I’m Not Christina Hendricks, but…


I think it’s fair to say I’m not a violent person, but you know what makes me feel like smacking?  The people who are trying to sell this: Natural Diabetes Cure.  Stop it all you swindlers out there.  Leave me alone.  I have already tried eating raw cat hair soup six times a day.  It didn’t work.  Neither did singing songs from Glee to my beta cells.  But there is one thing that has helped me.  I will stop short of calling it a natural diabetes cure, though it is so amazing it practically wiped insulin out of my life.  My secret: breastfeeding.

Jess & AdamSorry guys and gentlemen, the rest of this post isn’t all that relevant to you, but you will probably want to keep reading because I am going to talk about breasts.  And I’m just going to come right out and shamelessly declare that my breasts are awesome.  It’s not because I’m Christina Hendricks, far, far, far from it.  It is because every, single day that I breastfed, my body behaved like I was running a marathon, burning calories and glucose almost faster than I could replenish them. 

The marathon analogy works here because breastfeeding my youngest son, Adam, now two-and-a-half, really was a marathon of sorts.  He has always been a terrible sleeper and as my husband Mike said, “Adam nurses once a day- all day.”  Mike would accuse me of encouraging the breastfeeding, of using it to control my blood sugar, as well as to feed and pacify my crying baby.  I denied the charges.  I believe in breastfeeding.  I nursed my oldest son for over 16 months, and diabetes wasn’t even an issue then.  It was always about Adam, only about Adam, and so what if I reaped benefits along the way.  Good for me!  Except that somewhere along that way Adam became 18-months-old, ate normal amounts of food, referred to my breasts as “ba” and was still a marathon nurser.  And I, with my ever-impressive breasts, was producing so much breast milk I could have nourished a small nation.

There were signs it was time to wean Adam, like the time he was at his grandmother’s house and he brought her the phone to call Mama.  When I said answered, he said, “I need ba.”  There was the time we had guests over for lunch and he climbed into my lap, grabbed my shirt, and said, “Open it!” And the days were hard for me. I wasn’t getting a lot of sleep because Adam woke up several times a night to nurse.  I was exhausted.  I was frustrated.  But I  loved to hold him so much and give him comfort.  It was the simplest, most beautiful, most natural comfort in the world.  Then one morning I woke up and my arms and back ached from holding him because, OMG, he was two! Mike looked at Adam sprawled across me and said, “He’s almost as big as you.”

I didn’t have a problem telling Adam “no” when it came to cookies or chocolate, but when it came to ba, I always gave in.  Neither of us knew how to let go.  I was the parent, so it was up to me to make the first move.  First I eliminated what we called two-o’clock-ba, aka post-nap-ba.  Then I eliminated six-o’clock-ba aka “ba and compu.”  “Ba and compu” meant Mama, sit sideways in front of your computer so I can watch Youtube videos of Thomas the Tank Engine while I nurse.

In September, Adam started nursery school.  He was almost two-and-a-half.  I explained to his teacher that he wouldn’t be able to take a nap in school with all of the other children because he needed to nurse his way to sleep.  I expected I would have to pick him up at noon until he was at least twelve-years-old.  But after a few days his teacher called me and said, “He is ready to take a nap with everyone else.  Can he?”

My breasts answered first by starting to leak milk.  Then my voice answered, “I guess so,” I said.  For the next two hours I couldn’t concentrate on work.  I imagined my sweet Adam crying hysterically, begging for ba and not being understood.  But no such thing happened.  He was fine.  If he could go to sleep at school without ba, I reasoned, he could also do it at home.  A few weeks ago, I saw him sitting on my bed sucking his not-very-clean toddler toes and that was that.  The toes in the mouth and the thought of the mouth on my breast was all it took to bring me to my decision.  No more going-to-sleep-ba.  Once I got rid of that, all that was left was all-night-ba and wake-up-ba. 

The peaceful half-hour of nursing Adam to sleep at night turned into several hours of dreadful screaming, and I can’t quite say the situation is a whole lot better now.  I have to lie on my stomach to keep him off of my breasts, so he lies on my back instead.  When he wakes up for “ba” in the middle of the night, I offer stories about trains rather than my breasts.  If you drop by my place at 3:00 a.m. you are sure to hear me saying the rain made the tracks slippery and Thomas skidded right into a ditch. Oh no!  He was going to be late and Sir Topham Hat would be angry. 

 As of last week, Adam is officially weaned.  He’s still got ba on his mind, but he will forget soon enough.  I won’t, though.  I already miss the way he curled into my arms and gave me love-pinches all around my elbows.  I miss stroking his forehead, telling him I love him and hearing his reply, totally slurred because his mouth was full of nipple.  And I’ll miss ba in the transitional period that lies before me now when my body adjusts to a non-nursing state, and my blood sugar creeps up and up and up.  I’m grateful, though, for the semi-vacation I’ve had from diabetes, and perhaps when Adam grows up I’ll tell him that when I took care of him as a baby, he took care of me, too.   


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Amy Stockwell Mercer
11 years ago

Great post! I too enjoyed the vacation from diabetes and periods (and the blood sugars swings from to my period) thanks to breastfeeding. It is like a magic pill and so beneficial for the beautiful babies and their mamas :)

Dr. Margaret A. Morris
11 years ago

This makes me think of the book Big Breasts and Wide Hips by Mo Yan– a good, if brutal, book in which the main character breastfeeds until the age of forty. It’s a metaphor for…the relationship between the Chinese government and the Chinese people, if I recall correctly (it’s been a while). But, all that to say: I think you can keep going; why wean before he can drive ;) ?

Kate Redmond
Kate Redmond
11 years ago

Wow, Jessica.  I’m glad for your vacation from diabetes!  I can totally relate about ongoing nursing.  When Gabey weaned he was 2, and he loved breastfeeding so much that for a good year afterward he would yearningly put his hand on my breast and say with such longing, “mama….”
Over the past couple of years I’ve shared your blog with several diabetic friends! 

Caitlin Rufo-McCormick
11 years ago

Beautiful!  Thank you for sharing this!

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