Monday, July 26, 2010

The End of The Nursing

It took so long and so much effort and frustration to get this little girl nursing in the beginning. Weeks of tears and frustration. Months of tracking every ounce we could estimate. Hours of forcing her to learn how to lower her tongue and latch, how to suck, how to snuggle in and avoid distraction. How to figure out - hey! There's milk in them breasts! We watched her eyes get big over that one.

Once we got her to latch, it was eat, eat, eat. Let me show you our eat-poop-sleep diary. It was solid numbers.

See, I'd had in my head that I'd aim for nursing for at least her first six months, her first year, even two years! Why mess with a good thing, right? We'd just keep nursing for as long as it lasted. Nutrients! Antibodies! Skin-to-skin contact! No allergies for this little girl, we said.

Eventually, she started eating solid foods and we cheered her on. And still she nursed. And we did meet her first birthday with an apple muffin. And she was still nursing.

It's been a routine, a way of life. Although when she stopped requiring regular nursings, it certainly made traveling easier. No more stopping every two-to-three hours for hours of restless nursing routine.

Then she got into drinking cow's milk. She was gung ho from the start. Milk! Milk! Or as she would say, Mak! Mak! That means cow's milk in a cup. She knows what breast milk and nursing means, but it's not the way it used to be.

The last couple months, she has been nursing mostly in a wake up session first thing in the morning and the last thing before bedtime. I kept trying to hold on to the nursing because, after all, I'd worked so hard to make it happen to begin with. One does not keep nursing without a commitment to the cause. I remember one particular morning that I got myself out of bed and upright during a bout of food poisoning. It wasn't to be strong, I tell you that! It wasn't even out of guilt or obligation. It was to nurse the baby because she needed me and I wasn't about to give up nursing over a little incapacitating nausea. I persist.

And then came the day(s) that she giggled and ran from me rather than nurse in the morning. Mak! she says, and she doesn't mean me. Still I persisted. I even picked up a little nursing time in the afternoons before her nap. A new solid sleep ritual. It worked reliably, and I welcomed my shifting role. I still had my milk.

And then she missed this or that nursing and we kept on some kind of track, but it wasn't very regular.

And it has slowly occurred to me: I don't need to keep doing this. The little girl doesn't *need* to nurse any more, either physically or emotionally. She likes it, sure, but really, she's moved on.

She's been nursing a year and a half, ya'll. We've passed the point of useful antibodies.

And still I persist.

But I'm thinking I need to let go. She's ready. I think I might be too.

I worry that if I give up all but one nursing that my milk will disappear. But that's silly, as the piglet might say. Because it will disappear, someday. And then I will have to bid a brave but tearful adieu to one of my favorite mommy superpowers: the ability and the dedication to make mother's milk. Not to mention the warm snuggly feeling of the little girl on a good drowsy pull.

Not that I haven't looked forward to returning to a few currently forbidden things. Peppermint tea. Combination cold medicines. One specific medication that helps me deal with sun exposure. Fitting into my dance dresses again. Mammograms! Oo, yeah. Well, maybe not that one.

I have a feeling I will miss this terribly once it's gone. The nursing, I mean. And a little bit, not. I won't be tied to the schedule quite so tightly. In fact, those mother's aprons-strings have been loosening for a couple of months now. It won't be much longer before they inextricably loosen and fall away without my even noticing. Yeah, sure. (pause to sniffle at my keyboard)

I am so grateful that I took a few video clips of myself nursing when she was still a small baby. I just melt, seeing those small baby hands flexing as she sighs and gulps in contentment. How will I ever afford her that measure of security again?

I will have to invent new and meaningful bonds and rituals, new opportunities for snuggling and security. I will have to discover new ways to connect to the little girl she is becoming, to comfort and delight in the same Mommy-is-your-rock way. I will have to persist.

The nursing chair, our little recliner, has been moved back to into the living room. It looks nice there; we'd almost forgotten that. We brought home our new glider rocker today (new in the sense that we bought it used from craigslist), and placed it next to the bookshelf in the little girl's room. These days the little girl is all about reading books on our laps, and rocking, sometimes both at once. Or one then the other, having her Daddy rock her to sleep. He's her Daddy-is-my-rock now.

The new glider supports me as I support her, floating back and forth, rocking. "Kiss" she says, and brings her face close, smiling, then smacks her lips close to mine before pushing me away.

Mwah. Back atcha, little girl. Mommy loves you too. sniffle