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.