The week of August 1st-7th is World Breastfeeding Week! (http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/) In honor of this practice, which is very near and dear to my heart, and tomorrow's "Big Latch On" event, I am writing today about this beautiful, natural act of LOVE.
A month or so before John Ryan's diagnosis I joined a "mommy group", that I refer to as "Natural Minded Mommies" (it's actually called "Natural Minded Families with Toddlers in Cary"). Although I had only just started forming relationships with the fantastic women in this group, their support during this time has been tremendous. Tomorrow morning at North Cary Park, the fearless leader of our group is holding a "Big Latch On" event (http://biglatchon.org/ ) and it is doubling as a fundraiser for JR! If you are in the area and able to get away, please come on out! JR and I will be there from 10am-11am before heading to the hospital. (https://www.facebook.com/events/1396960153852654/)
This picture is my favorite from the day JR was born. As those of you closest to my family and me know, JR's birth was "high-risk" and I wasn't expected to see him for several hours after he was born. I was devastated that his first nourishment wouldn't come directly from the source. But, I advocated intently that he would have colostrum/breast milk ONLY, and demanded a pump be available to me immediately. God answered our prayers on November 29, 2012, and JR defied his fetal prognosis. Within 30 minutes of his birth I was nursing my sweet son for the very first time. After carrying my baby for 9 months in my womb, breastfeeding him was an extremely natural and gratifying act. I will always remember this first time -the emotions were powerful: nature's miracle, sheer overwhelming beauty, and, most of all, overpowering LOVE. For the first 6 months of JR's life, he was exclusively breastfed. Yes, it was challenging at times, especially when life demanded our separation. But I would (and did) do anything to keep this bond between my son and me. I have yet to spend a night away from John Ryan.
The first couple of months of breastfeeding were HARD! JR and I were learning how to breastfeed. I got a serious breast infection (mastitis) TWICE. I had a biopsy of a lump in my left breast (normal), and couldn't nurse from that side for days. Not to mention all the changes the breasts go through as they learn how much milk to produce. But we got through those storms. I don't know when breastfeeding became second nature, but it did. For any readers who are struggling with breastfeeding, I encourage you to keep at it! Somewhere along the way it will get so easy you won't remember there was ever a struggle.
At 6 months, we introduced solids. Breast milk has continued to be JR's main source of nutrition, and home-made fruit and veggie purees are supplemental. When JR was diagnosed with cancer two-and-a-half weeks ago, our nursing relationship took on a whole new meaning. Day after day in the hospital JR was put under anesthesia for hours. He would wake up confused and crying, and possibly in pain from surgery. Scooping him into my arms and offering him my breast brought instant comfort to us both. I was so very thankful to be able to provide this nourishing bond when my son needed it most. He would nurse away his tears and mine, and when he was finished he would rest calmly and contentedly in my or Brandon's arms. During those early hospital days when we all were emotionally distraught, I was so thankful for the normalcy and comfort nursing provided JR and me. Whenever John Ryan cried out with uncertainty or discomfort, I could provide instant relief. I am so thankful for God's great gift to mother and child.
Now that JR is undergoing chemotherapy, nursing continues to play an integral role in our ability to cope. JR can't tell me how he is feeling or what is hurting, but I know when he is in discomfort, and the breast continues to have a very high success rate in calming us both. I've focused so far on the emotional benefits of nursing, but of course there are substantial health benefits as well! As John Ryan's immune system is destroyed by chemotherapy, I am able to provide him with healthy cells and natural hormones and antibodies through my breast milk. What a miraculous gift and opportunity!
I aspire to breastfeed my child into remission. I have always been grateful for the bond nursing provides my son and me. However, now that he has cancer I am thankful to my core to be given the unique ability to provide a constant flow of love and nourishment for my son. Power to the boob! <3