I remember the first time that my daughter asked me to nurse. It was a rainy day in late March. Me, baby girl, and big brother were watching a movie and snuggling on the couch.
I heard baby girl start her signature hum. I looked down, and she was pulling on her earlobe. It was almost nap time. Humming + earlobe pulling = she’s tired. I was about to get up to bring her to her room for a nap, when suddenly she turned, pulled at my pink t-shirt, and said, “eat mama, eat.”
For a nanosecond, I literally did not know what to do.
She was only 13-months, and her words were still very new and very adorable. I was distracted by the cuteness and in awe of the fact that she just asked me to nurse.
And then, I heard pre-mom me judging whoever it was that was breastfeeding a toddler back then saying to a friend, “ugh when they’re old enough to ask, it’s time to stop.”
(To all the moms that came before me: nursing moms, formula moms, women struggling to become moms, women who don’t want to be moms and are sick of defending that choice… I see you, please forgive me for the previous judgments, I didn’t get it.)
My eyes welled with tears. I was on the verge of a meltdown.
This couldn’t be it, I wasn’t ready to stop. Nursing was FINALLY easy. I just left my corporate life behind and was no longer that crazy pumping-while-driving mom. I could finally nurse my child in the quiet comfort of my own home.
I nursed her older brother until he was 14-months, I figured I would go at least that long again. Big brother started talking much later than baby sister though, so I was totally caught off guard by this whole, asking me to nurse her thing.
Completely unprepared for our nursing journey to end, I did what felt natural.
I walked down the hall, grabbed the boppy pillow, sat in our rocking chair, pulled up my shirt, and nursed my daughter.
After she was down for her nap, I texted my mom to ask her if it was okay that I continued to nurse, now that the baby was old enough to ask for it. In pure mom fashion, she immediately calmed me down, told me that nothing had changed, and we should nurse as long as we both wanted to.
I had to think about that. Nothing changed?!
And then I realized, since she was an hour old, she always asked to nurse. She didn’t always ask with words, up until that point it had been with cries, but babies ask their moms to eat. It’s what they do.
My mom was right, nothing had changed. My child was hungry, and I could comfort her. This was motherhood.
I exhaled, relieved knowing that I hadn’t broken some unwritten rule of parenting and that we didn’t have to stop nursing yet.
When I was pregnant with big brother, I had every intention of nursing. I say intention because I knew that I wanted to give it a try, but that was as far as it went.
Though I do think that breast milk is magical, my pregnancy taught me how absolutely clueless I was for what we were about to get ourselves into.
I didn’t want to put any added pressure on myself.
What if it hurt too much?
What if I didn’t produce enough milk?
What if the baby didn’t latch?
Isn’t fed best?
What if I didn’t like it?
Then my son was born, and though it took us a few days to hit our stride, I quickly realized how natural nursing felt to me. I was incredibly lucky and didn’t have some of the physical problems that I know many nursing moms have. I survived going back to work, figuring out pumping, and somehow found myself happily nursing him until he was 14-months old.
I never expected to be that mom, but I love that I turned out to be.
When pregnancy two came along, of course, I was going to nurse. Once again, I made sure that I wasn’t going to put too much pressure on myself. Nursing with a toddler could be a totally different experience, not to mention every baby is different, and I wanted to make sure that no matter what happened, that I felt good about it.
Baby girl and I immediately knew what we were doing. And when I say immediately, I mean that girl latched within seconds of being placed on my chest. Once again, I was extraordinarily fortunate to have a beautiful nursing experience. After rocking the nursing, working, and pumping game again, I knew 14-months was in the cards.
And then, that rainy March day came, 13-months in. With the acceptance from my mom, my husband, and most importantly, myself, I was going to keep nursing even though my daughter was old enough to ask for it.
Very quickly, her asking became another thing that I adored about her.
And the months slipped by. Around month 15, I started to wonder how much longer I had in me. I was starting to visualize post-nursing-me.
I started weaning. No more pumping. We were down to once a day nursing, usually, at night, unless she hit me with a surprise “eat mama, eat,” at naptime.
I had “the talk” with my husband, asking him if it was okay to stop, or in other words trying to convince myself it was time by having to explain my logic to him. He reassured me that I had done a great job, and gently asked if it was more about me than it was about her at this point.
We both knew the answer to that question. Of course, it was about me.
This is my last baby, and I am desperately clinging to her infancy. I’m not emotionally prepared to stop nursing.
But, like with all things parenthood, it’s not always our choice when these things happen.
We are now a week shy of month 18, and for the past four days, my daughter has not asked me to eat. She stopped tugging on my shirt.
Instead, she hums, pulls on her earlobe, asks to drink a baba, and is ready for bed after she says “night mama, night,” as tears stream quietly down my cheeks.
And so now, as quickly and beautifully as it began, our nursing journey has abruptly ended.
And now, I am heartbroken.