We walk around other people’s houses, trying to see past their clothes in the closet, beyond their decorating choices to the bones beneath.
I spend my days with little people who barely reach my waist, dressing them and changing diapers, metering their emotions as they range from giddiness to fury, from exhaustion to the first tiny buds of compassion and empathy.
I laid with Olive tonight and rubbed her back until she fell asleep. I traced circles up and down her small spine and replayed in my head every time I have ever nursed her. In the hospital under the guidance of our midwife in those first hazy days after she was born, hours upon hours spent figuring things out on our couch, then as she grew, on buses, trains and airplanes. Beside waterfalls and looking out at the ocean. Mall food courts, the shores of Pigeon Lake, Ontario.
Every single day of her life we had these touchpoints, these small connections where it was just us. Especially when she started walking and running, when the world around her suddenly came within reach these touchpoints were so welcomed. The closeness.
And the last time, yesterday morning.
I really did not expect to feel such an aching sense of loss when I stopped. I lie here with tears streaming and my chest aching too, filled with milk I no longer need.
I have explained things to Olive, and at nap time I told her to say night-night to the milk. Through tears she says “Bye-bye”. I did not expect to feel like this and I cant figure out why, either. It feels silly, somehow.
Haven’t I done what I meant to do? I never had a clear idea of how long I would breastfeed for, I had hoped to make it a year at least. In five months Olive will be 2.
Haven’t I been talking about doing this for months now? Craving my body back, my space, the ability to wear real bras and drink all of the coffee or alcohol I wanted. Wasn’t this the plan?
And yet when I realize we will never have this relationship again, we will never observe these small touchpoints, oh god something breaks.
Silly or not, it breaks.
This is the strangest thing about motherhood. From the moment you conceive you stop being one person and are suddenly split into two. You relish this state, the duality, but in smaller doses you resent it, too.
There is nothing else like being needed in this way – someone being completely reliant on you for their very life. It is immensely gratifying but it also sometimes feels like choking.
You crave being just one person again and the mistake is thinking this moment will come when you deliver the baby. That is just the beginning. And yet the more you push and run and stretch toward this goal of singularity, the more terrifying it becomes.
You rejoice at each small independence, but releasing into it is a battle within yourself every time. It’s a little dance, motherhood . Two steps forward, one step back.
Already I am second guessing myself. Olive is as smart as a whip and so she understands, but I can tell she’s sad, too. There’s a lot of forlorn groping going on around here lately. I feel like I’m being selfish, somehow to take back this piece of myself before she chose to give it up.
If all of this seems melodramatic, please know that it feels that way to me, too. I know some of it is hormones, but as silly as it may be, this is how I am feeling right now. Like I’ve lost something, and also taken something important away from someone I love more than anything.
I never expected this flood of memories and emotion, I never saw it coming. So I lie here blindsided and second guessing myself. Looking forward to a future with less little pauses (and more bras – real bras!)
It’s one more little independence, one more step forward.