Find something small.
Stay with it.
Give it your heart.
Resonate with it.
Tell it your secrets.
Feel the urge to leave.
Trace its grooves with your fingertip.
Find its secret scent of earth and salt.
Allow your tear to drip onto its surface.
Laugh, but do not leave, not just yet.
Realize the terror in adoring something tiny and tender.
Whisper to it that which you know is certain.
Pull your hand back and continue to find the energy pulsating.
Find something small.
Give it your heart.
Do it again.
Do it over.
I’ve often described your birthday as a national holiday in the country of motherhood, because it feels huge and spectacular.
The story of your birth is like a legend to me. I tell it often, and although it may bore others after the 47th time, it is always magical to me. I remember how it felt to walk the neighborhood with amniotic fluid dripping down my legs, surprised at how it didn’t stop flowing. It was the first of many surprises motherhood would bring my way.
Tonight, on the eve of your birthday, I told you about how when a mama is pregnant, the baby floats in a sack of waters, and how sometimes when the waters break, it means baby is on the way.
“That’s so weird sounding,” you said. “Water breaking.” You walked off to play legos, unimpressed.
I labored for 22 hours with you. Most of it was very peaceful. Since my contractions didn’t start on their own after my water broke (an expression which forever after will sound weird to me), I had to be induced. The artificial chemicals caused me a lot of pain. I was tired and I could tell people started to worry that I would end up with a C-Section (that’s another lesson for another day). I begged for an epidural, and within an hour of getting it, was fully dilated and ready to push you out.
I pushed for a little over two hours. It was two of the most focused, intense hours of my life. It seemed like just minutes. It seemed like I was deep inside of my own body, with you, helping you to find your way out of me.
You came out squished, with your head elongated and cone-shaped from being in my birth canal for so long, but as I grabbed you, snatched you to my chest, I sobbed, “He’s so beautiful,” over and over and over.
I couldn’t imagine ever feeling anything other than mystical love and adoration of you.
I couldn’t imagine that I would be so tired and so hopelessly depressed with post partum hormones that I would want to leave you on the steps of the church across the street, or sell you on the internet. I couldn’t imagine how hard it would be to leave you at daycare when I went back to work, how I cried until my face looked deformed, how I felt like an incomplete person to be apart from you.
I couldn’t imagine how you would test every nerve in my psyche with your strong will and fierce independence. I couldn’t imagine how you would make me swell with laughter and pride when you made your first smile, took your first steps, or made your first jokes.
Nothing could have prepared me for your otherworldly wisdom, your past life regressions, and your fiery temper. No one could have warned me how scary it would be and how much I would worry about your heart and soul.
I had no clue you would become so tall so quickly. That you would be a brown belt in karate. That you would be fascinated by science. That you would be such a picky eater. That you would be so incredibly sensitive.
I had no clue how much you would be like me, and how much that would challenge and frighten me every day.
I had not an inkling how hard it would be to be a mom, to be YOUR mom, to juggle everything we would both need and want.
You came to the bare skin of my chest that August night wired with your own personality, your unique intensity, your distinct weight and volume in the universe. I’ve tried to shape and help you, and I always will. But I have also learned to respect that you are your own. For as much as I will always love you, you do not belong to me. And maybe that is the scariest part of being a mom.
Before bed tonight, I hugged you close, felt the solidity of you in my arms. I didn’t tell you that a part of me wanted to cry, wanted to go out and shake all the bats from the trees in the summer night with my wailing. I just held you and patted you and felt how different and new you feel in my arms as you grow.
And I think that’s the thing.
I think that’s the part that makes me want to cry– every time I embrace you, you are a new person and it is like the first time I ever clutched you to my breast, weeping for your beauty. It’s a mixture of joy and sorrow that is every bit as strange and individual as you are, my son.
So here’s to your ninth birthday. The last year you will spend in single digits. Here’s to hugs and legos, starbursts and peanut butter sandwiches. Here’s to Doritos and learning to canoe, swimming with friends and Harry Potter.
Here’s to you. Here’s to you and me, even on days when it is kind of hard and when we both feel frustrated and scared.
Happy birthday, Sunny Boy.
I love you,
A while back, I mused about what would become of my breasts when I was done nursing my youngest of my two children, Emily.
Emily weaned completely about six months ago, shortly after her fourth birthday.
Weaning had been a very long process for us that took close to two years, as Emily slowed her nursing sessions to twice per day, and then only to once per day either in the morning or before bed.
I had wanted weaning to be a gradual and mutual decision. I didn’t want it to be traumatic for either of us. The beginning of my nursing relationship with Emily had been very traumatic as I suffered extreme nipple damage and had to really fight to keep my supply and the nursing relationship between my baby and myself.
Initially, I felt robbed of the “perfect” nursing experience with my daughter. I’d had tons of struggles and antenatal depression with my first child, and had ended up needing to supplement with formula with him.
Although I am beyond thankful that all was well that ended well with my son, when I was pregnant with Em, I was really committed to the idea of exclusively nursing. I felt certain that I had been better educated on breastfeeding due to the trial and error with my son, and that everything would go off without a hitch.
My confidence was shattered shortly after Emily’s birth when my nipples became mangled as a result of her tongue tie. For 11 weeks, I battled a nipple wound that would not heal. Finally we got things sorted out, but my supply never got back to what it needed to be to be able to pump milk for her to have upon my return to my job at 12 weeks after her birth.
I took a huge amount of comfort in the fact that she continued to nurse whenever she was with me, and that she almost always refused the bottle at daycare and then would reverse cycle all night with me. Sure I was tired, but I was thrilled that we were not having to supplement with very much formula, and that Emily was such a champion nurser.
Eventually, I accepted that while our relationship was not what I could label “perfect” from the get go, it ended up being pretty amazing and sweet.
And it endured much longer than I thought it would.
My son had weaned completely at 23 months. Like I said, we’d had to supplement him with formula, but he continued to nurse first thing in the morning with me until one morning he woke up, asked for milk in a cup and that was that.
I don’t remember having any truly intense feelings related to this weaning. Sure it was bittersweet, but it was not devastating in any way. And as a first-time mom, I was thrilled I’d been able to milk it out to nearly two years (pun intended!).
I had figured Em would wean around the same time. But she didn’t. She turned two and then three and still loved her milky cuddles with mama. Around the time she turned three, we started talking about what it would be like for her to not nurse anymore. Long story longer, she went another whole year and was still occasionally nursing when she turned four.
Then she stopped.
It was so gradual. It was almost unnoticeable.
To be honest with you, I don’t really think about it all that often.
Until I do think about it and then it is difficult to stop thinking about it.
A client came to my office with her toddler a while back. The child grew fussy, and she surprised me by offering him her breast, which he eagerly took and settled right down. It was absolutely the most natural and graceful thing to watch. I told her how thrilled I was that she was nursing her toddler, but the image stayed with me throughout the day and into the night along with a feeling of deep sorrow.
It had been the first time I’d seen a mom nursing since I weaned Emily.
And this is going to sound crazy, but I felt an actual physical sensation in my breasts like I used to feel when my milk let down. But it was different. It was like the shadow of that let down sensation, and I felt bereft. It was like my boobs actually felt sad.
When you are bonding and nursing with a new baby, your body creates oxytocin which is the chemical that signals the need to produce milk. It also creates a drowsy, sweet, loving feeling between you and your baby, which for me also extended to the world at large.
So, when I saw this mom nursing, it was like I got a surge of oxytocin but there was no milk and no baby to nurse. I went home and felt the need to give Emily and Jack extra cuddles.
I think about how I am no longer nursing at other weird times too. Like when I went to the pharmacy and was browsing the antacids and realized that I could take alka-seltzer again. It used to be my go-to remedy before pregnancy and nursing, but it has aspirin in it so you can’t use it during the aforementioned times. So I purchased it with a mix of hey-this-is-awesome and hey-this-is-super-sad.
I’m bummed about weaning in a lot of ways. It makes me sad to not have that connection with another human any longer. It is a reminder that children grow so quickly and things change faster than you can ever imagine. I also blame the ten pound weight gain on weaning, as well as some of my hormonal shifts and mood swings. . . although I realize those should be well regulated by now.
There is no going backwards in life.
And as I continue marching forward, I am having trouble trying to figure out what to do with these floppy appendages that seem to be a permanent DDD cup size now and give me back and neck pain. They are like an accessory that has gone out of style, only I can’t pack them away into the back of my closet or toss them in the junk drawer.
Once upon a time, they were pert and pretty. They attracted people and were objects of potential sexual pleasure. Then I had kids and they became vehicles of nurturance and nutrition.
About a week after I had Jack, I developed a urinary tract infection and went to a doctor. She was excited to hear that I was breastfeeding and shared that she had nursed her kids and it had been a great experience for her.
“But your breasts are ruined for sex forever,” She had mused. “They become like these tube socks with golf balls at the end.”
Well. . .
I guess mine are more like balloons with permanently erect, frozen peas at the end, so her very lucid description was a bit off there. But she was right about one thing– my boobs are of no use for my sex life anymore. There is a cognitive dissonance that these soft things that Emily still likes to pat and rub her face on could be used for anything other than bringing comfort to my babies.
So, I guess it is a blessing my husband is an ass man. Anyway, I digress. . .
Six months after weaning Emily, and I am still wondering what will become of my breasts now that I am done nursing. I’m trying to figure out how I feel about them, and what to do about the sense of sadness and loss.
At the end of the day I am very proud and content with the nursing relationships I had with both Emily and Jack. They were conflicted and diverse, but they were filled with love. Even as my boobs feel sad that it isn’t something I’ll ever share again with another human, I am grateful for the experiences I did have breastfeeding.
What was your weaning experience like? Did you experience any hormonal shifts or depression with weaning? Talk to me in the comments below. I love to hear from you! And please feel free to share my post on social media, or with other nursing/weaning moms in your life. xoxo and momaste!
If you have a husband or partner who really nails it on holidays or birthdays, you may have even sampled some of this thing in the form of a yoga class or massage.
If you are independently wealthy, you may have experienced “free time” by being able to hire a babysitter to stay with your brood while you go do something “just for you.”
If you are like me, and are just trying nonstop to keep your shit together on a moment to moment basis, you likely do not get near enough of time for yourself.
Going grocery shopping sans kinder, or listening to music in the car on my commute to/from work, or emptying my bladder/bowels alone (yeah, right!), is about the closest I get to “me time” these days.
So, when I heard one co-worker complaining to another co-worker that I never made good on the casual (read: extremely casual) offer I made to go out to dinner two years ago, I got a little defensive.
I’m an introvert. There’s been a lot of stuff written about us innies in the past few years, and it has helped me to realize that “down time” is a crucial factor for my well-being. Working as a social worker is a job that requires a shit-ton of extroversion and it is redonkulously exhausting for me. Then I go home and have hugging/dinner/bathing/snuggling/stories/bedtime/all the various and sundry duties of a mama. It is my life, and I try not to complain about it because it is what I chose and I am incredibly blessed in it. But the reality of this amazing life I chose is that it is highly demanding, stressful, and just plain tiring.
Some days it is really hard for me to not look at people who are talking to me and just say to them, “Leave. Me. The. Fuck. Alone.”
I’d kind of like to start a Go Fund Me campaign, but instead of donating money, people could donate units of time for me to just spend as I please. Seriously, I think that is a great idea. It’s right up there with the napping café my husband would like to start for sleep deprived parents who would pay just about anything for a half hour snooze.
I realize that people without children do not like being told that they don’t understand what it is like to have kids. I don’t want to hurt or offend anyone’s feelings here, but my childless friends just don’t get it. It is just soooo hard to get anything done outside of work/children/house/marriage.
It really just isn’t that easy to make plans outside of my home right now. My kids are both still little, and require lots of time and attention. It is really hard to be away from them all week, but then the weekend comes and it is really hard for us to all be together all weekend.
Because I really just want to be left alone. Not forever. Just long enough to catch my breath, blog a bit, and do a few yoga poses.
People, like my disgruntled coworker, will ask why I can’t just leave my kids with the hubz and go out for dinner. Well, it isn’t really that easy. There is a delicate balance. My kids are at stages right now (three and seven) where they need lots of one on one, and they don’t naturally get along that great with one another because they are at such different places developmentally. So there is a lot of “divide and conquer” in our family. Neither my husband or myself really want to be left alone with the children, especially at delicate times of the day, like dinner or bedtime, which is when my footloose and fancy free pals usually want to hang.
I don’t mean to be bitchy, but it makes me feel all annoyed that people want to make additional demands on my already precious time. That’s another part of being an introvert for me; it makes me nutty when I feel I am not living up to what people want from me. I mean, I haven’t made time to go out with my best friend in the past two years. Mercifully, she also has two small ones and understands my plight without judgment.
So, if you happen to have a friend who is an overworked mama, cut her some slack, especially if she is an introvert. She likely is not avoiding your invitations and is just struggling to carve out a little time to keep her sanity.
In the mean time, if you happen to have some secret stash of “free time” that you would like to share with me, I will be accepting donations.