The TIME magazine cover sure seems to be garnishing a lot of press coverage in the States this week. Also saw a headline that "Alanis Morissette Breastfeeds 16 month old." Imagine! (I'm giving myself away for reading People.com. Again!)
I have about a kazillion thoughts on the subject but can't really tap them all out to you given my hormonal state of affairs. You see, concurrent with our big adventure to Rome, I thought it perhaps was time to wean Baby Sister. That we came home to her acceptance letter from Our Sweet School (for the first-time-ever half day option! Extra hooray!) only confirms it. It is simultaneously all too soon and longer than the others were my bosom buddies. All the stars were aligning for the change. That doesn't mean my heart (and perhaps even worse, hers) is breaking any less. It's been a big week here. So keep it to yourself if you thought my tops were ill-fitting or otherwise wonky in the trip photos. Alright. Go look. We'll be here when you get back.
No matter what you think about if and how long babies and children ought to be breast fed, I suspect you know by now that nursing is a subject very dear to me. Always has been I suppose. I remember being about Big Sister's age when my mother would take copies of "The Womanly Art" to friends and neighbors with newborns. I didn't know or appreciate then how cutting-edge she was. (Nor how considerate she always was to never visit but more than a few minutes with a new family!) About 25 years later I, too would give that book (and advice and related cheerleading) to new mom (and dad) friends.
When Biggest Brother was about a year old and I was thinking to wean him, my own doctor gave me great kudos for having nursed a baby that long and said, "I bet you don't know anyone who has done that!" Au contraire!, I told him and promptly rattled off the names of more than a few relatives and dear friends who'd already done so, and helped me greatly along the way. Some with breast pumps in their offices and against long, exhausting odds. Some who made my snuggling up with Biggest Brother on a nursery rocker with a good book or the newspaper pretty cozy and absolutely simple. Tides were turning and I was buoyed by lots of friends.
So. Now, about eleven years into being either or both pregnant or nursing (minus a few weeks here and there), I hear the very loud turning of a page and the beginning of a new chapter in my life and that of my family. And yes, I did the math. I've now been in that maternal mode longer than a professional one and way longer than an academic one. Who saw that milestone coming? Or going? I would be untruthful to say I'm happy about it all.
To be honest though, most change for me is bittersweet. I almost always cry leaving vacation (the poor Mister!) and have since I can remember. Sentimentally knows my name. But all the same, as I was heard to say tearily over yet another plate of caprese salad in a piazza last weekend, "Just because I'm sad doesn't mean it should keep going."
All this time together has been lovely for the two of us. Baby Sister is healthy, big, strong, contented and bright. I always found nursing to be a comfort to the newly moved, too. All this nursing has been a wonderful trip with our little people, and we're off on a new road now.
So it was with a mild sense of panic that I realized en route to Rome that in the busyness of our packing up, the sitter arriving, and the excitement of the Mister being home Friday morning, that Baby Sister and I never found each other to nurse that day. And now I honestly cannot recall when the last time was that we had that time together on Thursday last week. I told myself over the weekend that was for the best.
I know from having weaned three children that this doesn't end our closeness in any way. Even in a physical sense. Ours are very affectionate people and I missed that about all of them while we were away. I missed their physical presence. The tangible sense of chatting while sitting close together, reading with someone on my lap, stroking still baby soft hair (even on Biggest Brother's head!), and inhaling them. I know that doesn't disappear or even diminish with weaning. I know that we'll continue to be affectionate with each other. I see it in the kids piling on each others' laps when reading, when the boys absently play with Big Sister's hair, when they want to be snuggled.
But still. I found myself reading to Baby Sister tonight with a catch in my voice. With the high pitched emphasis of someone trying not to let a cascade of tears fall and ruin an otherwise exciting explanation of about a dozen different types of dinosaurs. Fortunately, I'd warned the boys (big and small) and Big Sister about why Baby Sister and I might be a bit of out sorts in the days ahead. The smallest two of those boys suggested basically: "S'alright! It's about time for a new baby around here anyway. And maybe this time a little brother?!" Well. No. Not so much. And not just because I'd have to change the blog title.
This whole discussion reminds me of this lovely essay.
I might have already sent it to you. It is one of my favorites. My own Big Sister gave it to me years ago and I give it to every new parent I know. Each time I do, I reread it and pledge anew not to blink. And I don't think I do blink all that terribly much. But like seemingly every stage, in so many ways, it is over all too soon.
And so, not at all unlike a decade ago with infant Biggest Brother newly arrived, when I declared our household a "very moist" one, we're once again in a new place. That place is at times exciting with what is ahead, and also a bit teary. We've done really well so far, Baby Sister and me. Hooray! Think of us. We're turning a page together. It is a graduation of sorts. My eyes are a bit too clouded to throw my cap in the air just yet.
Plus all that effort it is taking me not to blink.
PS: This also (sadly!) ends my ability to comically announce to the Mister, "NOW I really have nursed a baby everywhere!" (As I did while at a beachside shack in St. Kitts, at Palm Sunday Mass at Notre Dame, in the shadow of the Grand Canyon, watching lights illuminate Mount Rushmore, on a double decker bus in London, etc. etc.)