It happened last Wednesday night. We were all snuggled in bed, reading our current favorite bedtime story, Harold and the Purple Crayon”, Dex watching with excitement as Harold fell into an ocean, off a cliff, sailed away in a big balloon and drew a city full of windows. His eyes grew heavier and heavier as Harold gradually made his way to his very own window, drew up his covers and dropped off to sleep. We closed the book, said goodnight and gave each other a kiss. He curled up close to me and fell asleep……… and my heart broke into a thousand pieces. It was the very first time he didn’t ask to nurse before falling asleep. I held my breath hoping he would remember, that his eyes would pop open and he’d giggle excitedly as he always does when he asks for his “num nums” but he never did. Tears quietly ran down my face as I laid there and held my boy. My boy who is growing up much much faster than I would like. I told myself it was just a weird night, kept thinking ‘he’ll ask tomorrow…..ok, maybe tonight he will, surely tomorrow he will’. Four days passed and I was still holding my breath wishing and hoping that it wasn’t over. In my heart I knew it was. I knew it that first time he didn’t ask. I had actually felt for the past few weeks that our breastfeeding relationship would soon be over. Nothing in particular had changed but I just had this gut feeling that it wouldn’t be long. I just wasn’t ready for it to be this week. That last night he nursed I was tired and distracted and found myself wishing he would hurry up so I could get some work done. It broke my heart to think THAT would be my last breastfeeding memory. My last memory of a relationship I so deeply cherish and love. Nursing was one of the most beautiful and intimate things I’ve ever experienced and the relationship and bond we formed thru it is indescribable. I still remember how it felt that first time he latched on, minutes after being born and how I gasped in surprise at how strong and forceful the sensation was. How so much power could be in something so tiny and helpless. I remember staring at him in absolute awe and wonder, amazed at how he knew exactly what to do even though I didn’t have a clue. He went from being part of me to his very own little person and every time he nursed it was an extension of that physical and emotional bond. Now that it is gone I’ve lost a piece of him, a piece of me, a piece of us. I was completely devastated and heartbroken that this chapter in our life had closed for good. It affected me more emotionally than I thought it would. I tried to be grateful for what we did have because, in the end, we DID have a beautiful breastfeeding journey together one that, for the most part, came very easily and naturally. I AM incredibly grateful we made it as long as we did and this past 2.5 years is something I’ll cherish forever. I’m grateful he had the opportunity to decide when he was ready emotionally and physically to let go. I’m proud of the independent and strong, healthy and happy, kind and loving little boy that he is becoming, that’s all I could ever really ask for, in fact, it’s more than I imagined.
I had just about come to terms with it and accepted it. Then, this past Sunday night, I received the most special gift. Right before he drifted off to sleep he rolled back over and asked for “num nums” He nursed for a very long time and tucked himself into the crook of my arm like he used to. I caught my breath and thought ok, THIS is it, this is probably THE last time. I snuggled him close and we quietly played with each others fingers, I softly brushed the hair out of his face as he stroked my arm ever so gently with his little hand. In that moment all of the memories of all those quiet moments came flooding back. Memories of him as a chubby little infant, smiling with his eyes while he happily and greedily gorged himself. Memories of pudgy little fingers reaching for my arms and face and softly tugging at my hair. Memories of us gazing at each other, his eyes beaming big and bright, having entire conversations without uttering one word. Hot, happy and grateful tears flooded down my cheeks as I tucked away this moment, this last precious moment with my now lanky, long and sun-kissed toddler. Carefully tucked away so very close to my heart, along with the rest of them. In my heart where I can always find it just as fresh and as real as when I was in the moment itself.
It’s now been two days and he hasn’t asked again. My milk is almost completely dried up and my breasts are the smallest they’ve been in over 3 years…..time to go bra shopping, again 🙁 I would be shocked if he nurses again and if he does there won’t be anything left but that is OK. I’ll always have the memories and was so fortunate to get that extra special last moment. I am so very grateful to have even experienced any of this at all. I’m also incredibly grateful that breastfeeding itself as well as breastfeeding toddlers is gaining popularity and acceptance in this country and that there is so much support and guidance out there for us mamas. I’m grateful for platforms such as this and other forms of social media that help battle existing stigmas and equip us with the knowledge and courage to get the most out of and fully enjoy this relationship. Giving us the courage to embrace it, despite thoughtless comments or the occasional dirty looks and preventing ignorance from robbing us of one of the most beautiful and cherished gifts of motherhood.