Friday, March 09, 2007

I think I'm ready to be done with breastfeeding

My breasts are nearing the end of their 12-month lease. I must confess, the lease will not be renewed. I have willingly donated a year to my daughter’s immune system. I have boosted her brain cells (at the expense of my own, no doubt). I have given her the head start to a healthy life that I gave each of my other children. But I can’t wait to be finished. (I would say I’m going to wean my child, but I really hate that word. If I’m weaning her does that mean I’m a weaner? Does that make my baby a weanee?)

I have a friend who breastfeeds her children well into their two’s. My mother (as she tells the now infamous story) nursed her last baby until she was old enough to climb up onto her lap in church, pull open her blouse and say loudly: “taste pease.” (Everybody wave to my little sister Anne, who’s reading this in class instead of paying attention to her Law professor. Don’t blush Anne!). But I, selfishly, just want my body back. Sure, it’s not the body I started with. There are certain, shall we say, downsides to childbirth. But it is still my body even if I’m never again allowed to change its clothes, bathe it or sit it on the toilet with any degree of privacy.

Nora is, and will forever be, my youngest, so I feel a hint of sadness at the thought of ending this phase in her life -- in my life. My husband will also be sorry to see the breastfeeding years end, though for different reasons. But there’s one thing I will most definitely not miss about nursing Nora, and that’s the way she turns into A HUMAN STARFISH whenever I’m feeding her. Let me describe this for you. She takes her free arm, straightens it perpendicular to her body, stretches out her hand and then attaches it to my face. She pokes her fingers into any crevice she can reach, usually my eye sockets or my nostrils. While still nursing away, eyes closed, she uses her hand to feel her way around the contours of my face and then thwack it frenetically, like a Helen Keller of the baby world. Often, she cleans my teeth for me with her fingernails and then grabs onto my lower jaw and yanks it up and down. I am reduced to a Howdy Doody doll with mammary glands.

I’ve tried trapping her arm under my shirt but she just pokes it out the top. Really, my only recourse is to bend her elbow, tuck her arm against her body and hold onto her hand the whole time she’s nursing. This means I can’t read or talk on the phone or work on the computer like I did when she was a newborn. Now, a few times a day, for several minutes while I feed her, I am totally captive. I suspect Nora knows this and has simply found the perfect way to make me drop everything, cuddle with her, and give her my complete, undivided attention. I need to make sure I find time to do this even after I’ve stopped nursing her.

Mary Cassatt, Young Mother Nursing her Child

Most likely, a few months from now, I’ll look back nostalgically on the whole breastfeeding process. And even further down the line, I may imagine that nursing never hurt and never led to awkward moments in public places and never ever caused me to wake up soaked in milk. I will only remember the closeness I felt to my babies. Who knows, maybe I’ll even have forgotten Nora’s facial treatments and envision myself holding her peacefully, looking down into her eyes and enjoying the moment -- both of us satisfied we are getting all that we need.

30 comments:

Kimberly said...

That was alternately laugh out loud funny and just plain sweet.

From a mother who never lastest more than six months - my undying respect.

How ironic is it that Becca just brought me her empty sippy cup, wanting milk? Tee hee! I'm having such a giggly day.

BooMama said...

Weaner.

Hee hee.

Weaner.

:-)

An Ordinary Mom said...

Oh the sacrifices we give to raise these children of ours - being weaners, losing privacy, getting soaked in the middle of the night, and being the facial playground for infant exploratory devlopment. At least when we are old and senile we really will just remember the pleasantries.

Very "fluid" post :)!!

scribbit said...

You'll think I'm World's Worst Mother but I felt so strongly about getting sick of not having my own body back that I decided to bottle feed my youngest. Totally selfish I know. But that's what I did and I loved it.

I'm so bad. I'll probably get pelted with cans of Similac.

Sandra Tayler said...

I am now more than three years post-nursing. I don't miss it. At all. I really enjoyed it at the time. I'm really glad I did it. But I have no desire to do it again. I like not having to share my body. I like having energy to do other things.

Em said...

I never had the wonderful breastfeeding relationship I'd hoped I would have with my children. My goal was to go 12+ months with all of them, but the longest I lasted was 5 months... everything about it overwhelmed me - the pain being the most obvious, and then the desire to have my body back (not for reasons of vanity but for pure sanity)... I think you've done amazingly well to breastfeed all four of your children for 12 months each!

Jenni said...

Hil.Ar.I.Ous. And touching to boot! I'll be really sad when my nursing days are over, but I'll never miss the boob wrangling that goes into it.

I don't know how I got here but I'm glad I did.

Ann Kroeker said...

Every "last" has been so melancholy. The Boy was our last weanee--so appropriate--and even though I never did enjoy nursing, well, just re-read your last poetic paragraph. That was how I felt.

Andrea said...

Gorgeous!! and Funny. I'm imagining the human starfish baby...haha.

Irritable Mother said...

Before having baby #1 I was a size 36C. After nursing baby #3, I became a 34 NEARLY A! (Shrunk a little bit with each one. Lovely.)

I did enjoy nursing, but thought it was soooo cool to leave my shirt tuckind in all day when I was finished.

Loved the weaner/weanee comment, Julie. HA!

compulsive writer said...

I remember feeling like all I did was breastfeed. It felt like 24/7.

But now that all my baby birds are in various stages of declaring their independence from mom and progressing towards leaving the nest, I don't regret a single moment of that pure one-on-one, "I am totally devoted to you!" time.

Not one moment.

Klutzmom said...

You made me laugh, cry and sigh.
The three things I loved about nursing were having a sweet, innocent child so totally dependent on me, not having to worry about bottles and formula, and having an excuse to sit down, cuddle my baby and have a few one-on-one guiltless minutes while the hundred and one duties a young mother has staring at her just sat.
To you mothers who can't nurse, please don't feel any less of a mother. Just be sure you make time for cuddling with and marveling at your little miracle.
Okay, so I'm being a preachy grandma. Maybe I'll do a post on being a weaner.
Love, Mom

Mary-LUE said...

The description of your starfish nurser was wonderful! I can picture it perfectly.

Julie, you are really amazing here with these posts. Excellent writing and such sweet thoughts.

Lynn said...

Your post brought me back to the days when I nursed my kids. Twelve decided she was done at 15 months, Ten decided he was done at 2 years. Knowing that Ten was my last one made me sad. Even with the "starfish" or was it "octopus-like" behavior (he must have grown extra limbs whenever he nursed) I was sad thinking that I would never get to do it again. What helped was that it became very clear that he was done and that made me done. When it's time, it's time. (FYI - I still felt the "let down reflex" up to two years after I stopped nursing.)

Robin said...

I'm here via PEZmama. How is it that this is so sweet and I'm also giggling.

Miscellaneous-Mum said...

Freakish Timing. I've been rattling around in my head a post on this very topic now my boy yesterday turned 1.

Naturally, I don't thin kI could've said it as well as you. And boy do I get the human startfish bit. My boy goes the extra mile and picks my few moles on my neck until they bleed. Thanks, buddy (not)

sarah k. said...

I've been skulking around thinking I'm the only one in the world who doesn't Just Love nursing. My little Kiki is 5 months, and for the past 3 she has used the under-hand (hee, hee) to reach around my waist and scratch my fats. With those razor sharp little baby-nails. It's painful. It's time consuming. The Body is suffering. It takes all my willpower to keep doing it every day. One day I'll be a weaner too.

Heth said...

I've read a whole lot of blog posts about breastfeeding, but this one is in a catagory of it's own. Hilarous Julie, hilarious! That starfish thing is exactly what Gemma did when she nursed.

eve said...

Though I tried my best, my milk dried up at about 5 months with number 2 and three months with number three. I nursed 9 months with my first, so I don't understand my problem. There is something to be said about being able to go on a date with husband fairly quickly.
You have definately done your fair share!

elasticwaistbandlady said...

I weaned my youngest when she got old enough to be potty-trained, make her own sippy cups, and pull up my shirt at the grocery store yelling, "Chi-Chi mama. Chi-Chi!" I lasted nearly three years which made up for the nursing failures of all my other children. So, um, are you sure you don't want Nora hanging off your teats and drawing pictures of them and giving them special names until she's 7? This woman did. All I can say is "Holy Mother Of All Things Mammary!"

The Lazy Organizer said...

Parting was always such sweet sorrow but it's strange that I have never missed it and I never want to do it again.

Have I mentioned that I NEVER WANT TO DO IT AGAIN???

happy mommy said...

I loved nursing all of my babies, as well. All 7 of them.

Still, I wish that to fit my breasts into my bra, I didn't have to FOLD them.

*Heavy sigh*

bubandpie said...

Nursing is one of those thing - like labour - that our bodies remember but our minds don't. At least for me. I can remember all kinds of anecdotes about nursing, but I can't recapture what it felt like - when I try, the whole thing starts to feel kind of improbable.

What I do remember is how good it feels to come out on the other side, to reclaim that bit of my body for my own use.

I popped over here from Mary-LUE's blog today - I'm reading and I'm liking!

Trina said...

Aawww that was a very sweet post. I love the picture that you chose with it, very lovely! I only breastfed Roman for the first five months, and I thought I was being particularly good. It was a difficult for me physically. It was not as NATURAL for me as some. What problem could have arose, did for me....lol.

Thoroughly Mormon Millie said...

I totally relate, honey. Five kids' worth of nursing here. Wanting my body back (I mean, come on, childbearing can't go on forever) is what prompted me to "close the kitchen" for good. And I don't feel a bit selfish. :)

Cakes said...

perfect. just perfect.
thanks.

txmommy said...

Lucy is my last as well, last year she started biting, out of the blue, and wouldn't stop no matter what...so that brought an end to our nursing days. I wasn't quite ready and am a little sad about it.
It is nice to have your body back, to sleep by yourself, to go out and not have to rush home to stop a flood of milk that will come no matter what or how near I actaully was to the babes who needed it.

Those days are sweet:(

Jenni said...

Julie, mind if I add you to my blogroll? Alrightythen.

Sheela said...

another prime example why i keep coming back for more (like i need another!ha!): incredibly funny descriptions and absolutely touching at times. i gave up at 12 months, but, seemed like Baby was ready too... or so i'd like to think. no, she was. or was it just me? well, she needed to be upright or at 60 degrees to nurse and that wasn't terribly easy to do...hmm. *sigh*

The Daring One said...

Ah, the breastfeeding. I love it. I miss it. I too was so glad to be done. Now I want to do it again.