The day has finally come. The end is here. And for weeks leading up to this moment, I have been all but clutching on, giving the old addicts’ excuses for why today should not be the day. How maybe tomorrow will be more optimal for our situation. Extending reasons of closure. Or my son’s health. Or convenience. Or even no real reason at all – just “because.”
Unlike most true addictions, though, I am not stopping because I have a medical or psychological necessity. No one is forcing me. And, if I didn’t follow through with it, there wouldn’t be any negative consequences. Quite the opposite, in fact. I’m sure I could keep going on with things as they are for years to come – possibly even another decade, if I lived in some random hippie-cult. Yet, as charming as that sounds, I don’t and I won’t. So, I am quitting today. Because it is time. I know it is. And, like it or not, I must do it.
What I’m talking about, of course, is weaning. Ending the breastfeeding relationship with my son. Or, in other words, cutting the milk cord.
There is a bright side to this era of change. In my moments of weakness, I try to focus on these otherwise-missed details. I will rejoice in the notion that my breasts and body will once again be mine. I can now consume caffeine, chocolate and cabbage with wild abandon (but, I probably won’t)! I can scrub my nipples with as much soapy water as I desire (though I doubt there will be a need for this)! My days as a spigot, randomly oozing and leaking on my favorite shirts, will be a thing of the past (yet, unfortunately my bladder will still betray me)! Nursing bras, breast-pumps and feeding schedules will be no more (they will instead be replaced with support bras, mammograms and picky eating)!
Yes, we are turning over a new leaf! But, ever the pessimist, I find it easy to allow uncertainty to set in. What if we won’t be this close ever again?, I wonder. What if my breast milk was the only shield keeping him from getting sick?, I fear. What if I’m making an irreversible mistake that I can’t ever change?, I plead.
The truth is, at 14-months, I have done all I need to do. I have given him quite a gift. And nothing can ever take that away. But still, no mother’s list of adventures would be complete without a guilt trip or two. Or three.
As I shed a few small tears, I conveniently forget about the wretched nursing strikes, the times I have been bitten, or the uncomfortable engorgement, let-down, clogged ducts, or wet bed-sheets. Instead, I remember how it felt to hold a small, floppy newborn in the crook of my arm and hear that sweet “chug, chug” sound as he gulped down my colostrum. I cling to the memories of his tiny hands, excelling in their dexterity, reaching and pulling at my shirt while in his favorite position. Or that soft patch of skin behind his ears that I would stroke as he ate. And the way his eyes would look glazed over and languid, so satisfied with my offering that he seemed at perfect peace.
Now, with him walking around, eating people food, and coming up with ideas of his own, he will certainly start to travel in circles further and further from my reach. He will transition from being my baby to being my kid, someday taking that leap from childhood to adulthood, and then from there into the oblivion of old age. I shudder.
The sentimentality of these things is stifling, I admit. But, if I want to be completely earnest, there is still another layer of my pondering that should be noted. Something whose loss will make me sad. So very sad.
As I push the Boppy deeper into the dark recesses of my closet, I sigh. I am all-too-aware that when I quit this breastfeeding journey, I will also have to quit something else I enjoy: reading. Not to say that I can’t still do it. It’s just the matter of practicality. And time. And the fact that there are scant moments during my day that will be calm enough or quiet enough to foster a suitable environment.
As proverbial lemons turn into lemonade, it seems nursing’s greatest challenge turned into a remarkably wonderful situation for me. Because my baby was so picky about his surroundings, he would only be breastfed in a dark, quiet room away from all noise and distractions. As a result, we would lock ourselves away from the world for countless minutes, several times each day, every single day, for as many months. In the beginning, I remember it feeling like an intrusion on my time. An interruption. A partition between us and the rest of the family. However, soon enough (almost as soon as I received a Nook for my birthday) that time started to feel like a mini vacation.
Basking in the words of others, I managed to complete more books in fourteen months than I had in the past decade. I finished the entire collection of musings by David Sedaris. I read about Malala and her struggle for girls’ education in Pakistan. I consumed the silly plots of World War Z and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter like they were candy. I polished off a murder mystery or two, along with some nameless trash novels. And then there was Anne Frank’s diary. And The Canterbury Tales. And that beautiful epitaph Sonali Deraniyagala wrote for those she lost in 2004’s tsunami.
I read so many wonderful books! And they each felt like little friends who kept me sane during times that otherwise would have overwhelmed me. But now they, too, will be gone. Perhaps, not literally. They will still exist on my hard-drive, floating around digitally in the clouds above us. Or on some nondescript server, embedded in a flurry of 1’s and 0’s. But, metaphorically, they will be gone. And with it, all sense of calm that once remained a calculated part of my day.
Suddenly, as this reality sets in, the fears hit me even stronger. Only this time, they are different fears. What if I never get to read another book again?, I wonder. What if I never get another quiet moment to myself?, I fear. What if I could have just one more peaceful day?, I plead. After all, quitting is for sissies. And hippies aren’t so bad! Maybe I will just finish weaning him after this last chapter… Or book…