By Erin Barrette Goodman
Web Exclusive, December 14, 2007
You nursed for the final time on Saturday. It was the middle of the day and we were at the YMCA, tucked in our special corner, as the rest of the world, and your brother Quinn chased by Nana, whirled by around us. As we snuggled in our quiet spot, where we have nursed so many times before, I didn’t know it would be the last time we would do so.
I’m so grateful that I did not rush you but joyfully savored the special bond that we have shared for almost three years now.
Nursing did not come easy for us. Your birth was beautiful, peaceful and natural. Nursing, however, was anything but. Several nurses, our midwife and a lactation consultant tried to help us. They grabbed my breast and squeezed it and pushed it into your tiny mouth but you just couldn’t latch on to my deeply inverted nipples. Eventually—after much frustration and many tears—they gave me shields to wear and you were able to latch on with those. I still remember how it felt the first time you latched and drew my breast, shield and all, into your mouth. I sobbed with joy.
We nursed with the shields, which we lost many times in our bed and my clothes, for about three months. At that point you were bigger and stronger and were able to draw my nipples out on your own.
I loved nursing you and we nursed everywhere—sitting on benches, under trees, at the mall, in the sling while grocery shopping, in restaurants, in parking lots, at concerts, and in church. Nursing has been, by far, my favorite part of being your mother.
I thought I would nurse you for at least two years, but Papa and I also wanted you to have a sibling close in age. I never stopped to think about how nursing and pregnancy would work—or not work—I just kept nursing you because it felt right.
There were definitely times during the pregnancy that I thought about weaning and we had to make some changes. When my nipples became sore we shortened our nursing sessions by singing songs and counting down, and we gave up night-nursing because my body was just too tired.
Looking back I now see that the end of night-nursing was a beautiful beginning—the time when your relationship with Papa grew to a new level. You learned that his snuggles, stories and songs could comfort you as together you created new nighttime rituals, different, but no less sacred than those that you and I shared. As my belly grew, nursing became a bit awkward. We tried new positions like standing or sitting side-by-side, but your favorite was draped over my big belly, wrapping your body around our baby.
When I went into labor, you were there and we nursed several times. In fact it was nursing you at the restaurant near the hospital that kicked my labor into high gear and sent Papa and I dashing to the car. You followed along with Nana, Grandpa and Aunt Jill and we nursed several more times in the hospital waiting room, the hallway, and a hard squeaky rocking chair—each time sending a surge of energy through my body, bringing our baby closer.
When Quinn was born, Papa gently lifted you, heavy with sleep, out of Nana’s arms and brought you to meet your brother. You eyes widened as you took in this incredible reality. Within seconds you latched on to nurse while you stared intently at your new baby brother and up at me. It was absolutely magical. In the weeks and months after the birth, I had many different emotions about nursing you. (I should mention that you stopped eating all food and only wanted ?monnie? milk.)
I was often exhausted and overwhelmed and thought I made a mistake by not weaning you during the pregnancy when everyone assumed I would. But once again, we found our way. Slowly, we created a new rhythm that worked for both of us and nursing you became a joy again.
In the past year I have nursed you before your brother, after you brother, while chasing your brother, and alongside your brother.
As Quinn has gotten older you and he have started to be silly and play while you are nursing together. You hold hands and Quinn likes to tug at your hair. Sometimes you forget and start laughing—accidentally biting your mama. Ouch! Recently I have started to feel increased resistance to nursing you. These feeling have been painful and confusing for me, but the more I journal and listen to my heart, I am comforted. I know that weaning, like so many life transitions, is another beginning disguised as an ending.
You are almost three and overflowing with your own ideas and sense of self. In the last several months you started using the potty and in the coming months you will start nursery school.
It has started to feel to me like nursing is holding you back as you teeter between the worlds of toddlerhood and childhood. You are having more frequent tantrums and difficulty sleeping and I feel in my heart that weaning is the best thing for both of us.
Last week I set the intention to wean by your third birthday, which is in two months.
I also wrote affirmations to help me with the process?
There are infinite, creative ways to meet Lily’s physical and emotional needs.
I am grateful for the nursing relationship that we have shared.
I honor the messages my body is sending. I am listening and responding.
…and as it always does, the Universe responded.
Friday night you asked to sleep at Nana and Grandpa’s house. When I came to pick you up early the next morning you were so happy to see me, as I was to see you, but for the first time ever, you didn’t ask to nurse the second I walked in the door. I felt a rush of relief and a surge of excitement for both of us as you told me about sleeping in Nana and Grandpa’s bed, and making French toast for breakfast.
Later when you asked to nurse at the YMCA, I was able to do so with joy and love, without hesitation, knowing that our nursing relationship was now in the hands of the Universe. I barely even noticed you twiddling your favorite mole, the one under my left arm, in the softest, most sensitive skin—the very act that has almost sent me over the edge so many times before when I was overtired and touched out.
Saturday night Aunt Jill slept over and snuggled you and Quinn to bed so you didn’t ask to nurse, and in the morning, rushing downstairs to climb in bed with your Auntie was more exciting than nursing.
By Sunday afternoon, I realized what was happening. My intentions were being answered—much more quickly that I expected but in the way that was just right for both of us.
In the past week both of us have cried tears of sadness and discomfort (many are flowing while I write this to you) and there have been plenty of awkward moments as we find our way. But there is also a deep sense of peace, knowing that while the form of the Divine energy flowing between us will continually change as our relationship evolves, it will forever flow.
I love you so much and I am so grateful that you chose me to be your mother.
Erin Barrette Goodman is freelance writer, yoga teacher and founder of the Rhode Island Birth Network (www.ribirth.net). She lives with her husband and two children in Southern Rhode Island.