Four years and six days, and we are finally weaned.
I spent much of the spring conflicted about it. On the one hand, I was so ready. Her demand to nurse every morning, sometimes before I opened my eyes, just seemed the first link in an endless chain of petulant daily requests. I never got thanked. It caused strife between the kids at six-frakking-thirty. It was something that Taxman could never handle, no matter how tired, sick, or cranky I was.
But she seemed so attached. Out of emotional need, jealousy of AM,* OCD-like habituation to routine, or all of the above. (Will she even remember? Will she ever realize what it meant to her? To me?)
So I did back off when things were getting crazy, but at the end of May, as the June boxes on the calendar were being filled in with “last day of school,” “Miss M’s birthday,” “first day of camp,” I plopped the open page in front of her and told her to pick a day. She knows her numbers and probably would have gone for the highest, but the shared days at the end of the month (22/29 and 23/30) probably threw her. She picked June 24th.
I studded the week prior with gentle reminders that her last day to nurse was coming. We made encouraging noises about how big she was, she had her birthday, her family dinner, and her outing with friends. She encountered a small avalanche of gifts and some end of school excitement.
That last morning I had intended to let her nurse as long as she wanted. AM, by the grace of some kindly spirit, was still sleeping in his own bed when she awoke. I stroked her messy curls as we lay together nursing for the last time. But the magic spell had been broken months before. Her latch had become lazy (for her) and uncomfortable (for me); I had never corrected it because she was only nursing for 10-20-30 seconds a day. Only two or three minutes into that final session, I couldn’t take the discomfort any more and counted to 10, our signal to stop.
And it was over.
The next day, I had gone to the gym and was in the shower when she woke up. She asked to nurse; Taxman reminded her of the New World Order. She cried, but she was crying anyway over her scratchy throat and croupy cough.
The day after that, she asked and was again reminded that she had had her last time to nurse on Tuesday. “Oh,” she said, and happily recited what she wanted for breakfast.
Today, she didn’t ask.
Breastfeeding Miss M has been unlike anything else I have done in my life. I was lucky from the start; (over)educated on the mechanics; emotionally and physically supported; blessed with a full-term, capable, nearly textbook nurser and a excessively tolerant partner. It was our rosh pina, our cornerstone and foundation. Nursing into toddlerhood wasn’t necessarily something I anticipated, but as the months marched on it seemed the obvious choice, particularly when we uncovered a dairy sensitivity and removed it from her diet from 11-18 months. AM’s surprise conception didn’t put a damper on things, and I was determined to let her get her full 2 years, if she wanted them. Along the way, there have been boundary negotiations and re-negotiations, gentle pushing and pulling, laughs and tears.
It was sometimes the magic bullet to cure everything. Except my personality. I wish that breastfeeding had made me a better mother, more patient, gentle, and understanding. Less prone to exasperation and yelling. On the other hand–maybe it has. Maybe I would have been less [fill in the blank] without it.
I am relieved that weaning is done, because I’ve been dreading it for so long. Any emotional impact for me has surely been lessened by the fact that not only is AM still nursing, but he also appears to be cutting molars, so no rest for the weary breasts and “Again? You want to nurse again? You just did!”
Will I give him the same opportunity? To age four? I wish I knew. I want to say yes. But I am still so very tired.
* I have to imagine that were it not for him nursing she would have lost interest before–or I would have had more of a justification for stopping her earlier. There have been times in the past two months when she’s skipped a day or two, always when I was already out of bed and busy in the kitchen and he was still asleep when she came padding in to demand breakfast.