Letting Go of Doubt
by Debbie Davis
Sterling Heights MI USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 21 No. 2, March-April 2004, pp. 52-54
On a stormy Sunday evening, with lots of things that needed to be done but nothing better to do, I lay on my bed while nursing my 17-month-old son. Certainly, there was nothing new about this. It was about as routine as a Sunday night giving rise to a Monday morning. It just is, or at least it has been, for the past 17 months.
There was nothing different about this nursing session. As I lay in the classic side-lying nursing position, stroking a little handsome face and wondering where in the world the good dustpan had disappeared to, how I was going to change the burnt out light in the chandelier high up in the foyer, and whether or not I should try to vacuum out the fire extinguisher dust from the bottom oven (long story...don't ask!), a curious sensation caught my attention. A little damp spot was slowing growing into a great big damp spot right across the pillow that I had used to prop myself and the head of my little nursling.
Upon further inspection, it was revealed that the steel grip that my boy had on my breast was a little faulty on the under side. He was sucking, but letting not some, but all of my milk run out the other side.
I pulled back a little, he increased the strength of his sucking, and a little chubby fist firmly clasped the end of my nursing bra—a silent but firm affirmation that he was not yet finished. Even while sound asleep, my little prince gets his way.
I, on the other hand, was a little perplexed. He was nursing so fervently, but he wasn't hungry? The corner of my mouth turned up slightly as the phrase "little fraud" crossed my mind. My Joshua had, somehow, hoodwinked me into letting go of my worries about all of the neglected household duties that were weighing so heavily on my mind.
That very revelation turned my thoughts to less than pleasing meanderings. A good friend of mine, during a long-distance phone conversation the other day, asked me if I was still breastfeeding. "Still" is a word that is becoming seriously distasteful to me. I'm hearing it all too often these days, in the form of the same question. I have to admit that I was a little surprised that this particular friend had said it in such a way that made her disbelief and disapproval very clear. After all, she had breastfed her own son (just three months older than mine) for the first eight months of his life.
I started to think about the rationale that she had used for encouraging me to wean. I have given zero credence to the vast numbers of family members and friends who threaten to spontaneously combust if I don't stop doing "that." But, hearing this from another breastfeeding mother, I felt a tickle of something that I had not felt since before my son was born.
Doubt. I heard my inner voice ask, "So, why are you still doing this?"
Doubt is a funny thing. In healthy doses, it is a tool in this game of life. It makes us question and think. It drives humans to demand proof in our world where a good number of "certainties" remain elusive. Too much doubt, however, can turn into insecurity.
I looked directly at my son's face, inches from my own, and searched for an answer that would quiet the tide of self-doubt that I felt rolling in. Is there something wrong with us? Isn't that the real question? Isn't that what people really want to know when they give you that disbelieving look, and begin to say, "You're still..."?
My hand retraced a path around his perfect little lips. I smoothed his little unruly eyebrows, again, and let my fingers marvel at the perfection of his nose. And, to my amazement, for what must be the gazillionth time, his little hand searched and found my face. Joshua, as he's done countless times before, did a full body snuggle closer and closer until he was wrapped snugly in my arms, my nose touching his forehead.
And with that, the answer was clear to me. He wasn't hungry for food, he was hungry for his mother's love. While I'm certain that he is still getting significant nutritional value for the vast majority of our nursing sessions, I've finally come to understand that there is more to nursing than the nutritional value of mother's milk.
Last night, I let my son teach me a lesson without him ever waking. A lesson that will stay with me forever. There are a great many uncertainties in this world, some big and some insignificant. This is especially so for a toddler, and his rapidly growing world. That I lay in an ever growing wet spot was of absolutely no consequence. My son was in my arms, where he wanted to be, where I wanted him to be, at a time when mothers are easily lured into the mundane duties and daily responsibilities. I'm glad I didn't miss his full-body snuggle, and got yet another opportunity to burn the scent of my freshly bathed, sleeping child into my memory forever. After close to a year and half, I think that my eyes and my mind are finally open enough to embrace the purest gifts of motherhood.
I could have cleaned my oven. Instead, I held my son. Nature and nurture in perfect harmony. There is not a doubt left in my heart.