I read a lovely article a few months ago about the “lasts” in parenting. About how we notice and record the first times our children do something, but how the last times are often missed in the relentless forward march of Growing Up.
It’s been on my mind a lot in the past week or so, because we’ve had a big “last”. After spending more than 5 of the last 6 and a half years breastfeeding (not consecutively, and not the same child!) I have clipped my drop cups for the last time. The milk-bar is shut; and we suddenly feel much closer to being a baby-free household.
Had someone told me BC (Before Children) that I would spend half a decade of my adult life literally nourishing another human being I would have shuddered and laughed in scorn. Had someone broached it in the early, hellish, days of establishing feeding with No1, I would probably now be serving time for GBH. Yet here I am, suddenly with the heady freedom to take whatever prescription drugs should take my fancy, not quite sure where the time has gone.
I couldn’t give a monkeys how anyone else chooses to feed their baby, if they are supported and informed enough actually to be able to make a choice. It makes me mad, though, that so many women have to stop breastfeeding before they’re ready to because they don’t have access to the right sources of help.
I was given fantastic support (Sure Start workers coming in their own car to take me to a drop-in group when I couldn’t drive following a caesarean, more specialist help later when No1 employed an eclectic – even cannibalistic – approach to making things difficult). Without it, I couldn’t have kept on feeding him, let alone going on to have a much more straightforward time with the next two.
So, 61 months later, how do I feel? Proud; sad that something which has been overwhelmingly positive is over; undeniably a little bit liberated. It’s easy to remember it all in haze of loveliness and nurturing, but even when it was more frustrating and downright constraining, I kept remembering the person who helped me keep going with the thought that there’d only be a short period in my life when it would even be possible.
That unique time is over for me now, but it’s ok. Ironically enough, when I was typing this, I mis-hit so many keys that the spell-checker couldn’t even guess at “breastfeeding”. Instead it told me, aptly : No Replacements Found. Nor will I be searching for any; I’m looking forward to all the firsts – and lasts – of the next stage.