Do you ever do something very natural and ordinary for a while and suddenly realize one day that what you’ve been doing is actually rather amazing?
My youngest son is 27 months old and recently I decided that it was time to wean him. At his age he was no longer nursing during the day. He nursed at bedtime and also if he happened to wake up in the middle of the night. But when I stopped breastfeeding, I also started looking back and thinking…
I found out I was pregnant with my oldest son in October of 2005. After a fairly uneventful yet still draining pregnancy, I gave birth to my darling Zackary in June. I nursed him for two and a half years. By the end of that time he wasn’t nursing much. He breastfed at bedtime and in the morning and that was it. All the same, my body was still extending its energy on behalf of another human being.
And then one day I started having trouble with the nighttime feedings. My breasts were tender and sore and my hefty son made it much worse when he tried to nurse. A quick pregnancy test confirmed that we had another child on the way. Zackary was weaned shortly after I learned I was pregnant because nursing was just too painful.
In October of 2009, our youngest son was born. For the next two years, he nursed as well. He was clingier than his older brother had been and when I was preparing for the BlissDom Canada 2011 blogging conference in Toronto, he was still nursing at least ten times during the day despite eating regular meals.
I made the decision to cut out all feedings except nighttime ones. He handled it just fine and was able to make it through the three days I was away without a problem. I had the idea that I might just stop nursing then…but his insistence when I returned home won out.
Now for the last four days, my son has not nursed at all. My breasts are in tremendous pain, though the third day was the worst. My son is sleeping fairly well, though he sometimes cries a bit when I put him to bed and don’t nurse him. And I finally, FINALLY have time to do the math.
For the last six years, my body has been nurturing a child. For the last six years, there has been a part of me that is only concerned with ensuring the survival of the human race by ensuring the survival of my boys. Six years is more than half a decade. It represents one-fifth of my entire life up until now. Six years is, no matter how you measure it, a pretty darn long time.
There was no break from this time of being a nurturing mother. There was not even an hour when my body was not working to give sustenance to another.
I no longer have to consider the effects my smallest actions might have on my children. I can swallow an Advil if I have a headache. I can eat the spiciest food I desire. If I have to leave town for a few days, I can do so. And yet I find that weaning my son has left me feeling somewhat empty. I am free and it seems very strange. For so long, my body had a greater purpose. Now it is mine again, and that is both wonderful and tragic.
Of course, there’s not a 100% guarantee that I am done having children, but if I do, it won’t be something I planned. Two delightfully high-energy boys are quite enough for me! So in all likelihood, my body’s days of being a nurturer are over forever. I don’t know if I feel so listless and confused because my body nurtured for so long or if every mother feels this way when she weans her last child. I don’t know if it’s purely an emotional experience or if part of my reaction is a result of my body’s hormones returning to normal for the first time in six years. All I know for sure is that I feel really, really…weird.
I do have one consolation though. While my days of physical nurturing may be over, I know that a mother’s days of emotional nurturing are never done. In the words of Robert Munsch, “As long as I’m living, my babies they’ll be.” And so through my current mood, I continue to remind myself that while my body may be my own once more, my heart will forever be in the hands of my two charming and cheerful little angels. And as every parent knows, there’s no better place for a heart to be.
Now I’m off to ice my boobs.