Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Mama doesn't have anymore, baby.

We'll go until the trip, then it's time.

It was a promise I made to myself in November and as I made it I felt a relief so pure it made me sick. No more breastfeeding. Briar nursed for 18 months, allowing me two months before Avery's arrival to recuperate. Avery is now just shy of 20 months, the new baby will be here in seventeen weeks. I am loathe to admit defeat or the need for help, often to a fault. And though I am not sure that I am ready, I know that it is time. The last few weeks have been excruciating in their exquisite clarity, the reality of my physical limits tries my soul.

I am raw with mourning and fatigue. My breasts, for so long a source of energy and pride, nourishing two incredible girls, seeing them through from that first tentative suckle amidst scratchy, faded blue bed sheets and gawking nursing students to honey-hued moments carved in moonlight, burn as if in the last mile of a marathon. Whimpers in the night, gentle fingers at my side, and the silky head pushing against me and a whispered, "mowk" all make me cringe. The thought of nursing makes me burn, the sharp darts of pain that shoot from right breast, or the slow-building ache on the left, they radiate even before her lips are upon me. The baby inside turns, not a thrash, but not an easy swirl, either.

Last night as I carried Avery to her room I braced for what I knew was an inevitable milestone. An ending. My bare feet met the soft braided rug, the warm glow of night-lights enveloped us and we swayed together on the eve of a new year. I wanted the moment to go unmarked, just another goodnight, but for all its simplicity and purity, there is an inherent heartache in each moment.

Her little hands squeezed into my back, her head pressed against mine and then tilted, her dark blue eyes bore into me and she whispered, "Mowk," and smiled, as sure that she would nurse as she was that I loved her.

"No, honey. Mama doesn't have any more milk," I held my breath as she looked at me, her eyes searched mine, "No milk?" they seemed to ask. I rocked us side to side, my body oddly rigid, trying to hold us up, and then she laid her head upon my shoulder and twirled my hair against her face. I collapsed inside, relief and sorrow twisting, as her body formed to mine. Hearts beating against one another, she found solace in my arms, something I had hoped for, but had not believed could pass.

I laid her in her crib and cooed as she whispered, "mama" into her sheets. She pulled her knees to her chest and stretched her arms out, one hand clasping her baby doll's neck and the other pressing Cookie Monster into her beloved pink bear. "Mommy?" she called. "Yes, baby," I replied as part of our routine, "Mommy?" and then "Right here, baby." She sighed and declared contentedly, "Mommy."

I crept into the hallway and leaned against the wall, my bare arms pinching as I slid to the floor. I waited, willing her to call for me. Stop me, stop this. We can go back. I waited in silence. The eerie quiet of fresh snowfall rang in my ears, the muted voices of merrymaking downstairs and then the sound of her steady breathing. My forehead sank against the molding and I wept as she fell asleep without me.

I am so proud of her, of us, but the ache I feel on this first morning of a new year, a year without nursing my Avery, is unlike anything I have ever felt before.

I am bereft.

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37 comments:

jen said...

oh wow. this was exquisite in it's sorrow, A. oh, wow. i am almost out of words.

Chaotic Joy said...

Oh Amanda. This brought tears to my eyes. It often becomes apparent to me that my need for my children to need me is greater than their actual need. This was achingly beautiful.

flutter said...

This was beautiful, mama. It's incredible how these connections just strip us bare.

painted maypole said...

oh... hugs to your heart

soon you will have a new baby in those empty arms. as hard as it is now... it would be harder if you waited.

Kerry said...

What a beautiful post. Brings back memories when I was forced to give up b/f w/ my 1st because of some medication I had to go on. I begged and cried with the dr. to no avail.

Randi said...

Oh SO BEAUTIFULLY written. I remember feeling so sad when I decided it was time to stop nursing for us. Oh how I miss it so, and hope and pray that someday I will be able to do it again. There is no words for it really...

Hugs to you, thankfully you get to do this again with your next daughter. What a blessing to give to all your children:)

cce said...

Sorry you are feeling such angst about the ending but I think you should be so pleased with yourself. It is so healthy that it is you having the hard time and not her...that is a wonderful testament to how well loved and stable she feels in your care. Well done, Amanda.

Janet said...

Her ease of letting you go is a testament to what a great job you have done mothering her. That is one secure little girl.

And your words have me sitting here with longing remembrance of the last time. Beautiful.

BetteJo said...

That IS the bright spot, isn't it? You nourished her that way for as long as she needed it and she was ready to let it go gently. So very sweet. Yes, but bittersweet too.

chelle said...

Breathtakingly beautiful post!

Lara said...

i can't even relate, and yet i'm so sad for that moment of loss. wonderful post, lady.

Sam said...

I can relate and remember my last day nursing Sam like it was yesterday. Such a hard day for me.

I am looking forward to nursing our next one on the way. We do have that to look forward to.

BOSSY said...

In a flash that sweetie will be filling out college applications. Sorry, when did Bossy start sounding like an 85-year-old great-grandmother?

Crystal said...

Rest up Momma, there will be tiny one needing you soon.

ree said...

Sweetie, I can't even begin to imagine how you're feeling since breastfeeding was never an option for me, but reading you for the months that I have, I hear, in your writing, how you are feeling.

Hugs Mommy. There will be a new one that you need to take care of soon - and those breasts need to be healthy and pain free.

Cathy said...

What an achingly beautiful post.

I've been there. You described it perfectly.

Amy Y said...

Oh, Mama. I can't even imagine... Glad she did Ok... and you did too. :)

Tuesday Girl said...

What a beautifully sad post.

Colleen said...

Another amazing post. You just bring it all together with the most perfect and lovely words.

Angela said...

Wonderful post, so tender and bittersweet.

Amy said...

Oh what a beautifully heart-wrenching post Amanda. So touching and lovely. Your writing brings tears to my eyes over and over. Thanks for your sharing such lovely, honest moments.

dawn224 said...

oh.. oh... I am undone.

(I say as I am on the floor outside Alex's room, in a war with my little boy.)

Maggie said...

Ooof.

I'm beginning to think life is just a series of breaking our children's hearts over and over again until they're steely enough to face the big bad world without us.

Sorry, no uplifting words from me today. :( Just, as always, empathy.

Kimberly said...

What a beautiful post. I'm sometimes a little alarmed by how important it is to me that my children want and need me. I'm supposed to be helping them become independent and grown, but I so selfishly want them to be my babies forever. This post captures that struggle so perfectly.

Kelly said...

Weaning Lillian at 18 months was emotionally difficult. I had very little milk left, and it was time. So, I feel this, I really do.

But the gift you've given your Avery is forever. That's the amazing thing about the breastfeeding relationship. Long after the last drop, the benefits for both mother and baby endure.

Well done, woman. Well done.

Damselfly said...

Such a piercing time. I am bracing for the time when Fly no longer wants to nurse.

Kristin said...

Amanda, you get me every DAMN time!

I am all a-snivel over here.

Lisa said...

That choked me up - and made me remember those last nursing moments.....so sweet, so sad, so loving....

Occidental Girl said...

It's quite the transition! You captured very well both the good and the bad.

Rachel said...

I am actually reading this with tears in my eyes and milk swelling in my breasts. I'm breastfeeding my last child and this breaks my heart. He's 15 months and I am so not ready for him to stop.
You have an amazing way with imagery and words.
I feel your pain in every word.
Beautiful.

carrie said...

So sad and beautiful. I know this feeling so well . . .

I admire the way your writing moves so many as I sit here with tears running down my cheek. Wow.

The bean-mom said...

I just found you through a link on the page of Ophelia Rising.

This posting took my breath away. Your writing is gorgeous.

the new girl said...

Oh the lump.

In my throat.

My girl is only 7 months but sometimes I am so surprised at how attached I've become to the nursing relationship. I wasn't even sure that I'd be able to do it at all.

This post is perfect.

Magpie said...

Beautiful. I still remember that moment, and it was over a year ago. Thanks for the bittersweet memory.

Cinn said...

that's beautiful. thank you for sharing that intimate moment of your life.

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