It seems that Isaac has weaned. Every so often, I give it one last shot, just to make ABSOLUTELY sure that he has completely and irrevocably sworn off the boob. “Oh, come on,” I’ll say, offering him the breast just one more time. He has humoured me by halfheartedly latching on for a few seconds before squirming away. And then, last week, he took my nipple between thumb and forefinger, inspected my breast carefully, and said, “Ball.” And asked to read Goodnight Moon.
So, we’re done.
Which is fine. I’ve always categorized myself as somewhere in the middle of the spectrum when it comes to breastfeeding mothers. As in, I’m generally of the opinion that breast is best, unless, for a variety of reasons determined by individual mothers — and not, say, formula companies, governments, employers, relatives or doctors — it isn’t. And those reasons? None of my business.
For my part, I’m quite happy to have been able to nurse both kids. It was an immensely satisfying experience on many levels, even if I never felt the need to go to meetings to talk about it or write poetry on the subject. (Kind of like I never felt the need to make a cast of my pregnant belly. Because, really, it’s just not the kind of thing you can throw away in 15 years.)
I’m guessing that Isaac has similar outlook (about the breastfeeding, not the belly cast, about which his opinions remain inscrutable). Unlike his brother, who was quite passionate about them, Isaac has never regarded my breasts as anything much more than an efficient food source. Rowan, on the other hand, nursed for comfort and sleep as much as he did for food. And boy, did he nurse for food. We had a rough start, which I attributed both to our collective inexperience and the fact that my C-sectioned, Demerol-soaked body seemed — deservedly — in no hurry to produce milk right away. Still, we resisted the nurses’ efforts to give him formula, and persevered. Once he got the hang of it, though, Rowan was a champion nurser. In the first six months of his life, we fought for every calorie: I was ravenous constantly, couldn’t eat enough, and was thinner than I’d ever been in my adult life. And thirsty! The second he latched on, my mouth went dry, as though he was sucking the fluid out of my very pores. When he switched to mostly solid foods, I abruptly gained 20 pounds.
I weaned Rowan at 20 months, mostly because I wanted to get pregnant again, and breast-feeding was still messing with my cycle. Rachel took him on a trip to Vancouver Island without me in order to distract him, and when he came back, the milk bar had closed. I got pregnant the next month.
When Isaac came along, I looked forward to another period of Ferocious Eating Without Consequence. Sadly, it never materialized. Oh, my milk came in immediately and he latched on easily — which I attribute at least in part to his eleven-minute-long, drug-free home birth. But, from the get-go, Isaac seemed to eat just enough to take the edge off, and when he wasn’t hungry, he wasn’t particularly interested.
It took me a while to get used to his particular brand of moderation, and to the fact that nursing this time around wasn’t going to be the gastronomic free-for-all I’d been looking forward to for nine months (or, at least once I stopped barfing). For a while, I was convinced he wasn’t eating enough, despite his regular weight gain and constant output. And, for a while, I was convinced I wasn’t eating enough, stuffing my face while waiting for the baby weight to simultaneously, magically, melt away. It did not. After a while, I sulkily succumbed to my own brand of moderation. It’s true: each kid is different. Rats.
And now, again at 20 months, we’re done. No hoopla, no fanfare, no slow winding down, no trips across the country. Just, for the first time in five years, no small being, in utero or ex, relies on my body for nourishment. At least, not literally.
And while I wish I could say that part of me finds this bittersweet, I don’t, really. I don’t lack for physical contact with the kids, who crawl and cuddle and climb over and nudge our bodies constantly. I don’t mind dropping this particular aspect of indispensability — in a thousand other ways, I am still crucial. But the nursing, she is done.
And now, I am going to go get me some kick-ass bras.