I have been rejected A LOT. By boys, by popular girls, by prospective employers. I was rejected by Bradley Cooper on television. But nothing has been more deeply painful than being rejected by a couple of one-year-olds.
Last week, after 14 months of breastfeeding my twins, they decided they were done with me. At least, that’s what I think they were trying to tell me by crying hysterically and pushing me away every time I attempted to close in with a nipple. Just days before, they were blissfully cuddling up to feed. Now, suddenly, they were looking at me like, ‘LADY! GET AWAY FROM US. WE HAVE TUPPERWARE TO PLAY WITH.”
And so I did get away from them, and now I’m the one hysterically crying. I have officially been rejected by my own children and it feels worse than the time Jenny Steadman told me she didn’t want to be friends anymore in grade 5.
I’ll admit, I NEVER thought I’d be this reluctant to stop breastfeeding. Because I never thought I’d be able to start breastfeeding in the first place. When I was pregnant, I took a ‘Breastfeeding Multiples’ class and laughed OUT LOUD when our instructor Barb nonchalantly clicked on this photo to end her PowerPoint presentation:
This photo of Brooklyn artist Hein Koh tandem feeding her five-week-old twin girls while working on her laptop went viral after she shared it on Facebook. “Breast is BEST!” she exclaimed, “and breastfeeding your twins can be THIS easy!” she concluded. “Any questions?” Um, yes, I thought. Is this a joke!?!? There is no way I’ll be whipping out my boobs and my Macbook to answer a few emails while simultaneously breastfeeding my infant TWINS. And I wasn’t. For the first few months anyway.
Like many identical twins, my boys were born prematurely and were immediately whisked off to the intensive care unit. There, they spent weeks being fed by elaborate tubes, pediatric nutritionists, and highly-skilled nurses. My breasts apparently did not have the college degrees required to feed my babies.
Instead, I pumped. Every three hours, I hooked up to my big hospital-grade machine, next to my boys’ little incubators, and pumped a few drops, then a few ounces, then a few bottles. By the time my twins were strong enough to come home from the hospital, I was making enough milk for octuplets. I filled my freezer, my dad’s freezer, a Craigslist freezer, and my friend’s mom’s basement freezer with hundreds of bags of it. If I were a dairy cow, I would have won all the ribbons at the state fair.
When I would post the occasional photo while pumping, I would be INUNDATED with comments and messages from anxious moms asking everything from, “What is your pumping schedule?” to, “Are you taking lactation supplements?” to, “Will drinking milk thistle tea with lactogenic meals increase my milk supply??” Sadly, I am not a doctor or Gwyneth Paltrow, so I don’t know. I wasn’t eating fenugreek seeds or drinking milk thistle tea, and to be honest, I don’t have a clue what ‘lactogenic’ means. All I know is that I popped out two babies and suddenly I looked like Pam Anderson circa 1993, only with less slow-motion running and more clogged nipple ducts.
I also know that if a single image on my Instagram feed can illicit thousands of frantic DMs from moms worldwide, then there is WAY too much pressure being placed on moms to breastfeed. I felt it outside of social media, too—from medical professionals, from the World Health Organization, from BARB. The message was clear—breast. is. best.—when in reality, fed is best, whatever that means for you and your baby.
For me and my babies, it meant months of trial and error until we found a feeding routine that worked for us. They were happy to feed from a bottle, but I was determined to teach them to feed with me. By the time my twins had learned to latch, I was back at my show during the days, so I started breastfeeding them every morning and every night. First one at a time, then both at the same time, then—eventually—both at the same time, while occasionally sending emails from my laptop.
While I told myself that I was breastfeeding for their benefit, it was really more for me. I felt so guilty about going back to work, this was the only thing that made me feel better; like they needed me, like we were biologically connected, like even if I wasn’t there during the days, I was still worthy of being their mom. Every morning and every night, the chaos of work and life disappeared and it was just the five of us; me, my boys, and my Baywatch bosoms sharing a quiet meal together.
Now, my freezers have been emptied, my bosoms have been depleted and my babies have more important things to do than share a quiet meal with their mom. I was told about postpartum depression, but no one ever warned me about this. The technical term is ‘post-weaning depression,’ but I think my sadness has been less about the end of breastfeeding and more about the beginning of everything else.
My babies are not babies anymore. They are becoming little boys who don’t need their mom to be nourished or to get around or to pull every book off the shelf at least 12 times a day. Eventually, those little boys will become teenagers, then young men, then grown adults who don’t need their mom at all. Because that is what human beings do—we change, we develop, we evolve.
Now it’s my turn to evolve. To stop being sad, and start being proud. Proud that the tiny beings who started their lives with feeding tubes are now strong enough to feed themselves. Proud of the work that I have done as a mom to get them here, and proud of my ability to step back and realize that they are not rejecting me. They are just growing up. Whether I’m ready for it or not.
So for now, I’ll wipe my tears and put my tissues away. Until they start dating.