On Sunday, Margaret nursed for the last time. While I have mixed feelings about Mother's Day-- on the one hand, I'm certainly not going to turn down brunch; on the other, I know my family loves me, and it seems kind of strange to have high expectations for one day of demonstrating that-- it does seem somehow significant that Mother's Day was the end of what has been a huge part of motherhood for me.
I've known the end of breastfeeding was coming for awhile, and have felt a little sad about it. For the past four or five months, Margaret just nursed in the morning and evening, and before and after naps. Then, she stopped the before and after naps sessions, and last week, stopped the evening. Since it's been so predictable, I've felt like we might continue for awhile-- it hasn't felt overwhelming, or all-consuming-- just one of the many things we do together. Whereas Julia nursed to solve any problem right until she stopped (at exactly 17 months, just like Margaret), Margaret was always the opposite: if she was too upset, she refused to nurse. She put herself on a schedule, and she stuck to it.
On Saturday morning, with my coffee in hand, we sat down to nurse. Margaret took a few sips, then grabbed my chest, said "uh uh" and scowled at me. "Huh," I said. "It seems like maybe we are done nursing." She wrinkled her nose and laughed. "Okay," I told her. She was so clear that I almost forgot to be sad. She didn't nurse Saturday night, but Sunday morning, she grabbed my shirt, so I went with it. She hasn't asked to since, and I haven't offered. I didn't know that was the last time. I might have snapped a picture if I had.
Yesterday, my first day without nursing, I was sad. I googled "hormones when you stop breastfeeding," and learned that weaning hormones and postpartum hormones are the same. Oh, yes , I thought. Headache: check. Weepy: check. And while I know that hormones are compounding the sadness, this also marks the end of 34 total months of breastfeeding over the past five years.
On Friday, I met a friend's six week-old baby. "How was breastfeeding for you?" She asked. "Oh, great!" I said. "I've been really lucky to have had it go smoothly." When she started to share some challenges, I remembered the early days of feeding Julia. I remembered the awkwardness--how it took countless pillows and four hands (Scott's and mine) to get situated. How I would wonder whether she was getting too much, or enough, and how any mothers managed to ever put on a shirt. It got better quickly, and I was very fortunate to have positive experiences nursing both girls. With Margaret, I think I was nursing her with one hand and preparing meals for Julia while recovering from my c-section within 4 days of giving birth.
Scott and I used to joke that we could make a map of everywhere I had nursed one of the girls. The grocery store parking lot across the street, when Julia was melting down and just couldn't make it home: check. In bathrooms: check. At seemingly every exit between Denver and Silverthorne on our way to the mountains: check. On airplanes, buses, and hunched awkwardly over the car seat: check. I have nursed to comfort, to nourish, to connect. When Julia weaned, I was so worried about whether she would be okay. Would she be too hungry (well, she was infinitely hungrier, but we figured that out)? Most importantly, would we still connect? Would she still know that I was there for her whenever she needed me? I was so relieved when, during those first few days post-weaning, she would reach for me, or climb into my lap. We reassured each other as we found the new normal.
This time around, I know that Margaret will be okay. I know that I will be okay. And while there's a part of me that mourns the end of what it's meant for me to mother a baby, I feel such comfort and pride in the 34 months that I spent sitting on couches, beds, benches, with babies in my arms.