I love me a good birth story, well, any birth story, really—good, bad, long, short, and everything in between. I binged on birth stories before each of my babies was born; I couldn’t get enough of each new beginning.
Motherhood is full of stories of beginnings: First birthday, first tooth, first step, first day of school, first time riding a bike. We cherish these beginnings with phone calls to grandparents, pictures, and celebrations on social media.
But motherhood—and, well, LIFE—is full of endings too, goodbyes of sorts.
I’m weaning my youngest baby.
I’m weaning my last baby.
My last baby is weaned.
The heavy goodbye of those words settled on me as I typed them, a profound ending to a thousand and more nursing sessions, my son cuddled close to my breast.
All of my boys have weaned differently.
When I was nursing Micah and Benji, my twins, my husband asked off-hand one day: “How long are you going to nurse them?”
I shrugged. “Eh. I don’t know. ‘Till it gets weird.”
In the months past their first birthday, we slowly paired down the nursing sessions to only 1-2 a day. Soon, I was only nursing them after their afternoon nap.
Then one day, when they were 17 months, they both woke up screaming and clingy from their naps. In order to temper the madness, I decided to nurse them both at the same time, something I rarely did because it drove me nuts. I was sitting on the couch topless, nursing two toddlers when Aaron came home from work.
He eyed me curiously and said with a slight smile. “Okay. It’s weird.”
I laughed out loud.
I was SO on the same page.
I was done.
That was the last time I nursed my twins. I praised the Lord above that I nourished their little bodies for 17 long months and marked it down in the record books as one of my greatest life accomplishments to date.
Silas’ last nursing session broke my heart. We both cried. Silas was inching towards two (around 21 months) and I was 20+weeks pregnant with Eli.
As much as I loved nursing Silas, nursing while pregnant wasn’t my favorite but if he asked to nurse, I gladly obliged. In those last final weeks, he only asked every few days.
My milk was changing because of the pregnancy—it didn’t taste good anymore. The last time he nursed, Silas latched on, then unlatched and made a spitting face: “Plahgh!”
Then he laid his head on my chest and cried his eyes out. I held him as he wept, kissing his baby-silk hair. He never asked to nurse again.
With Eli, it’s been different. Breastfeeding my youngest baby has not been easy, even after we overcame those first rough weeks.
He always had bad “nursing manners” despite all my efforts to cure him of his ways. He was a pincher, a slapper, and a scratcher. He would pull his head back hard while latched on. He left long red welts on my neck and chest. His habits annoyed and, at times, infuriated me.
“Why don’t you wean him?” My husband asked when I complained. I knew Aaron hated seeing me in pain.
But I couldn’t. I wasn’t ready and Eli wasn’t ready either. Despite his abusive ways, he loved to nurse and I loved him.
We passed his first birthday, then 18 months. But as the months crept closer to his 2nd birthday, I started offering bottles of whole milk (warmed with a ¼ tsp on Ovaltine chocolate) during the day when he asked for “Milk! Milk!”
He would wail and cry, be placated by the bottle for a few moments, and then ask to nurse again.
Every time I sat down, he crawled over to me, burying his head in my neck, patting my chest gently, and asked for “Milk! Milk!”
But slowly, tenaciously, though it took months, I dropped each nursing session, even before nap, even before bedtime.
“Milk? Milk?” My baby, my toddler, my little boy asks.
“Milk is done. It’s all gone.” I respond.
Yes. Milk is done. It’s gone. It really is.
Eli is weaned.
Goodbyes and transitions are their own special hell of turmoil. Even after Eli was okay with the substitute of the bottle, my body rebelled, demanding to know where all the oxytocin went, that love hormone that binds mother to baby and soothes the jagged edges of motherhood. The loss rendered me teary and beyond irritable for a few horrible weeks.
But as in all transitions, the new road, like my hormones, smoothed out and has become familiar, even welcome.
I’m ready to say “yes” to this new freedom, the freedom of leaving the baby-years and breastfeeding, all while the weight of the goodbye rests heavy on my soul.
But there is goodness in all of it. I didn’t wish it away, even through the tongue tie, the bad manners, the pain, the long nights and years of nourishing my baby with my body.
He’s my last one and I know the years are short. So I told myself, in all of those thousand and more nursing sessions, “Savor this moment with your little boy, warm and squishy against your skin, next to your heart. It’s going to be gone before you know it.”
And now, it is.
Eli will be two next week and he is weaned.
Today, I’m taking it all in, honoring the goodbye.
Are you weaning your baby right now or walking through a new transition?
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