In Mourning

19 Jun

Bean Nursing 2 years old“You have any milk you, mama?” she asked me as I rocked forward in the glider to scoop her up in my lap.  Not a request.  Not a whine.  Merely a curiosity.

That had become our routine each bedtime, and I expected her question.  What surprised me was my answer.

“Yes, sweetie.  Mommy has milk for you.  But this is the last time the milk will be there.  When babies get old enough, the mommies stop making milk.  You don’t nurse very much these days, so mommy’s body is almost done making milk.  You can have milk and we can talk about how special it is and we will snuggle, but then we will be all done, okay?”

She nodded in response and leaned in for her pre-nap nurse.  As we rocked, I pressed my nose into her curly hair, breathing in what I imagined to be the last molecules of baby smell.  I traced my fingers down her chubby calves and around her still-tiny feet and she giggled as she mumbled “mommy no tickle me,” without jeopardizing her latch.  I meditated on the weight of her head in the crook of my arm, how the curls tickled my skin and how, even at 30 months, she always found a way to curl her body around mine.

“Mommy’s really sad that the milk is going away,” I told her, “It’s been so special and I love you so much.”

She nursed for maybe 3 minutes, unlatched, and that was it.  The end of an era.

And I am not okay.

I chose my title not as click-bait, to sensationalize, or to diminish anyone’s loss, but to illustrate the depth of mine, because as I fumble in the dark for words to describe the these past 4 days, I keep finding myself awash in grief.

As we go about our day, the tears return at their pleasure.  I move damp laundry from one appliance to another and am transported back to her newborn days when only nursing in the bathroom with the dryer running would soothe her colic.  In the shower, I ponder how long my body will continue to live in denial, still leaking as the hot water hits my breast.  And as I throw her on my hip to carry her through the yard and her hand grazes my collarbone, I find myself aching so much it hurts to breathe.

I feel like I’m losing her.

As I dig vulnerably to search for the source of this pain, I realize this marks the end of her babyhood for me.  And though I expect she and I will fill the void weaning leaves in our relationship in other ways, I wonder if anything will ever really be as intimate as nursing.  For 30 months, our bodies were connected even after she left my womb.  And what began as a time to fulfill her hunger and need for warmth slowly matured into what I can only describe as a wordless conversation – a ritual that sealed our bond.

I didn’t plan on closing this chapter that afternoon.  As I have with my all my daughters’ transitions, I followed my gut, and true to form, Bean is fine.  She continues to ask if I have any milk, and tells me she is sad it is gone – but her inquisition lasts only briefly before she is bouncing in my lap and asking for me to “tell a story about princess Rapunzel and princess Cinderella having tea.”  We weaned ever-so-slowly, and I couldn’t have wished for her to have a better experience letting go.

Behind my sadness lies a feeling of wonderment and awe at what she and I accomplished.  The end was due to come in its time, and when the immediacy of this pain fades into merely bittersweet memories, I expect I will be filled with gratitude, both for our time together and the gentle way in which she grew out of it.

For now, I let the tears fall and try not to wish them away.  For they tell the story of a beautiful journey.



10 Responses to “In Mourning”

  1. tranquilamama June 19, 2014 at 11:51 pm #

    Sending you so much love. Weaning is such an emotional time. Thinking of you.

  2. Jenny Kanevsky June 20, 2014 at 12:03 am #

    Beautifully written. Sending hugs.

  3. Ofra June 20, 2014 at 6:41 am #

    “wordless conversation” Spot on.

  4. Not Just About Wee (@notjustaboutwee) June 20, 2014 at 7:04 am #

    Your words are magical & beautiful. Sending you love & hugs always xoxo

  5. sarah June 20, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

    Great big hugs. I am literally walking this road with you right now. The frequency that baby girl asks for milkies has been diminishing. That last sweet session at bedtime where she didn’t want to go without it, but only just barely latched, as if just checking that I wouldn’t deny her. She was too busy last week, running wild on my parents average, and fast liking into an exhausted child’s sleep at night. She asked 2 nights ago, for what I am certain is the last time. I snuggled her close, held her tight, and 3 seconds later she looked at me with huge be in eyes and said, no milk. She forgot how to latch.

    It wasn’t like this with big sis. I had moments of sadness over it, but baby girl was already growing in my belly. Nursing wasn’t over, just a few months break before it started again. With no pregnancy, and no plans for one, this end feels so much more traumatic. In truth, I know she’s ready. And honestly, I am too, but the depth of emotion here is stunning. For the last 8 years I have been consumed by everything baby, everything pregnancy, and everything surviving this stage. Only now I survived, and I was so busy surviving that I forgot to plan for what comes next.

    • learnedhappiness June 22, 2014 at 6:22 pm #

      Yes. With E, I expected to have another, so when I weaned her at 3 months suddenly, it didn’t sting as much. S is my last. Of that I’m sure. So it’s like a knife to the heart. Each day gets a little easier. I keep hoping tomorrow, it won’t hurt at all.

  6. mentalparent June 25, 2014 at 7:12 pm #

    Sending a lot of love your way. I understand the sadness with losing that connection. My son I could only breastfeed for 2 months, as he was a lazy eater and was losing weight. And I tried double hard with my daughter but only made it 5 months before I had to stop due to my bipolar diagnosis and inclusion of medication not safe for her. ❤ It will be okay ❤

    • learnedhappiness June 25, 2014 at 8:06 pm #

      Thanks. =) It’s getting easier every day (with the exception of last night when she melted down and I knew I had magic powers to make it stop but couldn’t use them). I only nursed my first for 3 months due to milk allergy – so I feel very lucky to have made it so long with S.

      • mentalparent June 25, 2014 at 11:35 pm #

        I always say that I did the best I could and at least I tried. The connection with my children will last forever in my memory, regardless of how long it lasted ❤

  7. Averil Kenny August 13, 2014 at 7:48 pm #

    I feel for you. xx My four year old has recently weaned due to my pregnancy and thankfully that is the only thing that saved me form the heart-aching sadness of weaning my first two children. Gentle days, mama.

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