On breastfeeding, and being “that mama”

Aug 29, 2017

My heart leapt into my chest when the courier truck stopped at the bottom of my driveway.


I knew the package was on its way; I had been waiting for it all week.

I’m not sure why I allowed its safe arrival such importance and gravity, but there I was, heart all aflutter, waiting to tear the box open.

Inside the layers of black and turquoise tissue paper, carefully sealed with a sticker, was a simple sterling silver ring.  The silver encased a cream-coloured, oval gem that sparkled as I turned it to catch the sunlight.

The gem was made with my own breastmilk, of course.

Yes, evidently. I am one of those women.

When I first heard about breastmilk jewellery my first thought was “that is so whack?!!”

But here we are.

Because I’ve amassed a bit – just a tiny bit – of wisdom over my five years of breastfeeding and mothering, and nine years of helping other women do the same, and one thing I know is this:

A great many of the problems women experience with breastfeeding are actually symptoms of the transition to motherhood.


I see it every day, I’ve lived it, and I repeat this over and over to the doulas I train and in my prenatal classes.

When I sit on the couches of the women I support in their nursing relationships, day in and day out, my first question is “what’s your life look like right now?”

Nothing to do with milk or nipples, right?

It’s because breastfeeding is the thing, for many women, that catalyzes the shift in their identity to motherhood. A baby who needs to be breastfed every two to three hours challenges their physical and emotional autonomy, it requires long hours of nighttime wakefulness and a great many calories, which in turn require women to slow. the. fuck. down.

And so when I sit on the couches of women I support we mostly talk about motherhood. How it’s developmentally (and evolutionarily) normal for a baby to wake through the night. How it’s actually usually easier to rest and stay home while you’re getting comfortable with nursing on demand than to try to accomplish the things your old self could. How there’s an old self now, and you weren’t expecting that.

Breastfeeding, for me and for many women, was ultimately full of ease and delight, but in those early days, it was the scapegoat for the sense of loss I had as I transitioned into motherhood.


And now, here I am, with a sparkling breastmilk ring on my finger.

Because my doctor had to come into my hospital room when my daughter was a day old and actually tell me, “you know, you need to feed your baby,” and because I actually didn’t want to; it was painful for me at first.

Because I figured it out, over several weeks of trying, and it took more determination and courage, possibly, than my triumphant birth.

Because very soon after, it was actually what FREED me, what allowed me to connect to that old self again, as I nursed in the baby carrier while making risotto or hiking.

Because it was how I learned to calm and nurture my babies when I didn’t know what else to do; because it was how I learned my babies.

Because it was the second thing (after birth) that my “too-fat,” “not-beautiful,” pain-ridden body had done that was entirely PERFECT. I was too fat, not beautiful, pain-ridden, and absolutely PERFECT.

Because it was how I connected with my children during the difficult transition to leaving them in someone else’s care while I returned to work.

Because it saved me hundreds of hours of sleep.

And yes, of course, because of the milk-drunk smiles, the grin on my toddler’s face when he asks for boobas, because of the warm little bodies that snuggle in tight, because of the quiet huffing of sleeping baby breath.

Because my toddler only nurses for a few seconds now, before he’s off to play, and rarely at all at night anymore. And because I know this is it for me. It’s not just my milk drying up and my last baby growing up. Not just that nursing has been a defining element of my experience for five years now.

It’s because, for me, this is what paved the way into motherhood. Breastfeeding taught me surrender, and self-care, and humility and triumph. After my challenges nursing my daughter, it catalyzed my desire to help other women breastfeed, and soon became an integral part of my career. My breastfeeding journey has supported the journeys of hundreds of other mothers. Breastfeeding and being a breastfeeding mother has been a core piece of my identity for five years.

And soon, I’m sensing, it will be time to let go. I’m nearly as ready as my son is, and I will welcome a new level of physical autonomy that I haven’t had in a long time, but I will miss it to. Because of all that.

But I’ve got a ring on my finger. A triumphant drop of milk to honour this time in my life, and how it has truly changed me.


**note:  breastfeeding isn’t supposed to hurt!  If you’re experiencing pain while breastfeeding, it’s because something is not quite right.  Be sure to seek the help of a lactation consultant, doula or other knowledgeable breastfeeding support person as soon as you can.

The Becoming Podcast has been on a short hiatus while I focus on writing my book, but oh what a comeback episode I have for you!

This month, I spoke to Toko-pa Turner, who many of you may know as the unofficial patron saint of many of my circles and gatherings because of the sheer number of times I’ve quoted from the wisdom of her book, Belonging.

Toko-pa is a Canadian author, teacher, and dreamworker. Blending the mystical teachings of Sufism in which she was raised with a Jungian approach to dreams, she founded The Dream School in 2001, from which thousands of students have graduated. She is the author of the award-winning book, Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home, which explores the themes of exile and belonging through the lens of dreams, mythology, and nature. This book has resonated for readers worldwide, and has been translated into 10 different languages so far. Her work focuses on the relationship between psyche and nature, and how to follow our inner wisdom to meet with the social, psychological, and ecological challenges of our time.

Here’s some of what Toko-pa and I talk about in this episode:

> The dream that changed Toko-pa’s life, causing her to question her career and, ultimately, her identity

> How we can court our dreams to support us during times of radical transformation – and the reasons so many of us have a hard time remembering and working with what shows up in our dreamscape

> Toko-pa’s perspective on the message of Belonging after the divisiveness our society has experienced in the years since it was published

> What happened for both Toko-pa and I when we fell out of belonging from the ideologies of the “wellness world”

> How to build community when you’re under-resourced

> “The Big Lie” when it comes to belonging, and how we can reclaim a sense of belonging to the greater family of things, as Mary Oliver so famously wrote

Listen to the episode on iTunes


Show Notes

Toko-pa’s Website

Belonging:  Remembering Ourselves Home, Toko-pa’s book

The David Abram video about animism mentioned in the interview

Toko-pa’s self-guided program, Dream Drops

Companion, the program that accompanies Belonging


Also, while you’re at it, if you enjoy The Becoming Podcast, I would be so grateful if you would rate and review, and even subscribe to it on iTunes.  That goes a long way to helping more and more people find and benefit from hearing these interviews!  Thank you so much!