As August comes to a close, I’d like to recognize August as World Normal-Feeding Awareness Month – or as many call it – World Breastfeeding Awareness. I'd also like to acknowledge that my job, my calling, my vocation is a bit different, but it's definitely what I am/was supposed to do! For several decades I have done what I can to help new mothers breastfeed, including working as a certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) for the last two-plus decades.
Yes, yes, I know quite well that a mammal mother’s own milk is something truly magnificent. In addition to providing optimal nutrition for an infant’s growth and development, only human milk offers the immunological support that has allowed our species, Homo sapiens, to survive and thrive. However, even as my head understands the statistics involved with that equation and gets that “shit happens” within the complexity of the human body, my heart often feels cheated and cries, “Brandon had nothing but his mother’s own milk for more than six months! How could this happen? How could he have developed a disease in which his immune system didn’t recognize and kill these f’n mutant cells?”
What I don’t feel cheated of, what I wouldn’t trade for all the riches on earth or in heaven, what is worth everything and more is the relationship he and I shared through breastfeeding. I doubt I can adequately convey the intimacy of the breastfeeding relationship – the communication that develops between mother and child during and because of it. It is unique with each child. It is often difficult to achieve, but once achieved with one child, a mother will scale any metaphorical mountain to experience the breastfeeding relationship with each child.
Brandon was my second baby. I had scaled a couple of metaphorical mountains to breastfeed his older sister, and I couldn’t imagine it could be more exhilarating. I simply couldn’t imagine I could come to love another infant/child as much as I loved my first. Then he was born, and it was love (for me) at first sight. Still, life is life, and our breastfeeding relationship had its ups and downs, especially in the first month. Once we crested the mountain of that month, we soared. All mountains afterward seemed miniscule in comparison. He and I were très sympa, a French phrase for which there is no good English equivalent.
To really breastfeed is to let go as the adult, the mother, and trust the immature baby to set the pace, which is completely contrary to most of so-called “modern” parenting philosophies. Yet it is in this letting go, this acceptance of the unique infant-/child-paced daily rhythm that one really gets to know this infant/child as an individual. To really breastfeed is to appreciate and celebrate that rhythm. And when both mother and baby are enjoying the uniqueness of their own special breastfeeding relationship? Well, for that brief period of time, whether for weeks, months or a few years, a mother truly knows what it is to be the goddess of the universe. It is beyond magical.
Brandon and I enjoyed a close, a very special breastfeeding relationship for his first 27 months. Strangely, or perhaps not so strangely, the time from when he was first diagnosed with “poorly differentiated squamous cell carcinoma” until his death was precisely 27 months. I cannot believe this is coincidence,
So I bid adieu to World Normal-Feeding (Breastfeeding) Awareness Month – not to World Human Milk Awareness Month or World Lactation (Synthesis of Milk) Awareness Month. As I do so, I thank the Creator of all for the gift that allowed me to let go and share in the awe and the responsibility of divinity as the short-term goddess of the universe for Brandon and for each of my infants/children.
Everything else Brandon and I shared over his life on this earth began with that first, that special breastfeeding relationship. I wouldn’t trade our 27-month breastfeeding relationship for anything. No, not for anything.