I am about 95% certain that Baby will be our last child.
When I think of never being pregnant again, I feel a bit sad and wistful, but not dramatically so. Overall I enjoyed being pregnant: the excitement, the movement of the baby, growing all round, but I also can’t help but remember the constant worry that everything would turn out OK, the retching every time I brushed my teeth, and the narcoleptic exhaustion. Not being pregnant again is bittersweet, but I think I am ready to move on.
But the thought of never nursing my baby again; I can scarcely even think about it enough to write about. I don’t want to believe it will ever happen, and I really don’t ever want it to. It’s not that I want to be nursing a ten year old, more so, that I don’t really ever want to be out of this phase of my life; it has been the most gratifying experience of my being and when we are done, I will miss it more than words can say. I come from an unbroken maternal line of breastfeeders (my mother nursed all of her three children, her mother nursed all of her five children, and so on). I always knew I would nurse my babies, but I never imagined I would love it this much.
I am one of those mothers for whom breastfeeding came naturally and relatively easily. Through a combination of luck, support, a good working environment and schedule, education, and sheer stubborn determination on my part, I’ve never had to use formula with any of my children. Older latched on within minutes of birth and nursed until I weaned him at just after three years old. I managed (just barely) to keep up my pumping with his appetite while I was working. I nursed Older throughout my pregnancy with Middle and then tandem nursed them both for nine months. Despite being three weeks early Middle was a complete natural at nursing and was my easiest baby to nurse. Much to my surprise Baby was my most challenging nursling. She had a naturally shallow latch and by the time she was a week old I was in excruciating pain every time I nursed her. I vividly remember feeding her in the wee hours of the morning when she was seven days old and fantasizing about giving her a bottle of formula. (This is, by the way, one of the reasons I counsel expectant mothers not to have any formula in the house – even “just in case”. It is too tempting when you are exhausted and in pain. If you really need it, it is easy enough to send someone out to get some). I started to mutter out loud to Husband about maybe needing to use formula and he told me that I would not be happy with myself if we did (true – but damn I wanted that pain to stop) and that we would get me some help. After consultations with my midwife and early morning phone calls and texts to my OB (how great is my OB that I was able to text with her at 5:00 in the morning about nursing problems?) we called in a lactation consultant – paying for her out of pocket – to our house. The hour and half she spent with Baby and I was priceless and with an improved latch the pain receded with in a few days to become a distant memory. At just over two years old Baby is an avid nurser; these days having something of a “nursing Renaissance”. She nurses more or less continuously from whenever she wakes up in the middle of the night until she decides it’s time to wake up. She nurses to sleep for her nap, falling into a deep milk coma. She wakes up cranky from her nap and so I offer her “a little na-na”. Awhile back she shook her head “no” when I offered her a “little na-na” and then countered me by saying “Big na-na!” delightedly signing “big” and then “nurse” the whole time. Before having a baby I had no idea that it was possible for a baby to smile and nurse at the same time, but it certainly is. Sometimes there’s a little pre-dinner appetizer nurse. And finally there is a long nurse before bedtime. She asks politely to switch sides by singing “ah whey” (“other way”). Sometimes she hums when she nurses (usually Ba Ba black sheep) and she often gets a case of the giggles as we stare at each other. We’re so happy together in those moments; Baby grinning with milk dribbling out of the corner of her mouth, me holding her chunky self knowing that for the most part, it is me that has put all that baby fat on her.
After Baby was born we took a long time before cutting the umbilical cord, perhaps half an hour. As she lay on my chest, I was surprised that as the cord was severed I felt a deep pang of sadness fire through my body. We were forevermore separated. As long as Baby is still nursing, it feels a bit like we are still one person, in tune with one another. Even when I can’t see her, I know intuitively when she is hungry or tired or awake. We are connected by an invisible, but no less real, tether. As the holiday season winds down my thoughts turned to next Christmas. I imagined Baby at three years old and I expect that she’ll naturally be nursing a lot less; slowing weaning herself, just as it should be. This is the last chance I will ever get to have this kind of relationship with my children and I am going to try to savor every moment of it.