Though I was more into the Backstreet Boys than *NSYNC, Justin and the boys got me through many a treadmill session with their infectious pop tunes in the '90s. I could've never predict how well those *NSYNC songs prepared me for breastfeeding, though. Two decades ago, I couldn’t have imagined what life with kids was going to be like, let alone conjured up a time when Top 40 music would serve any other purpose than providing a soundtrack for my work-outs.
I feel kind of bad for my kids, honestly. I mean, they don't currently have a playlist from which to draw inspiration in the future, like when (and/or if) they've faced with a fussy baby refusing to eat or a pumping session that barely yields an ounce of milk. As powerful as some of Beyoncé’s songs are, and as earnest as those Maroon 5 tracks sound, I am not sure my kids will be relying on them when they inevitably (maybe) experience those trying times of parenthood. I mean, is there anything more resonant than *NSYNC singing Believe In Yourself, off the Sesame Street: Songs from the Street, Volume 6? No, my friends. The answer is no.
I’m waiting for the next generation to produce their pop heroes that will guide them, through song, over the roughest patches of raising children. In times of parenting trouble, my mom had the Beatles (“Let it be… ”), and we have *NSYNC ("I'll be the one, you'll see... "). Here are some of their songs that, surprisingly, spoke to me as a breastfeeding mom:
"Tearin’ Up My Heart"
“No matter what I do, I feel the pain, with or without you… "
It hurt to breastfeed (sometimes that letdown really pinched), and it hurt not to breastfeed (when the kid started sleeping more than two hours at a time and my breasts became engorged). JC and the boys really said it best in this track: it’s hard to focus on the love when you’re stuck in an endless round of cluster feeding. (OK, maybe they didn’t use those exact words).
"Here We Go"
“Here we go, one more time… "
The prescient lyrics of this song really spoke to my breastfeeding experience. Just one a breastfeeding session was done, I swear it was no time at all until my kid was clamoring for more. Here we go again.
"It’s Gonna Be Me"
“... in the end, ya know, it’s gonna be me… "
I’m the one with the breast milk, so, yeah, it’s definitely going to be me… feeding the baby… around the clock. And it’s going to be me pumping, twice a day, at work. And it’s going to be me spending more time than I imagined cleaning breast pump parts and labeling milk. *NSYNC totally called it.
"The Two Of Us"
“... no one else has made me feel this way… "
It’s true, my friends. The guys know what they’re talking about. No one had made me feel the way I did — about my boobs especially — than my nursing baby. The act of breastfeeding brought a new lens into my life through which to see myself. I was still me, but I was also the pillar of my child’s wellbeing. I am not going to discount the value of my role as the primary source of my baby’s nutrition. It’s a big deal and one I chose, even though it was not convenient at all. That doesn’t make me better, it just makes me... me.
"I’ll Be Good For You"
“You know I’ll be good for you, baby… "
Sure, this one is a little on the nose, but it’s true. I was good for my baby, because I was feeding my newborn with milk from my body. All I wanted to do was to be able to meet (or exceed, since I am an overachieving Type A kind of mom) my baby’s needs, and make her feel safe and secure. That hasn’t changed as my daughter has grown, either. I still think one of my most important roles in my growing kids’ lives is to be the person they can always count on.
"I Drive Myself Crazy"
“I lie awake, I drive myself crazy, I drive myself crazy, thinking of you…”
When I would finally get into bed at night, to catch whatever rest I was able to in those first few dizzying weeks of adjusting to a life with a nursing newborn, I couldn’t actually sleep. I would drift off, partially conscious, knowing that the baby could wake up wailing at any second to be fed again. It was, as *NSYNC put it, self-induced madness.
"Bye Bye Bye"
“I'm doing this tonight, you're probably gonna start a fight, I know this can't be right. Hey baby come on.”
Breastfeeding can be frustrating AF. Like when I wasn’t producing enough milk with my first baby and had to supplement with formula. Or when I had oversupply and was shooting milk with the force of a geyser into my second baby’s face. Then there was that period when my daughter would suddenly start screaming and crying as soon as she latched on, like I tasted bad after weeks of not having any nursing issues. Every single one of the aforementioned situations made me cry, and want to say “bye bye bye" to nursing, but I stuck it out and have no regrets. Not sure Justin Timberlake would say the same, though.
"I Want You Back "
“You’re all I ever wanted, you’re all I ever needed… "
Leave it to a boy band to perfectly capture the nagging emptiness I experienced when my kids stopped breastfeeding. Though I had nursed them for over four years, total, and it was not the easiest aspect of working motherhood to maintain, I really did miss it when they were done. I missed the peacefulness of it. I missed tucking them into my body. I missed them wanting to be so close to me, for significant periods of time, and not wanting anything more than just me. I missed being needed in that way.
Having not bottle-fed my kids much, I don’t know if this feeling is exclusive to the breastfeeding experience. I am guessing not, though. I suppose all parents long for the time when we could hold our babies in their arms to communicate the fierce love we felt for them. Now that my kids are 9 and 7, I have to rely a lot more on other means of expressing my intense adoration for them, and they are often embarrassed by my public displays of affection. Too bad.
“Why you wanna try, to classify, the type of thing we do… ”
This anthemic call to put the haters in their place is the battle cry any mom can get behind. With all the judgment we face, no matter what role breastfeeding plays in our lives (exclusive, extended, supplemented by formula, or not an option), moms like me could use the reminder that we know what’s best for our babies, and ourselves, and anyone with an opinion about it is welcome to have it… and keep it to themselves. Because: “It doesn’t matter… "
"This I Promise You"
“And I will take you in my arms,
And hold you right where you belong,
Til' the day my life is through.
This I promise you.
This I promise you.”
I couldn’t have said it better. Though Justin, JC, Lance, Joey, and Chris sang it much better than I ever could have.
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