1.28.2010

Into the Vortex

Three weeks. Funny how time can be. When you have a secret you are bursting to share, or a vacation you are excited to take, three weeks can feel like a lifetime. When you are marking days towards something more unpalatable, three weeks flies by. When you’ve just weaned the last baby you’ll ever breastfeed, three weeks is a vortex.

At nearly 26 months old, Dove was down to just a couple of feedings a day, so I thought it would be no big deal, be easy, to take advantage of an upcoming four-day separation, and stop breastfeeding her. I figured it would be the gentlest route to take, and it was. I expected that my breasts would swell a bit, and they did. I expected Dove to forget all about it by time I came home, and she didn’t.

She didn’t exactly leap onto my lap and try to get under my shirt, but the first time upon my return that she became upset about something and I picked her up, she snuggled into her familiar position and used the words she uses when she wanted to nurse. And I told her, gently, that she couldn’t. And she got upset, and I again, gently, told her that it wasn’t time, and Dove got more upset. And I felt horrible.

I felt like a horrible mother and a right shit, and I felt guilty for leaving my kids for four days and guilty for coming back and not providing a basic function that my baby expected me to provide.

But I managed to distract Dove quite easily, and soon enough we were all back on the floor, playing with puzzles and bribing my four-year-old to brush my hair. But there was a knot in my stomach, swelling more with every denied feeding.

It was not supposed to be this way. I was supposed to go away on a little birthday break with my best friend, get some much-needed rest and some much coveted warm weather and come back to happy children, one of whom would forget all about nursing in my absence and never asked for it again. Then my chest could go back to looking like I had put it on backwards, and my ass could magically release all its saved up stores of fat, and I could have my body back, The End.

Because that is exactly how I had stopped nursing Bee two and half years earlier. Well, not exactly – I went away to say goodbye to my dying father, not celebrate my birthday in Miami, and I was 5 months pregnant with Dove, not 26 months post-partum. But the idea was the same. Child, 26 months old. Mother, absent for a few days. Breastfeeding, all but forgotten. And it had worked the first time around with my mellow, sweet Bee who, between my father’s grave illness and my growing pregnancy, seemed to sense that I couldn’t handle a battle, and never mentioned it again, content with my affections as they were not related to my milk.

But Dove is such a different baby; has been from the start. She runs more to the extremes, and while this, in many ways, has made her a very easy baby to raise (no guessing how this kid is feeling), she wants what she wants, and four days after having it last, when it was never supposed to cross her mind again, she wanted to nurse. And I gently said no.

The truth is, I’m done. I have been pregnant and/or nursing consistently without even a week’s break for the past 67 months. I barely recognize my body any more, and I am tired. I nursed my baby until she was no longer a baby, and now I will comfort and nurture and soothe her in different ways, since it is comfort and safety she is seeking when she burrows into my chest.

But it's three weeks later, and she still gets upset. She still tries to wriggle into her favourite position, though I'm not entirely sure she remembers why it is she is trying to get there.

So I walk with her, back and forth. And she puts her head on my shoulder, nuzzling into my neck, and she takes a lock of my hair and twirls it around her pudgy fist. And I sing to her, and when I finish my song, she whispers, again. And I send her a silent message asking that she forgive me for not allowing her to be my tiny baby anymore, and begging her stay my tiny baby anyway, and my eyes water and my head swims, and my heart swirls with my love for her, and I hold her tighter to me and we dance, into the vortex.

***

16 comments:

  1. My sister weaned her daughter when she was 3 and a half. My niece wouldn't speak to her for a week.

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  2. I posted my fb comment before I read this. It's beautiful. It almost brought me to tears and if you knew me better, you would know how hard that is to do.

    Peace through the miles.

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  3. I am crying at work. oh our babies-Why do they have to grow up?

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  4. beautiful k.
    you are an awesome mom.

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  5. My son was down to only nursing at night and so his dad took him downstairs for a week's "camping" adventures and EVERY night, he'd be like "I going upstairs to talk with mama about something!". ANd his dad would offer him a sippy cup and read him a story.
    It was a long week. But it passed.

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  6. Ah, the dance. The dance and the whispering of I'm sorry, honey, I'm sorry. It's so much a part of being a mother, that dance, so very elemental.

    I didn't even nurse, but I'm wrestling a bit with how long I give The Bun bottles of milk at night for comfort, and wondering how I cannot, when he opens his mouth seeking it as soon as we sit together to rock.

    He's got a while to go, I think, but we will adapt with the needs of our babes, sometimes with them in the lead, sometimes with us pushing them a little, but we are still there. YOU are still there.

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  7. oh your story has me in tears. I have only just begun my nursing journey and I often wonder how it will end. One thing I am sure of is that it will be bitter sweet. Take Care.

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  8. Sweet, sweet story.....

    With supply issues bfeeding was a huge struggle for the first 6 weeks. We lasted 17 months and I am soooo happy to have had that experience.

    She'll always be your baby no matter how grown up she is...

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  9. I felt this post in my gut. I'm almost 12 months into nursing my second baby. Just recently has a similar separation, though without intention of weaning. I was terrifed he would, thankfully he did not. My first weaned at 12 months quite without incident. One night I didn't give him a bedtime feed and that was it he was done. But like yours, my second is so different. Whether it's him or me, I'm not sure. The idea that this is likely my last baby propels me to continue for longer. I want to and will. He does the same thing your little girl does, burrows his head into my chest when he wants to nurse. My first was never like that. My second has always been a better breastfeeder, it was just easier on so many levels. I know how hard this must be, I send you hugs and assure you that she gets comfort from so many other parts of you, the feel of your skin, sound of your voice, smell of your hair. That's what mama's are for.

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  10. I swear that every little thing that I thought I had all figured out with my first kid totally did NOT work with my second. On the one hand, it absolves me of some of the responsibility I might have felt for my kid's personality, since they really are their own people. On the other hand, sometimes it can punch you in the gut, like this. I am sure Dove will be fine, and you will be fine, and I wish you peace.

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  11. My three all weaned without much fuss and, at the time, I was glad to be done. But now I keep seeing this ad in magazines. It's for formula but one side of the graphic has a mother feeding from a bottle and the other side has a baby on mother's breast and it seriously makes tears spring to my eyes every time.

    The emotions associated with being The Mama are complicated, aren't they?

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  12. Beautiful post. I bottle-fed (formula) my first and now that I'm about to have my second, I'm thinking of breastfeeding mainly because of the experience women on blogs describe. (I'm fine with the nutrition of formula and all that jazz). I don't know, it just sounds like something I shouldn't miss out on.

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  13. Jackie - it is definitely something you should not miss out on. Check out Metro Mama's latest post on bf'ing the second after bottle-feeding the first. It's inspirational.

    http://riverdalemama.blogspot.com

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  14. One of my great regrets about my motherhood is that I weaned my babies too early. They were only 7 & 8 months old.

    I know it is easy for me to beat myself up about that decision now, but at the time it was the right thing to do. They were both difficult nursers; I always felt like a failure for that, and as much as I yeared for the Gerber-baby commercial experience, we just didn't have it. But now, I'm sorry about it and I wish I could have a do-over.

    All this to say, I don't think we are ever really at ease with the decision.

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  15. Oh honey, I'm sorry you're having such a hard time with this. I totally get the feeling of the second baby being so different from the first that you are just at a loss as to how to handle the different reactions to certain situations. Good luck!

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  16. The last sentence just brought tears to my eyes....

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