My Fresh Hell
Life in Scribbletown.

Got Milk?

2005-12-12

A very happy chapter in my life is coming to an end. It won't be long before my career as a breastfeeder will be over for good. It is an understatement to say that I'll miss breast feeding. Dusty gave it up, all of a sudden, at about 18 months of age. It had been part of her bedtime ritual: we'd read books, I'd nurse her, and then put her to bed. One night, we just forgot. And that was that. She had her pacifier (she called it a "by") and she was content. She no longer needed being nursed. She no longer asked to nurse. She just….grew up. She still needed ME, just not in that way.

I was sad but knew there would one day be another opportunity. When Red came along, it was one of the things I looked forward to the most. Babies have their rewards, their good points, but one of the biggest is that I could once again provide mine with exactly the right nutrition – for free. Not only that, but nursing gave me a chance to slow down, to sit and enjoy my babies in the moment while they were at their best. This was especially important since I've always worked full-time. There are few things nicer than being able to give a child exactly what she needs, when she wants it, and to see that contentment as she latches on. Red's eyes would roll up into her head in ecstasy, she'd relax and grab my shirt, working the material between her finger and thumb. Sometimes, she'd pat my chest with her chubby hand or pull on a hunk of my hair. We had our nice moments together and I didn't have to do anything else during that time except nurse her and read a book. Last year I read 62 books. This year, I'm stalled at 42. Which, I guess is still impressive but also reflects that many fewer nursing moments. Especially since I'm back in the office full time now.

Red was such a devoted breast baby, so hopelessly addicted to breast milk, it took a lot longer to wean her to a sippy cup than I'd expected. She was not ready to give it up at her first birthday and, while she enjoyed soy milk, there was nothing so good as mommy's breast. In her mouth. Which is now FULL of teeth (her mouth, that is). I didn't push, though the societal pressure was there.

And, she was such a vigorous nurser, I lost a lot of weight in the bargain. Normally, since grad school, I've weighed about 130-135. I wore a size 12 and was perfectly happy. Now? 18 months later? 116 lbs and a size 6. Yeah, no kidding. Too bad I can't afford a new wardrobe. But, I'm not supposed to complain about losing weight, am I? So I'll shut up. I will also say (add to the TMI file) that I had no periods from the time I found out I was pregnant with Red (Sept '03) until this summer (July '05). THAT is sweet.

Needless to say, Red and I had a good thing going. I wanted it to last as long as possible. I didn't care if I ended up being THAT woman you sometimes see nursing a pre-schooler at the mall. The one getting all the dirty looks from nosey parkers. Because I knew this was it. Red was my last child and I would never again have the experience of nursing a baby until she fell asleep, of typing with one hand because the other was wrapped around the baby, of turning over in the night and feeling a little hand search for me, find me, and wrap her mouth around my nipple. It's really such a nice feeling, so right, that it's the kind of thing that's better experienced than explained. It was a whole part of motherhood I had no idea even existed until I got pregnant with Dusty.

I will miss sitting outside on a warm spring day nursing a baby. Sitting in a public place nursing a baby and daring strangers to say something. No one ever did. Despite some really appalling behavior I've read about directed toward nursing mothers, I never got anything but kind smiles – mostly from other women who'd been where I was. Looking back, I'm sure those smiles had a good dose of nostalgic yearning behind them that I couldn't have known about then.

I know all about it now. And, we're not even done, Red and I. Not quite yet. But, it's coming. Last night, while I tried to nurse Red before putting her to sleep, she wasn't interested. Not interested! She kept giggling and making silly faces, pointing at my nose and back at hers (she's learning "nose" and "mouth" and "eye."). Granted, we were in front of the television (it was the Survivor finale! Cut me a break!) and she likes the damn tv. But, usually, she falls asleep during these nursing sessions, television or no. She's so into it, her eyes are closed within minutes and she's transported to her special baby place and slowly falls into a milk stupor. Last night, not so much.

There are times when I wish I could have another child just so I could nurse it (don't tell my husband!). I've even considered looking into a side-line career as a wet nurse or providing milk for a breast milk bank. But, alas, I've waited too long, it's mostly dried up now. What a shame. It's nice to have my body back, to not have a 15-pound appendage bound to me anymore, to be at someone's constant beck and call – in the physical sense, I'll miss it just the same. As of today, I've spent a total of 3 years of my life nursing babies. We'll see how long Red'll last. Maybe if I glue Green Bear's fur to my chest she'll stick with it for a couple more months. I'll let you know how that goes.

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1:52 p.m. ::
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