I've been writing and editing this post in my head since before my older daughter stopped nursing, more than two years ago.
Now that my younger daughter has ended the portion of our life where we share "mama milk," I find the end more bittersweet than I'd expected.
I was ready.
I was really ready, and it was time.
Turns out, even though she would have happily continued nursing for more of her young life, she was pretty well ready too.
Once we passed the age where her sister stopped nursing (right about when A was born) I started the process of weaning.
"Don't offer, don't refuse."
When babies are little, soothing connection, a little something in their bellies, skin contact, warmth from mama, are some of the best things to care for a tiny being.
When they're a bit older, there are lots of other kinds of care to offer that don't involve nursing.
Several months ago we substituted nursing first thing in the morning with "sweet cream," a bit of warmed up cows milk. We tried goat but she didn't seem to do any differently on it than cow's milk.
She still requests sweet cream (to call it something other than "milk" for the sake of letting nursing fade away) on a regular basis.
A couple months ago I started letting her know that pretty soon we weren't going to nurse any more. She had some sadness but, as she wasn't nursing to sleep, it really was more ritual and skin time than the nourishment of breastmilk itself.
When my supply had dwindled to the point where nursing was painful almost from the very beginning, our bedtime nursing got shorter and shorter.
There were two hard bedtimes where she got too rough and I wouldn't let her nurse before I decided we were done once and for all.
Two more nights of being firm and loving, and she hasn't asked since.
It's been a few weeks and I'm still dealing with the discomfort of my supply drying up completely, and am having to consciously remember to feed her needs in other ways.
It was really convenient to have that special connection and tender time together. Now it's gone, I need to add in little bits of closeness here and there. This has turned into just another passage, just another thing switched from the list of present to the list of things we used to do.
|Totally unrelated picture of our cat climbing in the car with us.|
Parenting seems to be an exercise in letting go.
We let go of our fears, even our hopes, to allow our children to grow free from our biases and negative experiences. We let go of our views of our own "learning experiences" to allow them to go forward unfettered while hopefully allowing them to learn from our mistakes so they need not "re-make" them. We let go of any idea of what it would be like once we have kids so that who they are can shine through.
As this one chapter closes, so also do others that I do not mourn. I don't bring a diaper bag into every store. More often than not, I don't have to deal with anyone's pee (in potty or otherwise) while doing errands, we can go several days without needing to do a load of laundry, and we don't have to plan our day (or weeks) around nap times.
Tomorrow we will send them off to college.