Saturday, May 28, 2016

Mourning the End of Breastfeeding

I breastfed E for 26 months. It's been only a few weeks, and I don't even remember the exact date. One day she asked, I said no, she fussed about it for a bit but didn't cry or insist. And that was it. I had breastfed for the last time and I didn't even know.

In hindsight, I suppose I did know, because the last feed was different from all the feeds that came before it. In the last one, it was me and her, sitting in our nursing chair lit by the blue-green from her nightlight - both only as old as she is. As we've sat hundreds of times, the only ones awake in the quiet nighttime house, she lost in thought, and me, staring at her, willing at her to be the person I know in my bones she is.

In the last feed, she watched me closely, something she rarely does. She always liked to unfocus a little, puzzle out her world while the repetitive motions of her mouth made her verdant brain, process the individual tendrils of life. She may notice me once in a while, giggle when I pull a face or make a funny noise, but for the most part, we did our own things while we nursed.

I remember being disappointed early on in our nursing relationship. I imagined mother and baby would nurse, each staring lovingly into the other's eyes (now that I think about it, it sounds positively pervy.). But E was a thinker. She was probably figuring out her philosophy of life, and I figured I'd use that time to figure out mine. In her first year, I read classic and early modern fiction. In the second, novels set in a dystopian future. When famished, we each reached for our source of sustenance.

The book reading kept me sane for what has generally been two years of teaching a young human how to human. It also taught me a little bit about human-ing. It taught me to understand that life's hard, no matter how old you are, what your background is. Everyone's going through some bittersweet stuff. The least you can do is treat people like you know that they're going through shit, and you don't want to be one more thing that adds to the shit that is in their lives.

In the last feed, not only was she studying me with her eyes, her long arms reached past my face and she ran her fingers through my hair, her hands clasping my neck as she felt her way over all the parts of my body she couldn't even reach a few years ago.

I remember her batting away at my face when she was a few months old, and I would think that's a funny thing for her to do but now I know that she was always trying to reach for my face, to stroke it, to play with me. Play the little game where she would poke my face with a tiny finger and giggle when I pretend to gobble it up. The games came so much later that I never had the chance to know what it was until it stopped.

She gave up her naptime feeds for reading books. So we still cuddle on the erstwhile nursing but now reading chair, and read a few books. Once the books are done, she fusses and reaches for a hug. But we both know that we need to fix the fussing with a hug and an extended cuddle. So we hug for a bit, until she warns me, that this is the "last" and spends another second hugging me before cheerfully lying down in her crib.

Every day, the 'last' hug is a millisecond shorter than it was the day before. What can no longer be fixed with a quiet nursing session, must be fixed with a hug. What will replace the hug?

I do miss breastfeeding my little baby but I'm fortunate that I got those quiet moments with my baby for two whole years. Until the day she realised she was no longer a baby.  

2 comments:

  1. This is so beautifully written it made me tear up! Well done!

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  2. This is so beautifully written it made me tear up! Well done!

    ReplyDelete