My nine-month-old has been less and less interested in breast-feeding over the last few weeks. I feel like it’s my fault. When I started working again, it seemed less convenient to breastfeed her all day long—even though I work from home, so I supplemented more and more until she was only nursing upon waking and going to sleep. My mom is here when I work and I felt like nursing was taking time with the baby away from her, since feedings lasted 30 minutes. It also took time from me working. Now I am kicking myself. I couldn’t take just 30 minutes every few hours to keep her interested in breastfeeding and keep up my milk supply?
I was also in a hurry to introduce her to solid foods because she has acid reflux. Solid foods were supposed to help us control and eventually eliminate her acid reflux. They didn’t. All they did was help her wean from my breast. Still, I thought our morning and nighttime nursing would continue until she was a year or so old, but she’s just not that into my boobs anymore. Ugh…I guess I knew one day she would stop breastfeeding, I just didn’t think it would be so soon. I remember when I had an MRI and had to pump and dump, she was so upset that she couldn’t nurse. I dabbed some of my milk on one of her blankets to comfort her until she could nurse again.
I try to console myself, telling myself that it’s better this way—better that she should decide we’re done nursing than that I should have to wean her and break her heart. That’s how it went with my son. I knew when our last breastfeeding was because I consciously decided when it would be (it was too painful and I couldn’t hack it). He cried bitterly, refusing the bottle and searching desperately for my breast. I felt horrible. So I have been telling myself that this way is better. If she decides breastfeeding is over, I don’t have to take anything away from her and make her sad. It’s better this way, but I feel regret. I feel it through my whole heart center.
When I first started nursing, and for a long while afterward, it was so painful that to get though the 15 minutes on each breast, I distracted myself by playing Candy Crush Saga. It sort of became my nursing habit, even when the pain eventually subsided. Now I wish I had been tuning into her and really savoring the sweet moments instead of trying to avoid the pain.
I can’t remember the last time she was interested in the breast. I only know that over the last two weeks I’ve tried every day, and she nurses for a few seconds, then cries for a bottle. It makes me so sad. I wish I would have known when it was our last time nursing that it was our last time nursing. I feel like that moment was stolen from me–by me. I wasn’t paying close enough attention. It slipped away without me seeing.
Lots of things are like that. I remember the Halloween my son was in 6th grade. He told me he didn’t want to hurt my feelings, but he didn’t want to go trick-or-treating with me anymore, he wanted to be with his friends—without me. I remember thinking that I wished I knew the Halloween before that it would be the last Halloween he would let me take him trick-or-treating. I would have paid more attention, soaked it all in. I should have anyway.
And that is what is killing me about the breastfeeding thing. It makes me think about all of the other ‘lasts’ that we often don’t know are lasts. The last time you spoon-feed your baby before she learns to spoon-feed herself; the last time you dress your baby before she learns to dress herself; the last time your kid needs you to hold on to the back of his bike while he learns to ride; the last time you pick up your child from school before he learns (and prefers) to get home on his own; and the last time you proofread one of your son’s term papers before he graduates from college. Each of these are at once losses and celebrations. The bittersweet lasts don’t all relate to parenting. One that stands out for me for some reason is the last time a couple makes love before they are too old to get it on anymore. Time is relentless and it changes everything, so man, do everything you can to be fully present in every possible moment. They are all too precious.
Today in the shower, I washed with the last bit of the soap I took my first at-home postpartum shower with. Every time I wash with it, I remember that day, how liberating yet terrifying it felt to be alone in the shower; how the exhilarating scent of my brand new coconut lime glycerin soap overtook the bathroom; how heavy and milk-laden my breasts felt when I got out of the shower; that weird, almost electrically charged feeling my breasts got when they were full and I needed to nurse; and the coexisting pain and relief I felt as I nursed my daughter afterward. I remembered it all again today as I looked down at my daughter playing happily in her tub. I ran the soap across my shoulders and arms, breathing in its scent, watching the transparent sliver get smaller and smaller, fading like the days when I nursed my baby. Then it slipped out of my hands and into my daughter’s bath water and dissolved completely.
I crouched down to make sure it had fully dispersed, then I stood up to rinse off. I stood there for some good, long moments, breathing in the scent and remembering, remembering and letting go, letting go and being present, so that I could remember this so very vividly later, savoring, until our shower was over. When I got dressed, for the first time in over a year, I put on one of my pre-pregnancy bras instead of a nursing bra. I gave up. I let go. Well, sort of…the nursing bra is still hanging on my bra rack in my closet. Baby steps.