In the nearly seven years I've been a mom, I've come to believe that parenting is just a long series of hellos and goodbyes.
In the delivery room -- hello.
The first day of school -- goodbye.
When they wake up each morning -- hello.
When they go to sleep each night -- goodbye.
But it goes even deeper than that, doesn't it? Especially if you're a sentimental mama like me.
I've said hello to tiny newborn clothes and goodbye to cribs and hello to bikes and goodbye to training wheels. And it will go on like this my whole life, because I will always, always be their mom. The only constant is change.
I know the goodbyes will only get more difficult and be felt more deeply. Because someday we will drive them to college and make their twin bed in a tiny dorm room. And leave knowing they will probably never come home to stay for good again.
Last week I said goodbye to something that has meant so much to me -- breastfeeding.
I really can't believe that it ever ended up mattering that much. I remember when I was pregnant the first time -- announcing it so matter-of-factly -- like it was the easiest thing in the world.
I'm going to breastfeed.
Oh, Lord. How naive I was. It was anything but easy for me.
All told, I only spent a combined 18 months of my life making milk for my three babies. But goodness, the challenges I was faced with during those months!
I won't sit here and say that breastfeeding changed my kids in any way. I can't tell the difference between my breastfed babies and my formula-fed son. I wasn't able to breastfeed my first baby and had to quit at five months with my second. Despite the fear that my failure to breastfeed would surely ruin them, they turned out just fine. I honestly feel silly that I ever worried about it.
But you know who I think it changed the most?
The past year has been hard in the most amazing ways. When I was stressed and overwhelmed, it was strange how I could pull up my shirt, latch her on and instantly sink into the couch -- completely happy and relaxed. I know people say breastfeeding is the greatest gift you can give your baby. I understand all the health and developmental benefits that come from the bond of breastfeeding.
But I think, somehow, a gift was also given to me.
Breastfeeding my daughter kept me focused. It kept me in the moment. On those I'm-not-good-enough days, breastfeeding kept me grounded in what truly mattered -- loving my baby the best way that worked for us.
To the mamas out there, I want you to know: that's all that matters. Whether your love includes a boob, a bottle, a pump or some messy, unorganized combination of them all. I promise you, it's gonna be OK as long as you love them with your whole heart.
I remember being completely devastated when breastfeeding didn't work out with Landon. I remember some of the worst pain I've ever felt while trying to continue breastfeeding Brigham. But I know that, had those two unique situations not come to pass, I never would have had the determination it took to nurse Sawyer for an entire year.
I thank God for the challenges I faced with my first and second babies. Because I know that's why I kept pushing and stretching myself when it got tough. I am so grateful for this amazing first year my sweet girl and I have had together. Cheek to cheek. Chest to chest. Heart to heart.
It's funny, because I feel like I only just said hello to breastfeeding. And yet it's already time to say goodbye to one of the best times of my life.
(Pictures of our last nursing session taken by my wonderful husband)