in response

March 6, 2010 at 10:29 pm 2 comments

Parenting is painful. It literally hurts.

There is the obvious pain of childbirth. A pain that is confusing because, unlike any other kind of pain a woman has felt thus far, it does not injure. A skinned knee hurts because flesh has been torn, a burned hand hurts so that you pull it quickly away from the flame, but a contraction hurts without harming. It is a mind bending, life altering kind of pain, but nevertheless it is pain.

There is the pain in your arms when you are rocking your baby to sleep. That crucial window when if you were to adjust those aching arms in any way, he would wake up. So you maintain the position longer than you ever thought possible and by the time you lay him gently down there is little feeling left at all in your biceps.

There is the pain that jerks through your belly when you see your child trip on the sidewalk.

And there is the pain of cold fingers and toes as you make your way, ever… so… slowly, around the block in the middle of winter while your one year old tries out her new walking skills. Stopping, every three feet or less, to investigate a leaf, a barking dog, or a fleck of dirt.

There is emotional pain too.

There is the pain of being rejected in favor of the other parent.

There is the pain of staying home with a sick baby while friends and family frolic somewhere else.

And there is the pain of watching your girl walk up the driveway to spend time at her other house.

And the pain continues beyond the kid days.

My dad has children in their thirties and his heart still seizes up with a worry so intricately woven around love that it makes him bend forward through his days. There is that kind of pain.

My grandma is in her eighties and she still dresses her heart in armor hoping to stave off any pain that comes from loving, and protecting her more than grown children. There is that kind of pain too.

When you think about it, no matter what parenting style you’ve chosen, there is a lot of pain in parenting. I happen to be in pain from nursing several times through the night, others may not have this type of pain. Perhaps they night weaned earlier, perhaps they never nursed. But I am sure they are not escaping some other form of pain.

I have said that I would change from a completely empathic approach to something else if my kid were in danger of hurting themselves or someone else, and even though I am technically being hurt, at least to some degree, by nursing so much at night, I do not see a contradiction. I am not an unwitting sibling or friend, getting punched by Echo’s wrath. I do not need an authority figure to step in and protect me.

No. I signed up for this. Each night, fully aware of the incredible strength of my body, and in constant awareness of my motivations, I willingly walk straight into the same exact choice to nurse my girl through the night. I do not want to wean her. Not because I’d like to avoid the task of weaning, but because I know her, and to know her is to completely understand how important nursing is to her. In honor of that interest, I choose the pain of less sleep. I choose the pain of sore nipples.

If I were putting someone else at risk by parenting this way, if I were sleepy enough to be a danger on the road, I would have to find another way to honor Echo. (No one else signed up to be hurt by the way I parent.) But that isn’t the case. I’m just not that sleep deprived.

What would it look like to parent while trying to avoid pain? What would I miss? I’m not sure I want to know.

If loving this completely, this wildly, this earnestly means I get a little sore now and then, I’ll take it. I think most parents would agree that though they can point to any number of painful experiences while parenting, the joy piled up high on the other side of the scale makes it more than worthwhile.  I know with absolute certainty that my dad wouldn’t trade in his bruised and tender heart, even on the most painful days, in exchange for his daughters.

Loving fiercely even when it hurts, that’s a legacy I’m happy to carry on.


Entry filed under: Nursing. Tags: , , .

you don’t have to wait missing

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. carrie  |  March 8, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    Love all that your saying and totally agree. I have 3 kids –6-4 and 9 months.
    When my attitude is good i can do anything when it;s not –it’s so much harder.
    I love being a mother—i love it.

    I night weaned both my boys at around 16 months—it was so much easier than i thought and wow a full night’s sleep was better than i remembered.
    My children stayed in the bed with me and i waited til they were old enough to comprehend –night is for sleeping.
    I am in no way suggesting this for you as you have shared you don’t want to wean—I just want you to know how surprised i was with the new intimacy that was created without nursing at night, The cuddling without milk is so very dear.
    I am nursing all night sometimes with my baby–teeth–sickness ect—-
    i will probably night wean around the same time as my boys
    i have less fear around it having seen that some of what i thought my boy’s needed was a bit of a habit.

    Again i love your words I relate deeply
    just felt inspired to share

  • 2. Angela  |  March 13, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    “loving fiercely even when it hurts” – loved this, i will keep this quote in my head as a reminder of my own strength when i need it. your words speak so powerfully of the love of a mama. and know that you are understood out here by other mamas. i nursed six years straight with my two older boys, and am now nursing my 2 year old what seems like around the clock. every night is different, some nights she nurses a lot, other nights hardly at all. both my boys were around 3 when they self-weaned, so i remind myself that these times are fleeting, and that one day probably soon she will not need milkie, but just a hand to hold. keep loving completely, it is worth it!


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