Last night Jack went to bed without nursing. He has done this before, but never while I'm at home.
We have been weaning in earnest for a while, but the nighttime feeding was the last one to go. Lest you think I'm weaning because I think a 16 month old is too old to nurse, let me assure you, I don't. I probably had a lot of opinions about moms who nurse their babies past 1 year, but that was before I had my own. I am weaning for me, because I need to re-align my body. No, I'm not pregnant, but I feel strongly that I need to get some things back in balance that have been out of balance before I become pregnant again. Taking care of yourself as a mother is one of the most challenging things you can ever do. I get that now. In addition, Jack is starting to let go of it too and I'm following his lead. It will be slow going, I don't have any deadlines, we'll go as long as we both can and then find new ways to bond.
We struggled a lot with nursing in the beginning. I remember when Jack was 3 weeks old, Trevor and I went to the Bronson Breastfeeding Center to let the nurses there teach me how to hold him and coax him into a proper latch. She weighed him and marked it on a piece of paper- right down to the ounce so she could weigh him after he ate to see how much milk he had gotten. I remember the feeling of having him nurse correctly. There was no pain and I could hear the faint sound of milk rushing through his tiny gummy mouth and into his belly. The nurse left us alone for awhile while the 3 of us sat in the tiny room amazed at why we didn't seek help sooner. When she returned she weighed him again. I remember vividly the sight of tiny legs kicking on the scale. "3 ounces! Great job mama!" It brings a tear to my eye recalling that moment when I said to myself- You can do it. You have built this cathedral called Jack and you can feed him too. Everything you are is all that you need.
I have nursed and pumped in all sorts of places-
- the backseat of my car
- standing in the hallway outside of a restaurant while a gaggle of female family members created a perimeter around me
- in various beds
- in a single stall bathroom trying ever so delicately to keep the pump balanced on a sink
- in my workplace's well equipped lactation room where, separated by a partition, I would talk to other moms doing the exact same thing, talking about our lives and our children
But it wasn't always breastmilk gymnastics. We had many more times together, quiet times when nursing became a meditation for both of us, when heart rates slowed and breathing quieted. When we both experienced the most familiar and comforting thing in our little world- the aspect of our relationship that had been there since the very beginning. For my friends who couldn't or chose not to breastfeed, there is nothing here that doesn't apply to you. Skin to skin contact comes in many forms. I could have just as easily laid his cheek on my chest at the end of the day and we would have experienced the same peacefulness.
Breastfeeding has been one of the greatest blessings of my life and I will miss it. A lot. One could even say, per the definition of weaning, that I've become excessively fond of it and I'm the one who's weaning more than Jack.
So what will I miss?
I will miss the way that his little hand would reach up and twist my hair or pat my cheek.
I will miss the way his little eyes got excited when it was time to nurse and yes, he would sometimes even giggle a little, he'd be so excited!
I will miss the time we shared in the evenings when the whole house was quiet except for the sound of Trevor upstairs washing dishes while Jack and I had our time together (these Gen X dads are so evolved, I love it :)
What will we gain?
I will experience my body again. For 2 years I have shared it with another person, growing him inside of me and feeding him. I have felt very disconnected from myself in many ways, although in other ways I have felt like the truest version of myself. I will miss that paradox, but I am also freeing myself of it.
Jack will gain a nighttime ritual that will carry him through beyond his toddler years and into childhood. One that will involve a lot of reading with his dad.
Jack has a new favorite book- "Where's Spot?" It's one of those square shaped board books and this one has flaps that open up revealing hidden pictures. Jack takes great delight in opening up those flaps. Trevor bought a bottle of Elmer's Glue for the times he gets a little too excited and rips one off. After the 100th reading of this book we decided it was time to add to the nighttime reading collection.
Last night we took a trip to Barnes & Noble and TJ Maxx (TJ Maxx has some of the cheapest kids books in town fyi!). We must have purchased 20 books between the two places. I was looking at something on the shelf and heard Trevor say "Hey mom, can we get this one?" I looked over and Jack was holding a book with two bears on the cover that said "I Love My Daddy."
I cannot express what my feelings were in that moment.
I thought of the hundreds of nights that Trevor has so faithfully done the dishes and sorted the laundry so that Jack and I could nurse. I recalled the thankfulness my heart felt every time I walked into the kitchen and saw all of my pump equipment drying on a bottle rack. He never asked for praise or thanks for these great gifts. He wasn't giving me clean bottles, he was giving me precious time with my baby. Now it is my turn to give him that time.
Last night I curled up on the couch, a huge dinosaur stuffed animal as my pillow. Trevor brought out "Where's Spot", "Spot Goes to the Park", and "Spot Says Goodnight". I placed "I Love My Daddy" into the pile. Trevor had nearly finished the "Daddy" book when Jack jumped out of his lap and into mine. Just when Trevor was starting to feel rejected, we both realized that the only reason Jack came over to me was because "Where's Spot" was sitting on my lap. Once the book was returned to Trevor, Jack climbed back into his lap.
There were tears that first night weaning, tears and triumphs as all three of us committed to a new routine. Jack won't ever remember these nights, but I hope that the closeness we've shared has cemented a feeling of security and love into his heart.
So where's Jack's spot? It used to be on a pillow nursing with me. Now it's nestled into his dad's lap reading stories as the still damp hair from his bath dries up and curls around his ears.
Life is one long series of hellos and good-byes. I think what matters the most is how you spend the time in between them. For those nights we struggled, bonded, cried, and loved, I am exceedingly proud of both of us.
Good-bye to nursing.