Saturday, November 29, 2014

Hallmark Truths

The baby is sleeping. The house mutters the sounds of evening. My husband's slightly dirty feet are propped tiredly on the couch. The dogs wander aimlessly and settle in heaps of quiet. I sip my wine.



The dishwasher is half loaded. The family room is strewn with dog bones, train tracks, tiny loafers, and a miniature radio flyer. A giant teddy bear slumps in defeat next to some building blocks and a soccer ball. Tissues that were used to wipe a tiny nose sit in a discarded pile screaming to be thrown away.

I wonder if I should get up. Clean something. Straighten something. Have a meaningful conversation with my husband for the first time all day. Pet my dogs who are brushed aside in importance by a ball of running, laughing, demanding toddler. I contemplate opening a second bottle of wine. The dregs of the week-old bottle on the kitchen counter aren't quite satisfying enough.

I picture a Hallmark aisle of greeting cards. My imaginary hands open a pastel card. Italic letters say, "My Life is Full." I have no idea where this image comes from. What kind of greeting card would this be? But the cheesy, sappy words float through my head all day long.

I sit in my backyard, watching the leaves in the sunlight. My eyes are eased by the brilliant green grass and the patches of lavendar across stone. I take a sip of my coffee. Then I jump up, remembering. I chase this little being across the grass. Rescuing him from a million life-threatening "almosts." I corral the dogs in their puppyhood. I try to be creative with my son, when I really just want to read a book without interruption. I think, My Life is Full.

It's dinner time. I try to feed him healthy, delicious food and fail miserably and give him graham crackers and cheese. I eat my own food without tasting it and remember three hour meals where each bite is savored and discussed. I am amazed by his tiny hand balancing food on a tiny spoon. I catch my husband's eye. We don't really talk to each other. After the meal, I rinse the tray and think about dirty dishes. My Life is Full.

Bedtime. Little hands. Little mouth. Touching. Sucking. Entwined with me. I am mixed with overwhelming love and a burst of tenderness and the desire to escape into a moment of separation. I sing, I soothe him. I sit in the darkness and touch his hair. I want to scream in exasperation at the unfairness of mothers whose babies go to sleep without an hour long ordeal. He sleeps. I sit with him for a few more minutes. Just because. My Life is Full.

And now here I sit. I think I will open up that new bottle of wine. There is a tiny shovel sitting next to me, incongruous on the living room carpet, speckled with bits of sand. The room smells thick. That soccer ball, the one next to the teddy bear? He kicked it around the house today while we followed in amazement. And so, I am tired. But. My mental greeting card got it right. My Life is So Goddamn Full.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The "Art" of Weaning

Nursing. Breastfeeding. Feeding your baby from your body.

We got off to a rocky start. I cried. I hated it. I dreaded it. I didn't think I'd make it. But I got through it. (For those of you still in those difficult first weeks, I wrote a post about the things that helped me in the beginning). After I made it through the first six weeks, I set my goal at a year. But inwardly I knew I'd be ok with going only six months. At six months, I laughed at the idea of stopping right when we had a beautiful rhythm and I was in love with the ease and simplicity of breastfeeding (as a stay at home those of you who pump, I applaud you!). So I confirmed that I would breastfeed for a year. Then I would take a year off to "have my body back," before planning the second pregnancy.

Great. Wonderful. Now here we are. I have a one-year-old who still nurses day and night. It's time...right?

I'm going back to work for just two days a week. Whether I want to think about it or not, even those two days a week bring up the clear question of weaning. Weaning your baby is such a complicated thing. The meaning it has for each mother is intimate and unique to her. In fact, I'd go as far as to say it's private and should not be questioned. The why behind your choice to wean belongs to you. So, then, why do I not know my own feelings on this?

I used to crave the moment when I would have my "body back to myself." I always used that phrase. Like there was some part of my body I had given up. I don't feel that way anymore. Instead I feel that when I wean I am giving up a part of my body that is connected to him. A shared part of me.

But the coincidence of this with me going back to work is symbolic. Because being a stay at home mom has changed me. When I wrote a post about the Old Me, there was some wistfulness and yearning for that person. Have I simply buried her? Does she deserve a voice in this too? If I wean him, will I have a whiff of the old freedom that came with being a separate individual?

As always, I am a "middle ground" kinda girl. My plan in this is to night-wean sometime in the next month (yes, we co-sleep and he still nurses through the night) and to continue following his lead during the day. Already he is decreasing his day nursing to the point that my breasts are full and painful by the end of the day. He usually nurses before nap and before bedtime and maybe once in the late afternoon. Am I okay with that amount for another...six months? Another year? Maybe.

But then I think about our trip planned to Paso and Napa this January and I wonder, "Do I want to do that trip as a nursing mom? Where I weigh every drop of wine against my analytical, guilty conscience? Or do I want to do that trip as a separated person?"

I know at this stage that whatever choice I make will be okay for him. Is it good for him to continue getting breastmilk in the second year? Sure. But is it necessary? No, not really. He'll be fine physically and emotionally if I wean him. So then, this decision is not a rational one, but a relational, emotional decision. It's about me. It's about him. It's about us.

As I re-read this post all I see are rational, analytical words. Wasted words. Because I'm no closer to knowing what I want. So. I guess we will just see where this next stage takes us. And slowly, oh so slowly, begin to separate.

Any advice? Thoughts? When did you wean? What is your nursing goal? What will be your goal?