From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 19 No. 2, March-April 2002, pp. 52-53.
I married for the first time at age 40. I met my wonderful husband, Mark, when I was 39. I had always dreamed of having a child but had given up on that until I met Mark. Not long after we married, we started to try to have a family. We went through an agonizing period of wondering if we would be able to have the experience of having our own child, but thanks to fertility treatment, we were finally able to have our beautiful son, Zane, when I was 43.
I did not know many women who had breastfed, but something inside me really hoped I could. I worried that, at my age, my body might not be able to provide milk for my baby.
While reading posts on a Web site for older mothers, I noticed that those who tried breastfeeding seemed to quickly give it up. I did not know much about La Leche League at the time and counted on information I got from the hospital breastfeeding course. I told myself I would give it my best shot but not hope for too much. Due to fibroid surgery on my uterus the previous year, my son was born via a scheduled cesarean section at 38-and-a-half weeks. My son came out a whopping 10 pounds but did not seem too interested in nursing. After trying various approaches to breastfeeding suggested by different nurses with no success, I was on the verge of tears. We persisted and slowly he and I succeeded in finding an approach that worked for both of us.
The first week at home I seemed to develop mastitis and was prescribed antibiotics and ordered to pump every two hours. Zane kept up his end of the bargain and nursed whenever he was hungry. I later found out I had an infection in my cesarean section incision and did not have mastitis at all. Looking back I am glad for the misdiagnosis because I believe the pumping increased my milk flow so I never had a supply problem!
Nursing my son awakened instincts I didn’t know I had, and cosleeping and fully meeting Zane’s needs naturally followed. I had planned on staying at home with my baby. I felt that I’d had many years to experience the working world and was ready to take on the career of being a full-time mother. I was not prepared for the sense of isolation I experienced though. Our neighborhood had few stay-at-home mothers and the ones around did not parent like me and I felt no connection with them. It was lonely after being in the working world surrounded by people all day. I had not heard much about LLL Group meetings but through a new parents group at my hospital, I started to make contacts that got me to LLL and also to an incredible group of mothers who have become my friends. Part of me wishes we could all live next door, but I am grateful there is still a way to meet my needs.
Becoming a mother has opened a part of me I did not know existed. I have had to stretch myself further than I ever thought possible. The jobs I previously held had provided a comfortable routine because I knew what to do and when to clock in and out. I now manage a schedule that is always challenging and ever changing. It has not been easy to look at my little one some days and think, “What now?” Sometimes I get scared as there really isn’t any single correct way to do things and I have to rely on my instincts and contacts to get me through. What an incredible growing experience my son has provided for me. And through everything the breastfeeding is always there and has connected and calmed us both.
Being an older mother has been challenging physically. I get very tired but it is a happy tired. I have learned to try hard to prioritize what is important and what is not, which is a must if I am to remain a good mother to Zane. A bonus of being an older mother, for me, is that I feel I have much more wisdom and patience than I had even 10 years ago. I certainly feel very young at heart and wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. I look on my ability to breastfeed as a great gift. That my “older” body can produce this wonderful milk to nourish my son has made me feel like the fountain of youth.
My son is 24 months old and we still have a very special nursing relationship. I have come a long way from thinking I would be lucky to nurse even 12 months. I treasure our nursing time and know it will go on as long as needed. I also value the amazing community I have found in La Leche League Group meetings. I rejoice that I can be a wife and mother in my 40s and that nursing my son has opened up doors for me I never dreamed were possible.