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What I Wish I'd Done When My Child Was a Baby

I sat in the corner of our bedroom, in the glider, my newborn daughter at my breast. It was how I spent much of my time in those early days.

My husband entered the room. He sat down at the edge of the bed opposite me and grinned from ear to ear.

"What?" I asked.

"Your body is amazing," he replied.

I gave him the side eye. At that point in time, "amazing" was the last word I would have chosen to describe my post-partum body.

"No, seriously," he continued. "Not only do you have the ability to grow a life inside you, once you have brought that life into the world, your body sustains it. Our daughter receives everything she needs from your milk. She won't need any other sustenance for months. It IS amazing. My body can't do anything even remotely like that."

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Perhaps he sensed I needed a pep talk. His words certainly came at the right time. I was struggling, with breastfeeding and so many things about new motherhood.

Then he asked if he could take a picture of me nursing her.

Feeling self-conscious, I declined. He explained he would not share the photos with anyone. They would be just for us. He said he felt it was beautiful and worth capturing.

I shook my head.

He never offered again. Now, more than six years later, I wish more than anything I had said yes.

And yet it was also the most serene, intense and gratifying activity I have ever engaged in. It was a special time, and I can't get it back.

We have hundreds of pictures of our daughter as a baby. Even though I spent so much of the first year of her life nursing her, however, there is not one image of that for me to cherish.

It's my own fault, and I'm kicking myself for it now. (And no, I didn't have a phone with a camera then, but I'm not sure I would have taken photos of myself nursing if I had.)

The thing is, I had no idea how much I would miss breastfeeding. Those early days were so hard. It was one of the most challenging things I have ever done. It often left me in tears, and I came close to quitting many times.

Months later it was easier, but my daughter insisted her milk come directly from the source. She refused a bottle. I often felt trapped and welcomed the thought of weaning.

And yet it was also the most serene, intense and gratifying activity I have ever engaged in. It was a special time, and I can't get it back. I'm not sure I fully appreciated it until it was over.

Today, I see photos of women breastfeeding and feel a sense of longing, both for a time in my daughter's life that has long since passed and also for at least one picture of my own.

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Memories fade over time or can be colored by it. Pictures freeze a moment so you always have it. They tell a story, evoke emotions, memorialize bonds.

My husband wanted me to have that. It would have been a beautiful gift. Not allowing him to photograph me breastfeeding is perhaps my biggest regret from my daughter's first year.

Image via Twenty20/darby

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