Last night, Fern plops down next to me in bed, hands me a book and says, “I’m not going to do nummy num. I’m just going to sit right here and you can read me a book.”
The tactic of child-led weaning is an approach that has kept me in a perpetual state of crossed fingers. Like, I really hope this works, but I also suspect I may have to eventually install a barbed-wire fence around my chest to keep her at bay. There are lots of stories with the shock factor of Mother Still Breastfeeds her 8 Year Old Child! and I’ve been the recipient of the snide remark, “You still going to do that when she’s 16?” . Then there’s my mama friends, who report back from the trenches about desperate deals made in the back alley of night-time, “We won’t do milkies tonight and tomorrow morning I’ll let you eat an entire chocolate cake.”
Nursing a toddler (and just nursing in general!) is still uncommon in this country, as illustrated by the disproportionate debate caused by that Time Magazine cover. After working with children for 13 years, and then studying child development, letting Fern complete the gestalt of her need to breastfeed, for nutritional and emotional needs, is an idea that just made sense to me.
But my experience with breastfeeding was not easy, and I often wondered through pain, tears and her low weight gain, “Where is my glorious mothering experience?”. Like many of the attachment parenting principles that we employed, it did not create the miraculous easy babyhood that was promised.
Eventually though, those techniques DID work. We didn’t sleep train and we walked her down to sleep until she was nearly two and I lost enough Zzz’s to shorten my life expectency…but then one day she just rolled over after story time and fell asleep on her own. About four months ago, I woke in the morning with a start, wondering what was wrong…and then realized that the unfamiliar feeling I was experiencing was the result of a full night’s rest.
I wore my baby, we co-slept, I stayed at home and I just kept hoping that it would all come out in the wash. Because you don’t know…many of these techniques are like putting money in stocks and hoping you get a big pay out. Attachment parenting is not convenient…as a matter of fact, in my experience, it is a giant pain in the ass that requires constant readjustment of my expectations and desires, demanding that I work out all my demons, pronto. I haven’t followed Dr. Sears to the T either, instead turning to my inner advisor, Queen Intuition and her lackey, the Heart. Sounds like I’m a warrior, and maybe I am, but honestly I’ve been a little bit scared that I might just be a misguided fuck-up, experimenting on the future.
So you would think then, that the tapering off of daytime nursing and Fern’s proclamation last night would have parted the clouds and brought out the hallelujah chorus. Instead, it broke my heart and I had to snuffle my way through storytime. With every word of the story, I read into our future, and suddenly my daughter IS sixteen, and not only does she not want to nurse, she also wishes MOM would just disappear. I think back to the last time we did nummy nums, the night before, and realize I hadn’t been paying enough attention. If I had known it was going to be the last time…
With not needing Mom so much and always on the go, I am noticing a deficit in the amount of Perfect Baby Scent Snarfing that I have been able to inhale off the top of her head and my arms are wondering what to do with themselves, without anybody in them. For the last three years, I have been intimately attuned to Baby, weaving a web so I can always catch what she might need at any given moment. What she seems to need right now, is to be let go. It is cause for celebration, the development of a healthy, independent, securely attached child. It’s why I’ve followed my intuition, why I’ve made the choices I’ve made.
But it’s a cheap trick, that investment. There IS a big pay out at the end…in bittersweet coins. It’s the child that gets to keep most of it. As it should be.
Always my path through motherhood reveals itself as labrynthine, and just you wait…I’ll be eating these words after she tries to drag my boob out at the playground today. And you know what? I really don’t mind.
Just now Jeff opened the door to grab clean undies and a dress for the day. Fern came bouncing in and ran to me, announcing, I just wanted to hug you. I need my mommy.
Fern my love, I will always be here.