Saturday, October 3, 2009

the end of an era

Breastfeeding saved my life as a new mom. It really did. As difficult as it was at the beginning (I remember googling My baby is three weeks old and I hate breastfeeding because it hurt and of course, it kept me on feeding duty virtually 24/7), it became my link to mommy-confidence. You see, to me it seemed like everyone else knew what they were doing with a newborn except for me. Someone else always had the answer to why she was crying: she's hot/cold/hungry/gassy/tired/overstimulated/needs a bath!/needs some fresh air/she misses the womb (okay that last one no one ever said but a new mom can get kind of paranoid) and then someone else always seemed better fit to try to soothe my baby. I was really intimidated and my confidence-level was at zero. But I quickly realized my saving grace: no one else had my milk. And slowly, painfully, I got through those first months and started to tentatively develop an identity as a mom. A breast-feeding mom. It was that one constant that always worked, and as the months flew by, sealed an ever-growing bond between her and me.

Well the one-year mark came and flew by and I knew that we could stop breastfeeding. She quickly became a pro at not only the sippy-cup but the regular cup and even was using straws to our amusement. But she had not given up the breast. Other moms bemoaned "My one-year old is still using a bottle". I'd smile..."Mine's still on the breast" implying that not to worry, each kid has his or her "thing". Hey, babies and toddlers need comfort one way or another, right? Well here we are now at 16 months, and she shows no signs of wanting to stop. I know it's up to me, I must start putting limits such as "mommy's milk is only _________ (in the morning/before nap time and/or before bed--something like that) and I must take hold of this weaning process that will inevitably take some time. I have cried and moaned and said "how will I ever be able to wean this child? All she wants is my milk". But then yesterday in the car I had a revelation. She sat contentedly in her car seat, drinking her sippy cup of milk after a play date. In that moment she looked so big, so independent, and I knew. The ache in my heart was palpable. She will be ready to wean in a matter of months. She really will (in spite of the jokes that have been made... "she'll be coming home after a date to nurse". Yeah, yeah). Then she'll forget all about mommy's milk. In fact, it won't even be on her memory radar screen through the rest of toddler-hood.

But I won't forget. And I will grieve. And I will miss the incredible bond we shared. But I must let her move on. I must let this go in its time. It is the great lesson of parenthood that must be learned in increments, lest the pain be too much when they take that final step into adulthood.

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