Bittersweet

This post originally ran on November 8, 2010 on Waking Up Singing. Thank you to Megan for sharing this beautiful story with us.

Every single day for the past 6 years and 3 months, I have had the great privelege of nurturing a life with my body, either through pregnancy or breastfeeding or both at the same time. Every day. For more than 6 years. Until now. Maybe.

I’ve always joked that I don’t know how to wean without getting pregnant again – Iain weaned at 16 months when I was 3 months pregnant with Ruby, and Ruby weaned at 18 months when I was 3 months pregnant with Josie. Both times it happened very naturally, with just a little bit of distracting from me – but in general they both just lost interest, and I assumed it had a lot to do with my milk supply because of the pregnancies.

So I knew it would be a different story with baby #3, because clearly I am NOT getting pregnant again. Throw into the mix some major life changes (moving!), and not long ago I had a 16-month-old who was nursing every 2 hours. AROUND THE CLOCK. After we were more or less settled into the new house I night-weaned her, and everyone was a little happier. And over the past 3 months, I’ve slowly been working to cut down on our “deedees”. I placed limits on where (only on the couch), later on when (only after wakings), all the while wondering deep down if it was the right thing to do. I have always followed the “don’t offer, don’t refuse” policy before, but this time I was outright refusing some of her requests to nurse. She seemed to understand though, and I took comfort in knowing that she is old enough to talk about it with me. In the past 2 weeks we’ve started to cut out the after-nap nursing, and I’ve been able to find a tasty snack to keep her happy instead (the first two days it was cookies, but we won’t go into that).

Fast forward to two days ago. I have not been feeling well lately, and have been working a LOT so I am very low on sleep. Because of my little early bird, I have not slept past 6 a.m. in MONTHS. So yesterday John insisted that I sleep in, and he would get up with Josie. Yes, there was some crying (from her, not me – I snored away until 9 a.m.!), but then there was some snuggling with Daddy and the eating of 3 bowls of cereal. Everyone survived.

This morning I went in to get her at 5 (damn you, Daylight Savings Time!) and she said her usual, “OK, Mommy. Hi, Mommy.” But then, instead of patting my chest and saying “More deedees please” over and over again on our way downstairs, she asked for a “snack”.

Slightly shocked, I skipped our usual stumble to the couch and headed straight for the kitchen, where she proceeded to happily sit and eat 2 bowls of cereal. And now here she is, snuggled contentedly into my lap, not asking to nurse, while I write about our apparent weaned status. All this before 6 a.m. Weird.

Deep, deep down, I am sad. This time is gone forever – literally, the end of an era. This little bit of freedom from my own body is also a sign of other freedoms to come – freedoms that sound so good to me now, but that I know I will mourn profoundly in the future. Yes, we seemed to have passed the point where the children physically take of my body in some way, but we are still so very connected in the physical sense. Holding, carrying, snuggling, hugging, rocking, dancing, pulling, lifting… these are physical days, in the most primal way.

Some day, I will clean the bathroom without having a baby strapped on me. Some day, I will sit down to drink my coffee without balancing one, maybe two kids on my knees. Some day, I will cook dinner and listen to music without shrieking demands for repeated dances to “Hammer” (If I Had a Hammer by Peter Paul and Mary). Some day, I will sit on the floor to fold laundry without two kids in my lap and another draped across my shoulders.

And while this body will be floating footloose and fancy free through the house, this mind will be wishing for the days of being weighed down. I will be remembering that even though I had to clean the bathroom with a baby strapped in the sling, she would wriggle her little arms inside the sling and wrap them around my waist in the most heartbreakingly snuggly way, her head resting on my chest. I will remember that even though I longed to drink my coffee and read my magazine in silence, that I couldn’t ever help but giggle at the babbles and drawings and squeaky singing of those knee-balanced children. I will remember that I used to be surrounded by an adoring crowd while I cooked dinner, a crowd that I’m sure will soon turn their adoration toward the TV and computer games and Legos instead. I will remember that even though I didn’t get much laundry folded on the floor, that in fact most of it ended back out of the basket and flung across the floor and pulled messily onto little heads… it was at those times that I was most often struck breathless with my children’s perfect beauty, staring at those faces close-up as they pulled clean socks onto their hands, taking in their hot breath as they leaned on my shoulders, drinking in the very essence of their miracles.

So Josie Jones, if this is it for us – well, then thanks. I couldn’t think of a better person to spend the last 19 1/2 months snuggled on the couch with. And if it’s not, well, then I’ll meet you back on the couch bright and early tomorrow morning.

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