This post has been rolling around for a while, I just haven't taken the time to write it. But they're words I don't want to forget, so here they are - four months later!
I'm pretty sure you've seen that picture before. It's one of my favorites. In the middle of taking some family photos when Jack was about six weeks old, he needed to eat. The photographer snapped this from afar while I sat with him on a bench at Drayton Hall and I've always treasured it. One of thousands of moments just like it, captured so perfectly and tenderly. I love it.
Jack came out a great nurser. Within seconds of the doctor handing him to me, he was rooting around like it's what he came for in the first place. I wanted to breastfeed so badly and that was one of the things I had the most anxiety about before he was born, so it was such a relief to see him get the hang of it so quickly. I'll be the first one to tell you that it was still awkward, painful and frustrating for the first few weeks, but compared to many it was easy for us. And he was never a high-maintenance or needy nurser, which made it even easier.
Soon after he turned one, we dropped the after-nap feeding. It only took a few days and he was used to it. Around 15 months, we dropped the morning feeding and he didn't even put up a fight. And all of that was done in preparation for my upcoming trip to Paris when I'd be gone for over a week. I knew that he'd either have to be weaned completely (or used to going a few days without) in order for me to leave him for that long. And so far, so good.
Adjusting the bedtime feeding was a bit more of a struggle. And it didn't really work. I noticed that if I wasn't home and Jack was with Andrew or a sitter, he went to bed without any problem. But if I was there, he expected more. So after a week of extreme protest, I gave in and decided that he wouldn't stage a sleep strike on account of my absence, at least not for the whole week. And if I came back to a baby who wasn't interested in nursing anymore, I had to be okay with that. But I wasn't going to force it before I left.
Let's talk about where I was emotionally with all of this. I loved breastfeeding. Like I said, it was easy for us, so that made it easy to love. I wasn't uncomfortable with nursing in public, so I never felt like I was missing out on things by excusing myself to feed the baby. But it was also a great way to escape the chaos of parties, family get togethers, etc. and just steal a few moments of quiet with my boy. I never minded climbing the stairs at 3am to sit in the dark with him, because that time was always so sweet. And as he got older, I welcomed the opportunity to snuggle with him since that was the only time he'd sit still anymore. I loved how convenient it was, I loved how soothing it was for him (both of us, really) and I loved knowing that my body was doing this awesome thing to provide for him.
I really didn't want to give that up. But I knew that there was a huge possibility that I'd come back from Paris and either he wouldn't be interested or I wouldn't have the supply anymore and I had to come to terms with that.
The night before I left for that trip, I was wrestling with the very recent news that I was pregnant. I decided that even more so now, I had to prepare myself for the fact that Jack would be weaned soon. I didn't know what pregnancy was going to do to my body this time around and I wasn't sure if it was something we could keep up. So when we settled into our chair that night, I assumed that it would be our last time. I cried.
I was already hormonal over the thought of having another baby and the changes that were coming our way as a result, plus I was leaving him for a week. And then there was this whole weaning thing over all of it, which is just an incredibly emotional thing. If no one has ever told you that, it's true. Prepare yourself for it.
That night, for the first time in weeks (maybe months), he fell asleep while he was nursing. The sweetest gift. I didn't put him down for a long time. I suspected it might be the last time and, in fact, it was.
When I came back he half-heartedly asked to nurse that first night, but then changed his mind and snuggled his head into my shoulder instead. And that was it. That's been our routine ever since - we read some books and we rock for a few minutes until he's ready to go to sleep, when he points to his crib and says "night night." He'll rub my arm or face and it's just precious. I soak it up.
So that's our story. We breastfed for almost sixteen months and I'm proud of that. There are definitely times when I'm feeling all the feelings and I miss it. I miss that time with him. But I think part of being a mom is falling in love with something about your baby, only to watch it change in a blink. And then you find something else to love, until that's gone. And on and on and on. I think motherhood is the definition of bittersweet.
And that's what makes it so freaking beautiful.