My breastfeeding journey started shortly before my seventh month of pregnancy even began, when our son suddenly arrived 2.5 months early.

My first breastfeeding experience started not how I imagined it would; it started with exclusively pumping for our sweet tiny baby. I pumped almost immediately following his birth, and got to deliver the tiniest of syringes of liquid gold to him in the NICU that night. I had never been so excited to see drops of anything in my life. Pumping was my job for weeks on end; I religiously pumped my milk every three hours, 24/7, and would carry it proudly each day to the NICU. I would carry that green cooler, excitedly purchased at Target, as if it contained the answer to world peace. It did in a way, for me at least; knowing that I was doing one of the most important things for a premature baby, and one of the only things I really could do for my baby, gave me a sense of peace and purpose. It made me feel like a mom when I could only look at my baby through a plastic box.

Then came the day I had patiently been waiting for, the day I was able to breastfeed my baby for the first time. After several days of practice rounds, with the help of a nipple shield my tiny baby was able to latch, around 4 weeks old, or 34 weeks gestational age. The first time milk transferred to him from me (instead of a tube) I cried. I waited for that moment, that connection between a mother and baby for what felt like forever. Soon nearly every time I got into the elevator and pushed for floor three, I would get a letdown.

We left the NICU after almost 8 weeks, breastfeeding exclusively with the help of the nipple shield. We said goodbye to that pesky but marvelous thing on our 32nd day home, and have never looked back. Our funny, spirited, spunky son and I are still happily enjoying our nursing relationship almost 2.5 years after he came into the world.

Breastfeeding was always something I just figured I would do, because that's just the way the world worked. I never gave it much thought, I never questioned whether I would or would not do it. I've since become very grateful for our experience. The lesson I learned right away was that natural does not always equal easy. For all of the moms who have struggled for a variety of reasons or for those who are patiently waiting by their baby's bedside, hang in there. Bumps in the road are not where your journey ends.