Bye, Bye Booby

For real.  This, the eve of his third birthday, also marks one month since Zook last nursed.  A few months back, I posted about my little guy giving up his nightly boob.  Sad, but not really surprising.  He was two and a half…  So although we did not nurse before bed, he awoke craving his mama’s milk instantly as his eyes opened.  And it went on like this for quite a while.  I had no clue that it would go on this long.  But it did.

Zook is my last baby.  Our family of five is complete.  What is apparent to most parents after two children became a blaring reality after he was born: Children are a lot of work.  And making sure that they all survive the day is also a lot of work.  So I relished in our nursing relationship- the Journey as many call it- because I knew this was the last chance I would have to grow this bond with a child.  I never thought of myself as an extended breastfeeder- not that I had any judgments about people who breastfed past a year… or two… or three… I just did’t think it was for me.  And then I was that Mama.

He just never appeared to be a toddler or (gulp) a preschooler.  He just looked so much like my baby that I was blind to the progression of his increasing age.  With each passing month, I thought surely it would be any day.  I was sure that after his second birthday, he would give it up but just like so many other things, the books were wrong about this too.  After his second birthday, I began scrutinizing about each session.  I gave myself such a hard time. And it was stupid because I was the only one putting the pressure on to kick this.  My husband was more than supportive- half because he relied on me to “give him a boob” to get our insanely temperamental sweet child to shut the F up calm down in any public setting.   And the other half of the reason he was so supportive was because he saw how much it meant to our little guy.  Don’t you think he’s a little old? I would say.  According to who?  He’d answer.  But do you think he still really needs it?  I’d say.  Look how much he loves it.  If it still works for you, don’t take it away from him.  He’d say.  For real.  (Reminder: Hug this man.)  So I just decided to go with it.  

Slowly, he would miss a morning booby sesh.  Then he would miss a day.  And then two.  And then three…  And then.  It was gone.  Still, one month later, the sadness creeps into my throat.  But I am comforted by the idea that he weaned me as much as himself.  Had he cut me off, I would have been heart-broken.  (Yes, folks, this was about me too.)  So he weaned me.  Slowly, and on his terms.  This happened just the way it was supposed to.  It was true self-weaning.  It was hard and there were times I wanted to give up- just as much as there were times that I wanted to offer when he didn’t need it.  But I let him decide what he wanted- what he needed- and trusted he would find his way.  I trusted him to find our way.

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Now, I’ll admit that I boarder on control freak (who am I kidding, I am a total control freak but I can’t really admit that because it sounds horrible… but this is Real) and because of this, I have a hard time letting my kids decide what’s best for them.  Of course you have to wear a hat, it’s 30 degrees outside!  You need to fill out your reading journal!  Take two more bites of breakfast!  Finish your milk!  Now what if we treated them like… humans?  Humans who are capable of making decisions for themselves.  I know I am making a huge leap here but if letting a near-three year old decide when he’s done nursing has taught me anything, it’s that we don’t give our children far enough credit for knowing what they need and when they need it.  We make so many decisions for them.  And some of them are necessary but are they all…?  I am not so sure anymore.

For some of you reading this, you may be welcoming me to the room: you’ve already made a decision to raise your kids this way.  To some, the idea of letting your kids make autonomous choices may seem ridiculous.  To the latter group, try to entertain this idea.  I’m still totally forcing my kids to wear their seatbelts, brush their teeth and use their manners but if they choose not to wear a hat, maybe I will let them (and shove it in my purse to hand off when they start to cry that their ears are cold) or maybe I will allow them to leave the table without finishing breakfast… they will be hungry but they won’t die.  Maybe they would make a better choice the next morning.

I don’t pretend to know where to draw that line and I am in no way telling you how to raise your kiddos.  But what I am saying is that our children are crazy smart.  They know what they are doing more of the time than we acknowledge.  Consider this.  My three year old clung to my breast until he slowly decided he didn’t need it anymore.  And then he was done.  On his terms.  I let go of the control.  And it worked out really well.  Bye, bye Booby.  Hello Independence.

Peace, Mamas.

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Breaking Up With the Breast

It’s happening.  This is really happening.  And just when I said self-weaning was bullshit.  Don’t worry, this isn’t turning into a breastfeeding blog, because that’s coming abruptly to an end.  For the second consecutive night, my little guy sheepishly crawled in with a brother and snuggled in.  Without me. Without me.  Without his Mama.

This moment has been on my mind all day.  It was my first thought this morning, consumed my commute to work, filled the spaces in my mind during meetings, brought on an ache in my throat after lunch.  I was distracted as I watched my oldest play lacrosse tonight, at dinner and in the yard.  As I watched that sweet boy run and throw his head back in laughter, rolling in the grass, flashing me that toothy, goofy smile, I knew bedtime was coming.  We brushed teeth, I held my breath.  Climbed the stairs, put jammies on.  Stomach tightening, Are you going to sleep with your brother again tonight?  Yes.

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And all of a sudden, this became a story about a Mama losing her baby.  If reading that doesn’t signal the pierce of a tear, the sting of your nose, or your breath to catch, I can tell you that as a Mama, short of tragedy, there may be no greater loss.  So here is the raw truth: We want our children to grow, learn, become.  But the instances when they start to leave us are both the most heart-breaking and heart-filling moments we may ever experience.  A child turning from what was once the only comfort he knew, while causing undeniable pain, is a Mama’s greatest accomplishment.  We raise our children to leave us.  But the moment it actually happens is nothing we could have fathomed before that point.

This is also the story of a baby growing into a child.  He’s not leaving his Mama, he just needs her a little less.  We need to learn to bond in a different way.  I am beyond thankful that he is choosing this path on his own will.  I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I’d wondered if it was time or thought about how we would do this.  He’s taken the guesswork out of the process.  I’m trying not to let this break my heart.  Trying so hard to accept his choice.  I never, in my whole life, thought I’d grow so attached to nursing.  It’s not the act of nursing, it’s the connection we share at the end of the day.  Correction: It’s the connected we shared at the end of the day.

My heart feels heavy and light tonight, if that’s possible.  So much of Mamahood is filled with experiences which are both the best and worst thing all at once.  I’m living in the moment; documenting these moments, pouring my guts out because I need to not feel alone in this.  I know I’m not.  I know there are a many of Mamas nodding their heads right now.  Thank you Mamas.  I know there maybe some who are not Mamas reading too- and hopefully now you get it.  Now you get a peek into this world of being a Mama.  The struggle, the success, the pain, the bliss.  The Love.

Peace Mamas.

Goodnight Without the Boob

Well that’s exactly what it was.  For the first time.  Ever.  In case you missed my earlier post, I am an extended nurser.  I tend to stay away from saying extended breastfeeder because that seems to freak people out a little more.  Makes it more graphic, I don’t know.  My son will be 30 months old this week  (for those of you who are still dividing by twelve, that’s two and a half years old).  And we still boob (how’s that for graphic?).  Lately, I have been considering, pondering the idea that maybe this should all be over.  It has been a long time.  There is little to no nutrition going on, I’d like my own boobs back (even though they are a train wreck) and he is two and a half…

Today was a wonderful day.  My baby had his first playdate with an adorable little fella and was totally exhausted tonight after trading his nap for a chauffeured tour of his buddy’s driveway in a hot pink Barbie Jeep (it was really quite something).  At bedtime tonight, we got jammies on, brushed teeth and went up to choose books.  Just as the argument began over which book to read, my little guy says Sleep. Here.  And pointed to his brother’s bed.  I asked him again what he said, confused- maybe hoping I’d heard him wrong.  Sleep. Here.  And he pointed again.  Okay, I said, knowing this would never last.  He popped in bed next to his brother and laid down.  You want to sleep in here tonight?  Grin.  Nod.  Okay.  Love you…  And I walked out. Now he’s sleeping up there as cute as can be next to his brother.  Wow.

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I’m honestly experiencing a swirl of emotions right now.  I’m so relieved that it could possibly be this easy.  That there really could be no tears.  I’m proud that my littlest babe can find his way to dreamland peacefully- and quite frankly adorably- next to his older brother without Mama.  Without Mama.  And that’s where the warm fuzzies end.  Did he not need me?  Did he not need to press his sweet face against my breast, look into my eyes, and rub his soft fleshy fingers into my warm skin?  Does he no longer require my arms around him, calming and secure, strong and reassuring?  I’m feeling a little lost.  A little hallow.  

I read about women who refer to nursing as a journey and I never quite understood that so clearly as I do tonight- for tonight I am quite honestly fearful that our journey has come to its end.  I remember back to the nights, alone with him, the feeling of elation at the sounds of his swallows in the dark. His warm belly against mine, still swollen from where he was housed just days before.  That feeling, those nights, will never be matched.  It’s been a mutual love affair until this evening and now I have been dumped.  Kicked to the curb like yesterday’s news.  He broke up with me for his brother.  Ouch.

He’s our last child.  There will be no more babies.  No more births, no more first teeth, no more first rolls, steps or even diapers for that matter.  All that is done.  I am aware that there will be many more firsts (day of school lost tooth, bikes, soccer games…) but I’m talking about The Firsts.  Why is it so hard to leave that part behind?  I can almost watch it happening.

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As I write tonight, I am living in the moment- maybe more than I ever have in my life. As I watch our relationship morph, I am aware that it’s not about me.   Our journey has been guided fully by his will and I’m not about to interfere with his method but it doesn’t ease the ache in my chest, the longing in my soul for my children to stay babies forever.  Sappy and stupid, I know- but Real.  Tonight it is so Real.  So what will tomorrow bring…  I’m curious to discover how our bedtime routine will change.  And if this is the end.  Cue throat lump…  Is this over?

Peace Mamas.