It had to come to an end at some point, right? Nursing the kids, I mean. It's interesting to me that when I was pregnant I wasn't even sure I wanted to breastfeed. It's hard to explain but it just didn't feel like me. Well, I guess I was right in a way--it wasn't me...the old me. There have been a couple defining moments in my life in the past few years and one of them was having the kids. I can't begin to explain how they changed me in the blink of an eye.
So when the nurse came in my room at midnight, just after everyone had left for the night, wheeling some kind of machine after her and said "we're going to give this a try", I replied "ok." I will be forever grateful to that night nurse and she probably has no idea how her matter-of-fact response altered the course of my babies' sustenance for 17 1/2 months. When the kids were in the NICU, pumping and taking care of my body became my passionate priority--it was a time when that was the only thing I had control over in their care. A few times when the kids ran out of breast milk at the hospital and they forgot to tell us, we were fortunate enough to live close by and Shannon drove home to get more. I have nothing against moms who choose the formula route because each person has to do what is best for her. But I am happy to say that my kids have never had a bottle of formula in their life.
Some people told me that they wouldn't learn to nurse because they had been bottle fed too long in the hospital. Others said it won't matter because they were so premature and the statistics didn't relate to them. They were right. I remember struggling to get started with Sara when we came home from the hospital. Not only had I never done this before and I didn't know what I was doing, she hadn't done it either and she didn't really seem interested. I'm thankful I reached out to the Breastfeeding Resource Center for assistance. It was quite the experience sitting in an office space bare to the waist with someone I had met 5 minutes earlier--something the "old me" would never have done! But then we celebrated together when my 4 pound, still 5 weeks premature, daughter got the hang of it. She wasn't even supposed to know how to suck yet. I was overcome with emotion.
When I brought Adam home from the hospital 17 days after Sara, they warned me that because he is a boy he may not get it. We may have to just give him bottles of breast milk. Not long after he was home, Adam was curled up in a little ball, snuggled against my chest. I started to feel him squirming and inching his way around against me. I thought he was repositioning to get more comfortable but he was getting closer to the milk. He proved people wrong, too, and figured it out just fine.
There have been times that this journey has seemed long. I have had moments, especially early on, that I wanted to quit. Going through growth spurts with them and not being able to keep up was hard. Just when I would be ready to throw in the towel, I would convince myself to sleep on it and decide for sure the next day. Somehow the next day was easier.
It takes a lot of commitment. When the kids were on lock down for the winter, they had no bottles, and then decided in the spring they wouldn't take a bottle anymore. It was all me. It's hard to plan your life around being available every few hours to provide nourishment for two growing bodies. I was thankful when we hit the year milestone and I could introduce cow's milk for the mid-day meals. An unexpected freedom of not being so restricted with my time table. If I was running a little late getting home from work, it was okay. No phone calls asking me to hurry because the kids were hungry.
Then we cut out breakfast and were down to just dessert before bedtime. With my weekend away to Women of Faith approaching, I needed to set a date. Next Friday is the semi-annual Peoria Mothers of Twins group garage sale so I won't be home to put the kids to bed. I wanted time for the kids to get used to a new routine before then so that evening would go well for Shannon. Thursday, September 9 is what I chose as our final night. It was on my mind quite a bit. Breastfeeding went from something I wasn't sure I wanted to do to something I would miss and wasn't sure I would get to experience again. Ever. Not being able to get pregnant for so long made me feel like as a woman, my body was a failure and unequipped to do something so basically natural. Nursing gave me back my dignity in a way and renewed my confidence.
The last time was a little hard. I held Sara and remembered back to our experience at the BRC when she figured it out the first time. When I laid her in bed and told her "ni-night baby girl" she had no idea that would be the last time we shared that together. In our normal routine, Adam went second, and impatiently waited for me to get everything out of the way. How appropriate that when he was full, he looked at me and put his hands together to form the sign language motion for "all done." He just didn't realize how right he was.
How has it been going? Two nights now we have established our new routine. No crying. No fussing. Hugs and kisses all around as a family and we have laid them in their crib, not hearing a peep until at least 12 hours later. What a gift.
To my two beautiful babies - thanks for sharing the experience with me. I am hopeful that the nutrition I provided made a difference in your life from 2 1/2 pounds to 23. You are truly a light of joy that permeates my soul.