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Following My Heart

Amy McDonough
Mt Lebanon PA USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 25 No. 4, 2008, p. 22

My son is 14 months old. He is so sweet and perfect with his soft brown curls and big blue eyes. I have had so much fun being his mama. Having a second child was an opportunity to get more in touch with my instincts as a mother.

As a mom, every day is a learning experience and an opportunity for self-reflection. My children have taught me everything about being a mother and a woman. My own mother died when I was only five years old and I have very limited memories of her. Her last few years were spent in and out of the hospital and she was weak from chemotherapy, so her opportunities for "mothering" were obviously restricted.

My first child's birth was a joyous time for my family and me. I nursed my daughter until she was about a year and a half. I would have nursed her longer but she weaned on her own when I was pregnant with my son. When I was nursing my daughter, my "filter," as I call it, was not as effective. There were still some big holes that let people's voices through loud and clear: "If they're old enough to ask to nurse, they're too old to nurse," and "I don't care if a mother wants to nurse her child, but she should be discreet."

I did things I regret: I nursed my daughter in a store's bathroom stall. I didn't nurse her on demand, thinking to myself, "I just nursed her. She can't be hungry again already." I'm thankful that I have the hindsight to know that I wasn't parenting by instinct. I was parenting on clouded judgment because my "filter" was faulty.

Then my son was born and it truly was a healing experience. I listened to him, I nursed on demand, I followed my heart, and the judgments of others no longer came through. Being discreet is not something I care about any more. I look at nursing in public as an opportunity to remind other moms that they need not nurse in a bathroom stall. I'm proud to still be nursing my son, and by listening to my instincts and to him, we will figure out together when it is time to wean. I don't feel that it is necessary to put arbitrary age limits on either of my children for things that give them comfort.

I feel now that after being raised without a mother myself the circle of mothering in my life is somehow complete. I have my own children and breastfeeding to thank for that!

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