Written by Emily
The End. Finished. Dried up. Good night. Good bye. Done.
But not my girl.
At 15 months she was nursing all through the night–every hour or two, on a good night three. Parenting manuals told me this was not right. What did they know? Except everything but nothing about my girl.
My eyes burned. My skin crawled. She screamed. She writhed. She rolled and thrashed in my arms until I gave in. And I did even though the experts told me not to.
But when I did, her body relaxed. Her mind calmed. She was soothed. She was a marionette at rest; her fear or pain let go of her strings and she fell limp in my lap. At ease.
But not me.
I tightened and tensed and clenched my jaw and waited for it to be over, so I could put her in her crib and get just a few hours of sleep before she summoned me again.
I resented it. At 3 o’clock in the morning I resented her. Me, the mom, I resented my baby. Cue the hailstorm of guilt. Add torrential downpours of biblical proportion since the resentment built over breastfeeding, an act I chose deliberately and with conviction. But time and time again, the ideas I had about parenting were much less complicated and far easier to assert before I had children. I choked down my humble pie in the dark nursery with the sound machine whispering the call of the ocean, gritting my teeth with every swallow.
I wanted breastfeeding to end. I wanted my baby to sleep.
And then she did.
For two days, she slept. She didn’t want to nurse before bed. She didn’t need to nurse through the night. She woke in the morning ready to face the day. No thanks, mom.
I got what I wanted. So I cried. When my husband tried to talk to me about it, I was weepy and snotty and lovely. Because she had nursed so much, my supply increased, and I was in agony: swollen, sore, engorged. A reminder to be careful what I wish for.
Now that it was over I wished I would have savored her profile and parted lips. I wished I would have noticed where her hand rested when it released its white-knuckled fist and each finger opened like little flower petals. I wished I would have committed her legs to memory: were they crossed at the ankles or the knees?
It seems dramatic, I know. But this is the end, after all. I am Finished. Dried up. This is Good night. Good bye. We are Done. having babies.
Three children feels just right to me. During the day, I celebrate every milestone with my three where they can see my genuine smiles. But at night, I flip through my memories of lullabies that used to work, breastfeeding, mispronunciations, favorite toys, special books and so on and so on. I mourn the changes that mean my littles are growing up. And sometimes I cry because time feels overzealous and hasty and desperate.
Sylvie nursed two more times. Enough to soothe my aching chest–literally and not so. And I made sure to notice the curl of her toes and the wisps of her hair. I noticed.
And then I said good-bye.