I entered motherhood committed to the idea of breastfeeding, and fully prepared for how much it can, well, suck. I knew it would be difficult and painful -- never mind what some rabid BF advocates say, I'd seen enough women go into it with the best attitude and support possible reduced to cringing, weeping wrecks to know that it can be really, really hard.
And it was. First the (unfounded) terror that my milk would never come in and my baby would shrivel away -- or that I would weaken and give in to the evil, evil formula supplementation and prevent my milk from coming in.
Next the (well-founded) fear of the pain. I hoarded the Percocets prescribed after my "crotch c-section" and used them prior to evening nursing sessions, which for some reason were the most painful. (Yes, I exposed my baby to narcotics. Also to alcohol, caffeine, cow's milk, and cabbage. And he's fine. Well, crabby and tiny, but fine.) I remember TrophyHusband holding the baby until he got fussy, then suggesting timidly, maybe he was hungry? He can't be hungry! I just nursed him! Figure out a way to calm him down! Sometimes I felt like I was constantly being chased around the house by my husband, the squalling baby held out in front of him like the masthead of a ship.
Then came the WWF breast-wrestling matches -- it took weeks for my "let-down" to get coordinated, during which period of time each feeding session began with the baby latching on, then letting go and howling in frustration, latching on, howling, over and over and over ... I timed it, and the average length of time it took for him to start really nursing was 20 minutes. Average. Sometimes it was 40 minutes. Including middle of the night feedings. And each feeding lasted about 45 minutes, which meant I was nursing or trying to nurse approximately 26.5 hours per day.
Finally it all clicked, stopped hurting, went smoothly and efficiently.
It was right around this time that people started asking, "How long do you plan to keep doing ... THAT?"
Geez, people. I just finally got the hang of it! Was what I wanted to say. What I really said was something along the lines of, well, it's recommended for the first six to twelve months, yadda yadda. But really I had no clue. I sort of figured it would, as we say in medicine, declare itself. He'd wean himself, or he'd start biting, or I'd get sick of it.
None of which occurred. And once the early hurdles were over, the rest didn't really bother me. Breastfeeding in public was never even the slightest issue. I've never been shy when it comes to exposing body parts, and it certainly didn't bother me to haul out a boob for a crying baby. And I've never noticed anyone appear to be bothered by it. Once when I was sitting in a public park I realized that several people were staring at me, but then I looked behind me and realized that it was a cute cat pouncing on leaves that was drawing everyone's attention. It didn't even faze me to do it in front of TrophyHusband's 80-year-old grandfather. I figure, if it makes someone uncomfortable, they can look away, and if someone gets off on it, well, I'm glad to spread some happiness in the world. There was one episode at TH's work Christmas party where AngelBaby kept popping off to look around, causing me to spray milk onto adjacent guests, but mostly it was all good.
Well, I'm remembering now, pumping at work was occasionally a hassle. I have my own office with a door that locks and my mornings are flexible, so usually it was ok (though time-consuming and messy), but one night I had to stay late so I pumped an extra time, and suddenly I heard a key turn and the door flew open and there I was, breasts laid bare, the two trumpet-like pump flanges protruding from my chest and the machine going runk-runk-runk, facing the kid who cleans the offices at night. He still averts his eyes and won't return my greeting when I pass him in the hall.
Then AngelBaby turned one and I found myself wandering around in the world of Extended Breastfeeding. It appears that without realizing it, I have become an official member of the wacko-hippie-crunchy-holier than thou CULT. At least according to some of those who stopped breastfeeding earlier. And my mother. AB is small for his age, so it's not always obvious that I'm nursing a walking, talking child, but when he toddles over, climbs into my lap, straddles my legs, yanks up my shirt and bra yelling "NUR! NUR! NUR!" and displaying his mouthful of teeth, it can cause quite a stir.
So how long am I going to keep doing ... THAT?
I still have no clue. It's so easy, and so useful -- nothing fixes a pissy mood or a smashed finger faster, and when he's being HellBoy, my boobs are the only weapons I've really got. There's no up-side to giving that up.
So how bad would it be, really, to send breastmilk care packages to my son at college? I know FedEx can ship frozen stuff.