Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Qualifying Done

It's been almost a year since I published anything here. In the meantime, I've gone through two (2!) acquisitions, seen friends through several weddings, mourned the loss of a family member, traveled to France, and camped in the mountains. Margie started school, and Will and I both started new jobs. Lots of change. It's telling, I think, that my last blog post was a tentative declaration of the end of pumping - after a very busy year with no blogging, I've finally come back to this space to tentatively declare the end of nursing.

It's funny to feel like "done" needs a qualification. I'm constantly finding myself saying that "I think" we're done with nursing, though if I'm honest with myself, I don't intend to nurse Margie again. Which...wow. I've never typed that or said it out loud definitively. It stings a little. It brings tears to my eyes to think that she will never nurse again, but that's the likely truth.

I had always said that when she could ask for it in complete sentences, I would be ready to wean her. And if that hadn't happened yet, I'd revisit our nursing situation around her 2nd birthday (which, ahem, is in 2 days). Even though she's had sentences for a few months, she was still saying "leche mama" or "want milk" when she wanted to nurse...which...technically, not sentences. I told myself we had a little while longer. But a couple of weeks ago, she said "want milk" and I asked if she wanted me to get some milk in a cup. She looked me straight in the eye and said, in perfect deadpan, "want milk from mommy's nipple."

That about froze me in my tracks. No question about it; this girl knew how to ask for exactly what she wanted. Nothing like the phrase "milk from mommy's nipple" (which she then used several more times over a few days) to make you question just how free spirited (or something) you are -- I'm not sure what it was about that phrase specifically, but for me, that moment was the confirmation I needed that it was time for us to stop.

But I was scared. Nursing was so hard at first, and it had become such a special way for us to bond, something no one else could do for her. I've been afraid that if I choose to wean her, I'm giving up my one superpower or something. There was also the timing (a convenient cover for my emotional reasons not to wean). I knew that while we're not trying to get pregnant right now, I didn't want to nurse while pregnant, and I didn't want trying to get pregnant to be the reason I stop nursing. I didn't want to wean her before our vacations, or immediately before starting school -- but now that we're a few weeks into school and back from all our travels, the timing felt right. So I waited until it seemed like Margie was ready...which...when she's asking so directly, I felt she was. And I was, too (mostly). We have other ways to bond now, and I'm less worried about my baby not connecting with me (or whatever those complicated feelings belie).

I was really nervous about instigating it myself; I'd hoped she would just gradually lose interest. But she didn't -- not on on her own, anyway. Nursing first thing in the morning and right before bed was our routine, and I think we were both attached to it. Luckily, it only took a small change in our routine (literally, I asked her if she wanted a "story with mommy before stories with daddy" instead of "milk with mommy before stories with daddy" and she happily obliged), but we only had one hard meltdown with hysterical sobs for "milk from mommy's nipple", which happened in the middle of the night when I wouldn't have nursed her anyway (I held back tears while I told her we weren't going to have milk, but that I would rock her). I feel extremely lucky that she's taken to weaning so well. It's been pretty easy for us, as far as routines and navigating changes go. We still have lovely snuggles when we read before bed, and in the morning while "daddy's in da shower! washin' da hair! washin' da tummy! washin' da tushie hahahahahahahaha". She's still super mommy-obsessed, to the point where there are times when I hide in the other room (if she's happily playing and hasn't seen me yet) or plan things where she'll have daddy time without me. It's still great. She's a big kid, but she's still my baby.

It's been pretty rough on my hormones, as expected. It's been about a week since we last nursed, or maybe a little more. Strangely, I can't remember exactly when we last nursed. I think it was before work, on Monday or Tuesday of last week. I guess I'm kind of glad to not know. I didn't want a big dramatic "this is the last time!" nursing session. That would have been too hard for me. I probably would have sobbed through the whole thing and after. It's better this way, probably for both of us. But it's still a little weird. I guess I can have that breastmilk "pearl" necklace made now, as a way to mark the passage of time. I think I care less about it than I did, but I have the frozen milk and I've already paid for it, so I may as well.

Oh yeah, the hormones. The ups and downs have been intense the last few days. Which makes sense, since the body takes a few days to adjust to changes in the nursing routine. My chest sometimes feels tight and heavy, and I can't tell if that's milk trying to letdown and then not letting down, or if it's just hormones raging through my veins, just under the surface, ready to make me cry or dance at the drop of a hat. I notice that I get really, really sad whenever my supply changes (like previous times when Margie would drop a nursing session) - several days of tiny nothing comments sending me into an intense need for solitude and tears. It passes, and I assume this will pass as well. I've heard the end of nursing can wreak havoc on your system; as bad as postpartum depression and PMS and pregnancy mood swings all rolled into one. I'm steeling myself, a bit. Bracing myself for some low lows.

I'm looking forward to the hormones to settle down, and maybe I'll buy myself some new bras in a few weeks (months?) when my breasts return to whatever size they're going to be. And for now I'll just ride the waves as best I can. I don't know that I'll ever be jumping with glee, congratulating myself for being done with nursing (why is it that everyone's response to weaning news is "CONGRATULATIONS!!!" like that's the only/obvious way to feel about it?), but I guess I can be happy for the experience we had, and find ways to be not just comfortable, but glad to be moving on to the next parenting milestones.

Would love to hear other stories of weaning, and life post-nursing, from anyone who wants to share.