The Rise & Fall of the Boob Civilization
August 20, 2009
AND THEN, on top of everything else, the baby weaned.
It's been a long time coming. It's been a long time happening. It ended this morning, officially, when I finally realized that it is time to stop trying for that Last Chance Nursing Session, Come On, Really? You're Really Done Here? No, You're Not, Take It. TAAAAKE IT.
Yes, it is time to stop doing that. Better now than in kindergarten, when it just gets hella awkward.
The weaning started with a biting phase. A biting phase that started the day he sprouted fangs teeth and ended, oh, THIS MORNING. The biting was unlike anything the books and websites described, and there was no solution offered that ever worked, other than yank 'em off and glare at him tiredly. (My favorite "solution" that I read about involved wagging your finger and sternly saying "No biting!," which never failed to make the little sociopath crack the hell up.) During the worst of it, I got so sick of being bitten -- and bitten HARD -- and so tired of spending every nursing moment clenched up in anticipation of the biting, with my fingers poised for a rapid de-latching that I started giving him a bottle of formula mid-day, just so I could have a break, relax and uncurl my toes. I tried pumping to replace the feeding but found that after the early months of being a veritable milk machine, I could not produce a single drop via the pump.
One bottle eventually turned into two bottles. His appetite for solids ramped up to a level I could not believe. He was slow-ish to sit up and roll over and crawl but when it came to anything food or eating-related he was an off-the-charts prodigy. Fruits, vegetables, meats, finger foods, real foods, sippy cups. He loved it all, and he wanted more. He ate and ate and ate and nursing slowly became relegated to a comfort-only thing. In the morning, before naps, before bed. Sometimes he'd still demand a bottle afterward. My period came back. My supply plummeted, he bit me and pull away in frustration, he was distracted and twisty and kicked me in the c-section scar and I would lie in bed nursing while he stood up, sticking his butt in the air, as if he hoped to walk off with my boob to someplace more interesting. I knew that if I simply stopped offering, he would not notice.
And yet, I could not, would not wean him. I don't know why. I was talking to some other mothers this weekend -- some still nursing, others who had weaned -- about how I knew Ezra was weaning but I couldn't seem to stop trying to get him to nurse one more time, just a little bit, in hopes that it was just a phase. I told them about the biting and the flailing and I saw the looks on their faces and I finally had one of those moments where a hologram of myself floated out of my body to slap me across the face and say ARE YOU LISTENING TO YOURSELF?
And then I went home and tried to nurse him before bed once again.
Perhaps it's because I believed the websites that went on and on about how "highly unusual" it is for a baby to wean before 12 months, and oh, THIS: "when a mother says that her baby self-weaned before a year, there is a chance that she interpreted a normal developmental stage (perhaps combined with her own wishes) as baby's wish to wean." I'll tell you what, this sentence made me vaguely stabby while I was still nursing, and it's not looking any better to me now. You lying liar! You tell lies to make yourself feel better! You lie to cover up your -- gasp! -- OWN WISHES!
My wishes were to nurse for at least a year. At least. Probably longer. Though if you asked me I'd say that I wanted to nurse according to Ezra's wishes, until he didn't want to nurse anymore, within reason. It simply never occurred to me that his wishes could or would be different than mine. Oh, self.
And so I told myself that Ezra wasn't weaning, that the biting was a phase, the distraction was a phase, and all I had to do was hang on for just a little while longer, we could get back to enjoying breastfeeding again. Like we used to. Since I wasn't so sure I enjoyed it now.
I debated leaving him home during BlogHer. To just wean him then and be done with it. But then the thought of coming home and having him turn towards me expectantly and having nothing to give HURT MY SOUL and I packed him up and carted him (and a package of formula) to Chicago.
I debated it again, over our anniversary. And I still couldn't do it and dutifully returned to the hotel room several times a day to pump.
I came home with completely empty breastmilk containers and a baby who did not turn towards me expectantly. I pulled him into our rocking chair and he settled into my arms and sighed and...sucked his thumb. And fell asleep.
That probably should have been it, but I just couldn't...stop. I could occasionally get him to latch for a few minutes and I could hear him swallow and I would think that oh! No! I better stick with it! Just in case! We can do this! We can make it to a year! Two more months, dude. Give me two more months and a nice solid round number and then you can have all the Red Bulls and Coke Zero you want, I swear.
It finally dawned on me a few days ago that Ezra is not just weaning from me. He is weaning from bottles. Also a "highly unusual" thing for a baby under 12 months to do. But he's just not that into them. A few ounces here and there and then he wants to crawl away, leave multiple ounces of liquid money behind to fester in a bottle kicked under the couch. This has possibly unnerved me even more, because kid: I know you have the appetite of a five-year-old and the palate of a 35-year-old, but you still have the nutritional needs of a 10-month-old and YOU NEED YOUR MILKS. Baby cannot live by turkey-sausage-with-kale fettuccine alone! Your...brain! It needs the...DHA and...uh...ARA and whatever!
A few months ago he'd only take a bottle if I wasn't in the house. Now he'll drink formula out of a sippy cup with his meals, and take a bottle only when he's tired. He wants to walk and explore more than anything in the world, and he doesn't want to nurse. He will, if I insist, but I need to stop insisting, to stop waiting for him to make it even MORE CLEAR that he is done, and just accept that he is done.
So. Okay. I will change my Twitter picture and pack away the nursing bras that I haven't worn in ages anyway and the pump that doesn't work for me anymore and I will talk about breastfeeding in the past tense. I am not a nursing mother anymore.
When we moved from the city to the suburbs, I was sad. But I didn't miss the three flights of stairs to our condo and the one bathroom and the tiny kitchen and the roaches and the horrible old windows and the street parking and the tickets and the terrible supermarket that never had anything fresh and how you had to drive 20 minutes to get to a gas station that charged less than $5 a gallon.
But the worst moment was at the DMV, when they asked for my DC license back so they could issue me my new one, my non-DC, boring old giant nondescript state one. A state that I felt no connection to, while that DC license was more than an ID. It was an identity. My identity as a city person. In that moment, it didn't matter about all the less-than-awesome things I no longer had to deal with. My life in the city became glorious and idealized, the best years of my life, a time I still look back on and rhapsodize about how perfect it was and how much I miss it.
Thank you for 10 of the most perfect, healing, powerful and lovely months I've ever known. I will always cherish them, and you.