Just a few short weeks ago, my sweet little baby boy turned two years old.
And within that same week, said sweet little baby boy slept the entire night through and stirred not a single, solitary time. When the morning broke, he fully awakened and made no move to nurse.
Overnight, he had weaned.
As if a simple flip of a switch had been hit.
As if the night prior he hadn’t just been pawing at my chest, eagerly suckling like he hadn’t fed in days; the double cheeseburger and French fries he had devoured only a few hours past now but a flimsy wisp of a dream.
As if he hadn’t pinned me the entire night, relegating me to the far corner of the bed, tiny droplets of liquid gold dangling the creases of his mouth, pouty lips lazily parted in a hazy stage of sleep.
As if his sharp reaction never occurred the moment when I oh so gingerly (but oh so foolishly) repositioned my aching limbs, spiraling him into a furious head toss, him madly rooting and re-clamping, a frenzied howl voicing his displeasure at such audaciousness in daring to disturb his comfort.
As if I hadn’t tacitly acquiesced to his will, quietly returning to the bend of his heated, diminutive form; breathing in snippets of lavender and talc from the soft folds of his neck, my fingers gently grazing the tight, wiry curls of his crown.
As if, though numb from the unchanged supine position in which I stiffly laid, I hadn’t nevertheless slipped into slumber anew, the persistent tug of his latch notwithstanding; the silky chub of his limbs draped over my neck, five tiny fingers sleepily stroking the line of my face.
And in the cloak of that night, when the earnestness of his desperate clutch gave me temporary pause to wonder if he might not ever cease nursing, our two-year breastfeeding journey unforeseeably came to an end.
From the beginning, I had promised not to rush it. It had already been too arduous a road to get here. We fought so hard to reach 6 months, nearly gave up at 9 months, and desperately clawed our way to 12 months, the point at which, after all the struggles endured, I had imagined we would give ourselves a pat on the back and finally put it to an end, goal achieved. But then, despite a willful and welcome release in my mind to simply live and let go, we unaffectedly continued to soldier on… and on.
The only goal I had ever even hoped to make in the first place was to the one year mark. And in that, we far surpassed, going further and longer than I had ever dreamed or imagined. We came this far baby, why stop now? I had never intended to nurse a toddler but, in knowing that he was to be the last… the last to fill my womb and fill me with delight with every move and kick, the last that I would physically, literally hold next to my beating heart inside, the last that I would ever birth, the last that I would ever nurse, the last that would lock into my eyes and caress my face with sweet cherub hands while I sustained him with the life coursing through my veins…the last everything… well, to that, the answer became increasingly clear…yes, Baby, for you, we can absolutely do this just a little bit longer.
But now, we have reached the end of the road.
And finally…I can breathe! To now have my body back to myself, to once again be the master of my own physical domain! To not be at the beck and call of a voracious little being who cares little for my time and next to none for my modesty! So yes, Baby, if you are done then sweet relief, so be it!
How I had forgotten what it would be like, the grief I would feel in those first days when you would continue your refusal but production would still continue as well. Standing undressed before the mirror, overcome with emotion at the sight and feel of my swollen, leaking glands. Tears gliding down my cheeks and falling father still, a salty, milky fusion swirling down a loose stomach marked with pinked fleshy lines, those physical badges to permanently remind me of the beautiful lives I’ve grown from inside.
Days later, the sobs that wracked the entire length of my body, the grief felt even more, when I stood again in the same spot, squeezed…and nothing came.
My natural superpower to sustain life already gone.
But already, life goes on.
It has been a few weeks now. Small vestiges of remembrance seem to remain. Every so often, right in the middle of his most intense toy-playing, he will suddenly halt his tracks, as if the thought just occurred to him, walk over to me, lift my shirt and just stare. As if he simply just needed reassurance that they were still there. On occasion he will find it giggle-worthy to attempt a slight latch, look up at me and grin, and then immediately pop off and walk away. At his older siblings’ bedtime, while me, sister, and brother took turns reading, the routine used to be that he would curl in my lap, move my shirt and nurse while sticking his toes out on the pages of our book. Now, at the first flip of the cover, he makes a beeline for me and still moves my shirt, but after a moment of contemplation, will choose instead to actually listen to the story from a seat on the couch. All the while, however, leaving me still exposed. And under that condition I must so remain while I read or else he will break into a woeful cry! Only when the book is done am I allowed to reclaim my decency and return the cover of my shirt. And then, when it is his turn for sleep, he finally grants lap cuddles complete with a chubby hand unceremoniously thrust down my shirt to pinch, squeeze, and twiddle while he softly drifts away.
It seems the comfort he seeks will be different now.
But it is still there.
He will always find it in me.