It’s 4 A.M. and you wake me again, hungry. You take your fill, one breastful at a time. Satisfied, you give the nod to dreamland once more, offering nothing in return except the warmth of your presence.

Though completely spent—physically, spiritually, emotionally—I’m now wide awake. 

Since the moment you entered my life, every waking moment has been consumed with you. I am trying to do things “right,” giving my all to meet your needs. 

I think I’m making a pretty good go of it because you are happy, but I worry. I worry that I could be doing better. I worry about your health. I worry about my health, because I’m utterly exhausted. I fret about other relationships that are now being neglected. I anxiously pray about what kind of man you will eventually become and my role in that process.

I understood, both instinctively and from the counsel of others, that this journey with you might come with challenges. Like a fairy tale, it played out so romantically in my head: the nighttime snuggles, natural bonding, a plethora of health benefits for both of us. But reality always seems to trump romanticism and it’s obvious that this whole breastfeeding affair is anything but romantic. At only five months old, dear child, you are literally sucking the life right out of me.

I made the decision to exclusively breast-feed (E.B.F.) for at least your first six months of life not taking into consideration the fact that you might be a terrible sleeper, despite my determination to keep you full and happy. It will get better, they said; try sleep-training, they encouraged. Believe me, I have; but my best efforts have been met with reflux, colds, restlessness, teething, and midnight blowouts. 

As if there aren’t enough reasons to dislike you. On top of being extremely wakeful, you are whiny, poopy, needy, unhelpful, and clingy. What’s more, it’s problematic to leave you with someone else so I can have any kind of meaningful break because you obviously prefer the “real deal” and are just plain attached to its source. Yet somehow this miraculous thing called love triumphs each day, and we carry on together. Me nursing you, you schooling me into a better human. 

When I’m frustrated by your frequent hunger cries and start feeling more like the sacrificial milk maid than loving mother, I think of the Lord’s patience with me when I cry out to Him night and day, childishly repeating requests as if He didn’t hear the first time. 

When I pity my seemingly mundane mom existence, I look into your eyes and see that they are part of God’s plan to give me hope and a future.

When I’m proud for actually maintaining (OK, surviving) a rigid E.B.F. schedule, your complete dependency and demand for selflessness humbles me.

When I begin to think God unfair in giving me a babe who lives to eat and hates to sleep, I remember the barren who would happily take my place.

When I feel as though I’m wasting away despite the thousand extra calories consumed each day, I marvel at the life-giving baby manna within my breasts and allow your contented being to sustain my soul.

When I feel guilty for trying to rush through a feeding so I can get back to bed, I dwell on the perfect parent who loves unconditionally, patiently, faithfully. 

I know there are many that experience wonderful success with both E.B.F. and bottle-feeding, or some combination of the two, and for you I am genuinely thrilled. But I also know that I’m not the only E.B.F. mom who wars against the weariness of it all. 

So to you warrior mamas out there: let’s keep fighting to keep our love stronger than our languor. This too—this season of supply and demand and unsexy nursing bras and paralyzing fatigue—shall pass, and our boobs won’t be in bondage forever.

“Yet you are He who took me from the womb;
    You made me trust You at my mother’s breasts.” –Psalm 22:9

Leann Clarke

Leann Clarke is an outdoor-loving mama who enjoys riding horses, dancing, soaking in a good book, and hunting with her husband. She’s also mom to two active kiddos who excel at keeping her humble. She believes strongly in prayer, laughter, and eating chocolate for breakfast. Leann shares snippets of her life in Montana and more on her blog, The Hunting Mom.