This week marked the end of an era for me. A long era. As of May, I had officially been either pregnant, nursing or both for five years. Five years is a long to be a host body.
Don’t get me wrong. I am proud and grateful. Giving birth and feeding my babies has transformed the way I see my body. It has allowed me to shift from a place of criticism to a place of respect, if not awe, at what my body has done. But five years is a long time.
As I watched my little Violet sleep in her crib last night, without having been nursed to sleep, I felt bittersweet. She is my lovebug, my sassy, sweet seventeen-month old. She is my surprise in every sense of the word. I always thought I would have a mini-me, a dark haired brooding little poet girl. Instead, she has creamy pale skin, a dash of reddish hair and a quick laugh. She is pure light, with a bit of sass for good measure. And we are done nursing.
It happened almost by accident.
Over the past several months, I slowly dropped nursing sessions, offering solid food or water instead of mama milk. She never complained. My son was literally attached to my boobs for the first year of his life; he nursed constantly. Every twenty or thirty minutes. When I began to drop nursing sessions with him, he would turn red-faced and angry. “Milt! Milllltttt!” he demanded. I nursed him until he was just over two years old. When we were finally, finally done, I immediately found out I was pregnant with my daughter.
So before long, with no drama, my daughter and I were only nursing at bedtime. I sang her a song each night, then quietly asked the universe to protect her and Max. I watched her eyes open and close, open and close, as my warm arms and milk cradled and fed her.
Last Sunday night, we spent Mother’s Day on Peaks Island. After a day of playing with their cousins and gorging on cantelope, my kiddos both passed out in the car at 5:30 in the evening and transferred to their beds without waking up. It made for a strange, blissfully quiet night. And Violet didn’t nurse.
Monday night at Vi’s bedtime, I tried just holding her with some music on instead of nursing. Just to see what would happen; I expected protest. She let out a whimper or two when I sang the song I’ve always sang while giving her milk. But it may just be that without the distraction of nursing, she realized I have a dreadful singing voice. Then she plopped her head down on my shoulder, and as I shifted my weight back and forth, back and forth with the music, she fell asleep.
Tuesday night I had writing group, so Scott put her to bed as he always does on Tuesdays. No nursing.
Wednesday night went just like Monday night.
And so we are done, just like that. I thought maybe I should nurse her one last time, just so I could really pay attention. So I could watch her body relax against mine, taking it all in.
But life is not usually like that. We don’t usually know when its the last time we are experiencing something. So instead the memories of both my kids nursing will run together in my mind, a blur of warmth and connection and sometimes, annoyance at having to share so much of myself for so long.