It has been almost three days since I nursed you last. It's late late Sunday night and the last time you asked for milk was early early Friday morning. I came into your room and scooped you up in my arms and hugged you tight. (Sometimes I wish someone as proportionally big would scoop me up in their arms and hug me tight. Then again sometimes I wish someone would love me as much as I love you, too, but that would be impossible.)
I brought you into our room and we snuggled under the covers. You looked into my eyes and pointed at my chest and signed "milk" and as you started to nurse we both settled into each other, like those wooden animals where the baby elephant fits perfectly inside the mama.
The first couple months of breastfeeding you were the hardest of my life; then again your first couple months were the hardest of my life period. I didn't know if we'd make it. I didn't know if I'd make it. Your birth was a wake-up call to how much I am not really in control of anything that happens in life. No matter how much I try to do what is best, no matter how hard I try to provide the best possible life I can give you, no matter how much I love you, none of that matters sometimes. Sometimes life is just hard, and it has nothing at all to do with you or with me. It just is.
I might not have been able to give you my full attention because there are two of you; I might not have been able to take back the birth trauma; I might not have been able to make you "normal"; I might not have been able to be the perfect mom; but I could give you my milk.
I made a promise to you that we would make it six months. Once we passed that six month mark, I don't even know what happened. It was suddenly easy. My life wasn't completely ruled by the breastpump anymore, the pressure and stress was lifted and we just were. You were just babies who wanted milk and I had these breasts dripping with liquid gold.
I think I fell in love with you while nursing you.
Now it's been almost nineteen months. Nineteen months. Your Nana told me she stopped nursing my sisters and me when we could walk over and ask for it. She always told the story as if once that moment was reached it was somehow wrong. If we asked for it...what? It was creepy? Inappropriate? When you started asking for it, I felt the exact opposite. "Finally!" I thought to myself. "I finally know exactly what you want and need." Breastfeeding is the reason you started communicating with me. "Milk" is the first sign you started making with your hands. First it was pointing at my chest, then signing, then "guh" - the word you both chose to mean milk.
We did it backwards, I guess, keeping the morning nursing session as the last remaining time you nursed. We've done a lot of things backwards, I guess, but that's ok. I loved starting my day close to you, feeling your warm little body curled up in mine. Sometimes you'd play with my hair; sometimes you'd touch each one of the freckles on my chest with your index finger; sometimes you'd stick your finger in my mouth and wait for me to bite down gently and you'd laugh with my nipple still in your mouth.
Friday night I stayed at a friend's house. I took my time in the morning and when I got home you were already up and rearing, running around like the little white rabbit, scurrying like you were late for something & muttering incoherent words to yourself. When you saw me you stopped cold in your tracks and looked up at me like I was the Queen of the Universe and you were in love with me. You smiled with your whole being and I scooped you up in my arms and hugged you so tight I thought we might become just one person. We didn't, and I let you down and you grabbed my finger and led me into your room to show me some thing or some other thing, some game you were playing with your brother, some blanket you carry around everywhere with you, some music, some toy.
You didn't ask for milk and I didn't offer.
This morning you woke up early, crying because of your teeth. You're getting your last ones in and they seem to hurt a lot more than the others for some reason. I scooped you up and kissed your forehead and carried you into bed with your Papa and me. You snuggled up next to me and fell quickly asleep. Suddenly the sun was up and you were tugging on my arm to help you off the bed. You went and pulled a stack of books off the shelf and carried them over to read next to us while your Papa and I tried to catch a few more minutes of precious sleep.
When your brother woke, you both went over to the little table and chairs, seated yourselves and asked me for a banana. You split one and a cup of almond milk.
You didn't point at my chest. You didn't sign "milk". You didn't say "guh". I didn't offer.
When you went down for your nap I told your Papa how long it had been since we had nursed. I cried and he held me. I wanted to run to your room, wake you up, take off my shirt and curl up with you, nurse you for the rest of the afternoon. But I didn't. I just cried and cried and my breasts leaked milk through my shirt and I thought about what this all means.
It's the first time that we've ever really been disconnected. First you were inside me, connected in every possible way. Then you were born, but still attached through the umbilical cord. In the beginning we were very close; you needed me for everything. To move you, to bathe and clothe you, to nourish you. Now you move faster than I can; you wash yourself and can almost dress yourself; now you help me cook dinner and feed yourself.
What am I now?
Part of me feels free. Part of me wants to blast Aretha Franklin and sing at the top of my lungs while jumping on the bed. Part of me feels guilty, that I'm not going to nurse you until you're 13 (joking, well, maybe). Part of me feels proud that we made it this far. Part of me feels empty, like I can feel the absence of you inside of me since you were born; nursing you I still felt somehow connected but now...
I'm not sure how I feel. I'm not sure how I am supposed to feel. All I know is I expected this to be so much more... something. This was such a non-event for you; no tears, no struggle, no nothing. This means you are no longer my little babies anymore; you are my boys. You are two independent little humans who wake up every day and do your own thing. I'm not sure what my place is exactly anymore, but I know enough to understand that this isn't about me. I'm not going to fight it. I'm just going to let you be.
You don't have to know it right now; you don't have to ever know it. I feel like I have been torn in two, deep deep inside; severed somehow, like when you were born.
I have a feeling this is what being a parent will always feel like. Mourning the passing of time; mourning the passing of moments that feel eternal; mourning the passing of the you I know better than I know myself to the you I have no understanding of.
I want you to know I love that new person I don't know very well yet just as much as the other one. More than I loved you yesterday; less than I will tomorrow.
The word for what has happened in French is sevrage. You have been sevré. Severed. It also translates as withdrawal, which is exactly how I feel. I feel shaky, anxious, nauseous, irritable. I have a massive headache and can't sleep. What if I am never pregnant again? What if I never nurse again? Ever? My breasts will hang limp and useless and empty. Devoid of purpose.
For now they are still leaking. Like a faucet, really. Every time I cry they start dripping which just makes the crying worse. My eyes will dry soon and so will my breasts. Then you'll start kindergarten and I'll feel severed all over again.
I just wish... well, Mike from Friends said it best, I think, so I'll leave you with his words, only slightly altered:
It can’t be any harder than this... I mean, if I had known the last time I saw you would be the last time, I... I would have stopped to memorize your face, the way you move, everything about you. If I had known the last time I nursed you would have been the last time... I never would have stopped.