I never had a breastfeeding problem. All of my babies latched with ease immediately after birth, nursed on demand, grew chubby and happy and whole. Smooth sailing on a sea of milk. I could breastfeed with one hand and let the dog out/stir pots of chili/fix my older daughter’s hair with the other. I proudly considered Midge, my third and final baby, a breastfed girl.
Until I realized, abruptly, she isn’t.
This time around, I am at the start of a new career, working full time an hour away from home. After my six weeks of “short-term disability” (a stark contrast to the six months paid maternity I had with my first and the flexible, part-time schedule I had with my second), I returned to work with a fully stocked freezer that looked like a hybrid of Medela parts and Jenga pieces. I wore stylish easy-access tops and sneaked away from my desk two or three times a day to pump, producing 10-12 oz. a day.
And really, supplementing didn’t bother me. I love breastfeeding and identify with the culture, but firmly believe that formula is a safe and nutritious alternative. My girl was healthy and content.
But then, two weeks ago, I left for three days for a conference, and my milk supply plummeted.
Maybe I’m sad because I know my work takes so much of me away from my children already, that it robs us of stroller walks and Mickey Mouse pancakes and early afternoons spent lining all the pots and pans across the kitchen floor. Wake, work, sleep. Wake, work, sleep. Because it seems like an incredible injustice that the cost of financial stability and intellectual fulfillment is time with my kids while they are small. Maybe I’m sad because I know how hungry time is, how it races past us at breakneck speed, ravaging each tiny happiness we create. Or maybe, I’m sad because I know Midge is my last baby, that this marks my final time caring for an infant, the end of an era that ushered me into adulthood with grace and purpose.
Maybe, I'm sad because we can never really be enough for our children. They will always need more, and our hearts will break each time we aren’t enough.
One day, probably soon, it will happen, though I won't know it in the moment. I will wake in the heady stillness of 4 a.m. and put Midge to my breast, watch her rooting mouth find its home, see how the curve of her lips seeks and slackens. And when she slips, milk-drunk, off of me, it will be over.