Friday, August 31, 2012

What LBZ's Nursing Strike Has Taught Me About Me.

I am a true believer that growth can come from change.  When everything is operating at a perfect rhythm, nothing is learned.  No growth takes place because everyone is safely inside the little box that is their life.

Don't get me wrong, there really isn't anything wrong with that.  I prefer living in my self-created box.  But when an unexpected change happens, something that shakes up everything I thought, planned, and expected from my life and my child, growth inevitably happens.

Before LBZ's nursing strike, everything was operating in a perfect rhythm.  Our routine was set.  Everyone knew what to expect.  It was nice and quiet and predictable and it was our life.  When he suddenly stopped nursing, my whole life was turned upside down.

I didn't know how to mother him.  I didn't know how to pump when I was with him.  I didn't know how to be a mom to him.  Quite frankly, I didn't know who I was if I was not a nursing mom.

I had myself in a box.  A box that said "I'm a nursing mom.  I plan to nurse my toddler until he's 2.  I am an attached parent and I show the world that by (among other things) breastfeeding my older child."  And just like that, LBZ pulled me out of my box.

I began to think back to the weeks leading up to his strike.  Besides in the morning, when I picked him up from school, and before bed, I ALWAYS brought LBZ to me to nurse.  Not once, that I can remember from recent months, did he ever come to me and ask to nurse.  Not once.

I would bring him to me when my body felt like he needed to eat.  It didn't even occur to me that he may not want to.  There were times he nursed with no trouble when I brought him to me, but other times he would fight it, but I would end up winning.  Looking back, I was breaking my own "rule" of following the baby's lead without even realizing I was doing it.  I was in my box and I had LBZ safely in his.

I also realized that because LBZ is so laid back and easy going, and because his brother is the polar opposite and is intense and needy (I mean that in a very lovingly way), LBZ was often just sort of...there.  He was so overshadowed by his brother's need for my attention that I often allowed LBZ to play on the floor on a blanket or entertain himself with some toys.  Because he did just that. 

His strike was a huge shock to me, so it got my attention.  He got my attention.  I suddenly watched everything he did as I attempted to figure out what caused the strike.  When I began to accept that he would not nurse again, I began to see something I didn't see before.  A glimpse into my littlest boy's personality, which is vastly out of the box I put him in and vastly different from his older brother.

And all I can say is, thank goodness I learned this now.

Thank goodness he didn't just do what I wanted and expected him to do.  Thank goodness he decided to show me who he is, separate from what I thought he was and separate from his brother.  Thank goodness I get to learn about who he is in this way right now, because he could have easily stayed in the box I placed him in for years, and suddenly at 16 break out of that box only for me to realize that I missed who he was, as a separate person than I thought, for many, many years.

He taught me that I am who I am, nursing mother or not.  My choices may shape my life and my practice, but those things do not define me.  I am so much more than a nursing mom.  I am his mom.  I am BBZ's mom.  I am learning to be flexible and to question my expectations and allow myself to feel out of control.

That is what a lot of this comes down to.  Control.  My boys make me feel completely out of control of my own life, and I am learning to love it.  Me, the planner, the have to have everything planned and the outcome figured out before I even start.  These boys are teaching me to roll with life.  They keep me guessing and make me wonder what will happen next.  They help me feel alive.

I am so grateful to my sweet littlest boy for teaching me all of this.  Had he stayed safe in the box I made for him, and had I stayed safe in the box I made for myself, I would never grow.

"If we don't change, we don't grow.  If we don't grow, we aren't really living." ~Gail Sheehy

"If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves." ~Carl Jung