Monday, July 25, 2016

My Nursling No More (Part 2)

As of this weekend, E.J. and I have ended our breastfeeding relationship. I no longer have a little nursling.

As I did with Ellie, I struggled a bit with my decision to stop. It's hard to let go of something so dear, such nice quiet times with an otherwise crazy toddler. Ultimately, I decided this was the right time for me to move forward.

My nursing experience with E.J. was very relaxed. We really didn't have any troubles whatsoever, with the exception of one clogged duct while I was staying with him in the hospital during his meningitis treatment. Other than that, it was smooth sailing. With Ellie, I set one year as my big goal for how long I wanted to nurse, and figured I'd keep going after that if it was still working for both of us. As soon as we hit the one-year mark I was filled with pride and a feeling of accomplishment. With E.J., the milestone didn't even occur to me—it all went so smoothly, I never really bothered to set a goal. When I realized how long it had been, of course I felt proud, but the thought of when to stop was never on my mind.

I suppose the only other struggle I really had with nursing E.J. was worrying about his weight. When he was a baby, he just wasn't gaining weight and there was early talk of "failure to thrive." I was instructed to nurse very regularly and also supplement with formula. Frankly, that was a blow to my confidence—was I not giving him what he needed? Why was I insufficient this time? But, E.J. refused the formula so he and I just kept on keeping on, and now we're out of those woods. He's still an itty bitty thing, but if you spend a half an hour with his crazy, active self, there is no question that he is thriving.

I nursed Ellie for 21 months. When she and I stopped, I was pregnant with E.J. and it had become very uncomfortable for me. I also wanted to have a few months "off" before nursing my new baby. So, the time felt right.

In a way, I am lucky that I had a similar experience with E.J., minus the pregnancy part. My stance on when to stop breastfeeding was always "we'll keep going as long as it is working for both of us." However, for the past few months I seemed to have developed a sort of nursing aversion. It didn't hurt, but it wasn't the relaxing experience it always was for me. It was just sort of irritating (physically). Frankly, it just wasn't working for me anymore. I'm not sure what caused that shift, and part of me wishes it wouldn't have happened so I could have enjoyed my last few months of nursing E.J., while the other part of me is grateful that my discomfort made it easier for me to decide to stop. It started when I was already very near the two-year mark, so I pushed through to E.J.'s second birthday, and then we started working on dropping one of the two nursing sessions earlier this month.

Then, on my birthday, I nursed him for the last time before bed. I told him it would be our last time for milk, because he is a big boy now. I told him how much I loved him and how much I loved being able to give him milk for so long. We rocked and nursed and I stared down at him, this big boy now with limbs hanging over the arms of the chair, where once all pieces of him used to fit into a snug little ball against my belly. When we finished nursing, I sang to him and he threw his arm around my neck, pulling my cheek down against his, and squeezed me tight as I sang. What a precious ending to a beautiful thing. My dear boy.

Unfortunately, our transition out of the nursing routine so far has not been as peaceful and sweet as it was with Ellie. Of course, E.J. is also charging headfirst into the "terrible twos," and he basically doesn't want anything right now. So, he doesn't really want to rock, cuddle and sing with me in place of the nursing, but he also doesn't not want to do those things, so we've been off to a bit of a rocky non-nursing start. We'll figure out our new normal soon, though, I'm sure.

So that's it for me. My decision to stop nursing E.J. was especially hard because I know there is a very good chance that he is my last baby. It seems so surreal that this "baby" stage of my life could be over already. It just went so fast. Didn't it? It felt so slow in the moment but now it feels like it was just so fast. I got pregnant with Ellie in early July of 2011, and she was born in March 2012. I nursed her until January 2014, when she was 21 months old and I was four months pregnant with E.J. He was born in July 2014, and I nursed him until late July 2016. So, I have been pregnant/and or nursing for over five straight years without a break. For five straight years, my body has nourished at least one other person at all times. For five straight years, my body has belonged to my babies. That sounds like such a long time but somehow I blinked, and it passed me by. While it does feel freeing to have my body back to myself again, can I really be done with it that nursing baby phase so soon?

As soon as E.J. was born, we picked up breastfeeding like we'd been doing it together forever. It gave me a sense of purpose as I sat helpless by his hospital bedside day and night for two weeks as he was treated for meningitis. It gave me some extra peaceful moments with him in the middle of the night, when our usually crazy house was quiet and still. It gave me a few minutes of one-on-one time with him before we got Ellie up in the mornings. I nursed him on airplanes, in parks, at national monuments, and as I walked around Disney World. I loved being able to share that bond with my son and I will always think back on my nursing years with love and fondness.

I am so lucky to have been able to nurse both my babies for as long as I did. I know it doesn't come easy to a lot of women and I am so grateful that we had such an easy go of it. I will forever cherish my memories of nursing both my babies. They are so precious to me.

Nursing E.J., February 2016

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