My baby turns two today.
And because he’s two–and officially not a baby any longer–I’m going to be brave and tell you something. Usually when I tell people this I swear them to secrecy, because I don’t want the word to get out. (What will people think?) But I’m learning that keeping secrets about how we really live doesn’t do anybody any good, so I’ll just say it:
I’m still breastfeeding.
I’m a pretty crunchy, natural-living, attachment-parenting kind of girl, but I never thought I would be breastfeeding a two-year old. Ever. And I’ll be honest: it’s mostly because of all the negative things people say about extended breastfeeding–and the women who practice it.
9 years ago, right after we brought our firstborn home from the hospital, my friend came to visit. She walked in, saw I was nursing and gushed, “It’s so great that you’re breastfeeding! It’s so good for them! I nursed my baby until the day he said his first word, and then we were done–it’s just gross to nurse a baby who’s old enough to talk. I’m not that kind of mom!” She laughed, nodding, sure that I felt the same about those moms.
But I didn’t. I was just wading into motherhood; I had no idea how other people parented their kids. I was trying to find a groove with my newborn and take things a day at a time. I didn’t yet know other moms might find my parenting choices objectionable–or even “gross.” But my friend’s snide remark about those moms–you know, the ones who’ve decided to do things differently than you–was just the first of many, many more to follow.
My confidence as a mom took a hit that day. I didn’t (often) let my fear of what people would think influence my parenting decisions, but it definitely influenced the way I talked to other moms. I didn’t want to defend myself; I didn’t want to be judged, or criticized, so I was very mindful of which parenting topics I discussed, and with whom.
And that’s a shame.
This isn’t a post about breastfeeding.
As a woman, I need need other women to walk beside me. As a mom, I need empathy from other moms. But we can’t help each other if we’re keeping things secret that ought to be shared.
I started speaking up about my miscarriage when I realized I had friends who’d grieved their own miscarriages alone because they thought they didn’t know anyone who’d experienced that loss. I started speaking openly about my son’s cancer when I found out the story of his diagnosis led to the early diagnosis of another child.
And now, if you ask me how long I nursed my babies, I won’t swear you to secrecy any longer. I’ll tell you I’m still nursing my baby; he just turned 2. I’ve never breastfed any of my kids this long, but there’s been no reason to wean–no medications, no weekends away, no nursing strikes. There have been lots of good reasons to continue: he could use the extra calories, and he could use the one-on-one time with his mama, too. I don’t expect it to last much longer, but right now, it’s working for our family.
I’m not keeping secrets any more. I’ll be brave and share my story with others. There’s just too much at stake not to.
And when you tell me your story, you’ll get no criticism from me. Only empathy, sister–because we need each other, and we need each other’s stories.
When have you been encouraged by another woman’s story?
photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography