important to me to do this, it was my way of restoring the equilibrium he missed out on by being in the hospital and suffering breathing difficulties and most important, by not being able to latch on. My love for him flows through my milk and it makes me feel good to do this.
It's like this: Sometimes you just have to walk that road, no matter what people advise you to do, you have to push through and listen intently to your heart. It might not always be the easiest route, but it is a fulfilling one. And now, because I have done it, I can let it go. Not just yet, and slowly, but I can let go, and know I did the best I could.