Mother Muse: Fresh and Local

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I love to eat. I love to experience new restaurants and try new food. I make a pilgrimage out of going to the grocery store. And I recently fell intensely in love with my husband all over again when he pulled from the oven the most amazing loaf of home-made crusty bread.

I suppose it's not a huge surprise then that, since becoming a mother, breastfeeding has become one of my favorite subjects. When someone mentions her quest for a good nursing bra, I light up as brightly as I do after a sweet bite of hazelnut baklava. When someone shares her frustration over a hand-held pump, I lament like a woman whose chocolate soufflé just flopped. I like to be honest. I share my troubles as well as my triumphs. Typically quite modest, I don't mind divulging details.

Part of the reason that I am passionate about the subject is because breastfeeding is about as easy as executing an impromptu feast for a finicky lover, and I believe that women who are determined to go ahead and bare all need as much honest support as can be mustered. Expectations are high, yet you can assume nothing. Preparations are meticulous, but you never know how it will all turn out. You wonder about the timing. You stress over personal tastes and meal-time habits. It seems so natural to feed the ones we love, yet sometimes you're just not sure if you have what it takes.

Looking back, it doesn't seem that there was much that was graceful or natural in feeding my firstborn. The beginning brought pain with an intensity I did not expect. Never before had I used red cabbage outside of the kitchen, but that's what I did for days. Upon a suggestion from a woman who nursed her children well into their toddler years (in other words, a wise and practiced breastfeeding guru), I cooled wide, purple leaves in the freezer and then tucked them inside my nursing bra for momentary relief.

Though Oliver and I shared moments of compatibility, it was a matter of sheer determination that we lasted as long as we did. (Eight months of what I recall as strong-willed wrestling.) Though he wiggled incessantly and I was paralyzed by the thought of making a scene in public, I believed strongly that breast milk was the best thing for my son and would not budge in my conviction.

My youngest son takes after his mother in his quest for good eating. Elihu took to my breast so well and so voraciously that the nurses in the hospital where he was born took to calling him "Cookie Monster." This time, I knew what to expect and was able to enjoy quiet moments of sitting in the rocker together. I reveled in my womanhood and overturned fewer water glasses when nursing in public.

But, if I'm honest, the weaning (at just over one year) was no trip to the candy shop. There was a hangover of intense hormones. For the better part of a week, I stormed around the house like a misunderstood teenager and ate a lot of gas station donuts. I found myself surprised by the unnatural ending to what had been a great party.

Today I consider breastfeeding my sons to be among my proudest accomplishments. I found every week, then month, that passed as a nursing mother to be a triumph. Some might disagree, but I believe that even though breastfeeding may be natural, it cannot be confused with being easy.

The most succulent meals typically take the most work. I was lucky to be surrounded by people who were champions of my decision to nurse. Over and over again, they reminded me of the health benefits. They appealed to my frugality and prompted me to remember the cost-efficiency of feeding my offspring what is free. They wooed my vanity by pointing out that nursing mothers can shed pounds quickly. Those are the kind of voices that all new and expectant nursing mothers need. I am happy to hang on to my breastfeeding vocabulary, letting it linger on my tongue and indulging the topic whenever I can.

There's been a lot of attention given to the food world lately and our American food culture is brimming with new adjectives (farm-raised, cage free, organic) that we learn lovingly as we encounter produce at the grocery store or hit the Saturday morning market in the name of quality, wholesome food for our family. Breast feeding comes with its own learning-curve, triumphs, and culture. It's fresh. It's local. And for many of us, both moms and babes, it's all the rage.