Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The left one was bigger.

Breastfeeding my children has been by far what I am most proud of in this lifetime so far.  For those of you who don’t know my story, I’ll offer the short version.  With Calvin, nursing was extremely difficult to the point even a very Boulder “breast is best” lactation consultant shook her head and told me she wouldn’t blame me if I quit.  Later, when I stuck with it and came back to visit her when Kyle was a newborn, she told me that I was the worst case she had ever seen then proceeded to snap some photos of my nipple scars with her iPhone camera.  Nothing like scrolling through your camera roll of grandchildren and pretty scenery and coming across those puppies.  (I am all about education though, so of course I let her.)  With Kyle, nursing came easier at first, but then I started to make A LOT of milk.  At first I was received mostly with, “Wow!  You are so lucky!” and porn star boobs, but soon I realized I was not so lucky after all.  My supply was so robust that it choked my baby, clogged my ducts, and sent me spiraling into more breast infections than I’d like to remember.  And when trying to care for both a toddler and newborn, being out of commission isn’t really an option.  The hard of nursing is part of what makes me consider it among my greatest accomplishments.  My personal choice was to do everything I could to nurse through the challenges, and I am both grateful and proud that I was able to.

When it came to weaning Calvin, I didn’t give it much thought. I was working full time and didn’t have a lot of time to think about my emotions amidst the stack of ungraded essays that grew and grew.  But with Kyle weaning has been a whole different experience.  We started weaning a few months ago when my supply seemed to drop and he needed more fluids than I could provide.  Honestly, that step came with relief because it really freed me from being chained to him or the pump at specific times of day.  We were nursing in the morning and at night, and it seemed perfect for a year-old baby and a mama who was rediscovering the joy of happy hours and yoga classes.  I knew that I’d make the 14-month mark our quitting time because my brain just works that way.  Calvin weaned at 14 months, so logically Kyle would too. 

As 14 months drew near, I genuinely started to feel more ready.  I knew that we were near the end, especially because Kyle, given the choice between a bottle and breast, began to whine and point at the bottle adamantly.  He was ready.  This was right.  Before officially weaning, I decided to honor and celebrate my journey breastfeeding by doing some body henna with the same lovely woman who painted my belly during both pregnancies.  My journey with nursing evoked feelings similar to natural birth, a real connection to the earth and the passing of time, and her art expresses this wonderfully.

I nursed Kyle for the final time on a Monday morning, just the two of us in bed together, me adorned in symbolic henna, him with hair a little too long and a urine-soaked diaper.  I didn’t really know it would be the last time, which was probably for the best.

On Tuesday morning when he woke, I asked Angus to give him a bottle.  I said, “I think we’re done.”  And I rolled over in bed and enjoyed the quiet of the morning alone.

Fully awake, some new thoughts took hold.  This is it.  Is this it?  Wow, this is really it, it.  No more babies to nourish.  No more breastfeeding.  28 months on my resume.  Attachments formed.  Bonds established.  This is it.  And then the tears came.  Heavy at first, the shoulder shaking kind, then slowing to a gentle kind of weep.  I wept for the moment each of my babies emerged from my body, were placed upon my chest, and found my breast without much help.  I wept for the middle-of-the-night feedings with Calvin when Angus and I, young, delirious, and so much in love, made up silly nicknames for our firstborn and snacked on trail mix and chocolate covered pretzels.  I wept for the quiet moments with Kyle, when Angus was taking care of Calvin, and getting to fall asleep next to him in bed after nursing time and time again.  I remembered a long nap in a bedroom in Telluride with the windows open to the cool mountain air.  I wept for the complete adoration of being able to look into the eyes of my babies at my breast and for our closeness.  I wept at the closing of one chapter and the opening of another.  I let the fear seep in and let myself feel the purpose in nursing and wonder what it’d be like without it.  And then I smiled.  I laughed as I remembered the size of my left boob was often double the size of my right.  At the pool last summer, I filled out one side of the bathing suit while the other gaped open.  I laughed at the one time I squirted milk from my breast straight into Calvin’s eyeball and how he squealed.  I smiled at the evolution of my modesty.  Privacy with Calvin; who the hell cares with Kyle.  The image of me nursing for the first time in public, my boob a spectacle for many around us enjoying their brunch still makes me giggle.  Gosh, it’s been quite the ride.

And now, we are done nursing.  Kyle is officially weaned at 14 ½ months.  I am no longer lactating.  My breasts have done their job.  They are scarred and squishy, yet I am so grateful.  Here I am on the other side of nourishing two children staring “never again” in the face and moving toward feeling OK about it.  More than OK.  I am moving to a place of honor, remembrance, and excitement for what’s to come.

This morning when Kyle woke up at 7:20 a.m. cooing in his crib, I made a quick bottle of milk and went in to find him.  In the back of my mind I thought maybe he’d glare at the bottle with angst and pull my tank top down to get to my breast.  What are you thinking woman?!  Gimme the goods!  Instead, cradled in my arms, he happily sucked down the bottle of milk holding it with one hand and moving his other hand over my arm, shirt, his own sleep sack –  the “raking” reflex I am in love with.  After the bottle was empty, he sat up on my lap and looked into my eyes.  Instinctively, I took out my right breast and offered it to him and thought, well if he goes for it, I guess we won’t be done.  He looked right at me and shook his little head back-and-forth.  No, mama, he seemed to say.  Thank you, but I’m good.

1 comment:

  1. Touching post, Keri. Thank you for sharing and good for you for taking the time to feel all the emotions of weaning. I remember those days of wondering if it is the last time to nurse. It's not easy to quit, even if it's been a rough road.