You will be turning sixteen months old soon. You were just finishing up on a very typical nursing session for a sixteen month old, your eyes had fluttered closed and I had pulled out my cellphone to catch up on some random reading. Ironically as you nursed I came across some very wrong-headed things about breastfeeding past a year. Things written by someone who has clearly never breastfed past a year.
Your eyes popped back open with the first laugh. You were very amused when I started laughing so hard that you bounced up and down. You tried to stick your fingers into my sinuses, I grappled your hands away and so you stuck them in my eyeballs instead. This made me laugh harder. So you bit me. Something you haven’t done in a while, but the perfect timing of the bite made me laugh even harder and we giggled and snickered and snorted and even though you had no clue what I was laughing about your eyes crinkled up with mirth and glee.
Oh if only you know the strange things that others imagine to be a part of our thoughts. A long time ago back when your eldest brother ticked his way past that one year mark, I would not have been so amused. Today I am.
Today I know that I’ve nursed two children through until the weaning time that they chose for themselves, and that I’m nursing you through until the time that you choose as well. And I know beyond any possibility of doubt that the thoughts others imagine for me are so ridiculously wrong-headed that the only rational response is to laugh so hard that I can barely breathe.
Apparently I’m doing this for myself, for selfish reasons.
Don’t get me wrong.. I love breastfeeding you just as I love all of the care giving. Because it’s a part of your being little and I’m in no rush to rush you past this stage of life. But my lack of a rush has nothing to do with my own preferences and everything to do with wanting you to leave each stage behind as you have outgrown it rather than my picking some arbitrary end-date that has nothing to do with you. It is my surrender to the pace of childhood.
Breastfeeding is like anything else. It provides a chance to bond, but it is not bonding. It provides a chance for that rush of love, but it is not a rush of love. It is one of those things that comes moment by moment. Sometimes our eyes meet and there’s this deep connection. Heck, sometimes that happens when I’m changing your diaper and your eyes meet mine moments before you attempt to smear poop on my face. Or sometimes it happens when I’m buckling you into your car seat. Most often it happens during play. I wonder if playing with you is “selfish” too? It is my favorite thing, after all.
You choose to nurse, still. But as you nurse your body is distracted. You’re not interested in eye-gazing or making moments. You’re so dedicated to completing your task and getting back to life. You crawl all over me, bounce your butt in the air and hum while you nurse. You explore everything within reach and experiment with whether putting it all in your mouth will make nursing impossible.
This thing that supposedly I choose because I’m selfish and unwilling to let go of the sweet moments of infancy? It more closely resembles nursing a small litter of howler monkeys with ants in their pants. It’s about constant limit setting surrounding biting, absconding with my nipple as you are still latched on… Limit setting around not giving me a nose bleed with curious jabby fingers, and that eyes are not for poking. Teaching you over and over about gentle hands when your hands are practicing everything that they can do so that you can learn what “gentle” is through the process of elimination.
Do I hate it? Oh no. Absolutely not. I’m amused by it and by the things that you think of doing while you squirm and dance on my lap. I find the randomness to be hilarious and sweet. And sometimes you do settle down and your eyes search mine and you go quiet and serious and there’s a connection that I know I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
But it’s not why I nurse you still. That connection comes in many forms throughout our day.
The selfish things that I desire can fill a different sort of list. A full night of sleep. The ability to sleep in until noon. Finishing a book without interruption. All of the things that will come when you and your brothers are older. All of the things that I will happily put on hold until then.
Not this. This is simply gleeful surrender into the things that make up motherhood. Things that could possibly be unpleasant, but that are so short lived that they can be enjoyed right alongside diaper changes and 3AM baby parties that I would prefer not to RSVP to. Is this a selfish thing of mine? Oh. No. Not this.
I nurse you still because it is a need of yours. Because I understand that there is a natural age of weaning, and that it has not yet come for you. Because I care deeply and have put in the time and research to understand all of the different aspects of breastfeeding. Because I understand that this is healthy, nutritious, and good for your body. Because I know your immune system still hasn’t developed as much as mine and that the longer you nurse the healthier you will stay. I nurse you still because I trust your body to know its needs now in your infancy as I hope that it will as you grow and learn to make healthy choices.
I’m happy to do this, but I don’t do it because it makes me happy. There’s a difference. You and I, we come to this place those many times across the day not because I’m looking for something but because you’re meeting a need of yours. My happiness in these moments is a choice that I make to surrender to these short-lived moments that pass us quickly by.
You, dear daughter.. You’ll wean on your own time and not on mine.
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