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.
Glad you chose to share this.
I would never want to come across like I was telling you not to wean. And I should be upfront about having never weaned anyone all the way yet (kids are about to turn 4 and 2; 4yo nurses once most days, 2yo no more than 3x).
But… If you were nursing a bunch before, you may want to reconsider going cold turkey if only for your boobs. From http://kellymom.com/ages/weaning/considering-weaning/how_weaning_happens/:
“Stopping breastfeeding abruptly, or “cold turkey,” can be very distressing for both mother and baby and can cause plugged ducts, breast infection, or even a breast abscess. Hormone levels are also more likely to take a drastic plunge, causing mood swings, depression, etc.”
Again, I am not finding fault with the decision to wean, but just wanted you to be aware to check for clogged ducts etc.
Btw, I feel exactly as you describe every time I have reduced the number of nursing sessions per day. Having my older child give up her morning milk was so gut-wrenchingly bittersweet.
No, it’s been a gradual shift. I night weaned her a few months ago, and so she was just nursing to sleep and sometimes in the mornings.
Thank you for the info, though! It’s always appreciated- you guys always have a wealth of resources and experience to share and I’m grateful for all if it.
That’s good to hear.
For me the decision depended on my daughter’s need; nursing was an essential stabilizer for my shy girl. Her bold extroverted little brother loves milk, but if I compare him now to her when she was two he would not be too tough to wean, whereas she would have been rather traumatic to wean.
Every kid (and mom) is different and, when you’re talking about weaning a toddler rather than a baby, having confidence in this choice is the most important part, I think. If you’re waffling, she’ll feel less secure about weaning; if you’re empathetic but truly believe it is the right thing, it should go more smoothly.
What a great description of motherhood. It brought tears to my eyes as I sit here in the dark while my 7mo old daughter and husband sleep in the next room. I have the same confliction in my heart, I intend to nurse til at least 2, but even the thought of her weaning (self or by me) makes me sad! It’s such a special relationship, one you can only understand if you’ve been in it. People can do whatever they want, but I think moms who don’t breastfeed are really missing out!!! Xoxo
Awww….. your story made me cry too. Our time is coming soon and I know I will feel exactly the same. Thank you for sharing.
My little girl, a few weeks older than your girl, now only drinks a few sips once a night and on busy days she comes every now and then for some reassurance. I find it so hard to make the decision to completely stop nursing her. Especially since it’s our second and last baby. So I completely understand your emotions, thank you for sharing.
I’m sitting at my computer at work with tears in my eyes! i am still nursing my little girl and love those special moments so so much.. As I’m working, as soon as I get home I love to re-bond with my baby and cocoon her in cuddles – its our special time. I’m also available to her all night long and for as long as I can manage in the mornings (guilt??) I’m dreading weaning.. Good luck to you. Thank you for sharing and please let us know how its going! x
Going through the exact same thing right now with my daughter. I still nurse her to sleep for the next week or so, and then we will be through. I’m oh so sad, she loves it and depends on it so much! Just seeing how she gets excited and starts happily giggling every night after the shower when we walk together to our nursing chair… It breaks my heart. But it’s the right thing to do. She deserves to have a brother or a sister. I think that in the long run she will gain more from a sibling than from still being nursed at that age.
Argh, never thought this would be the kind of decisions I’ll have to make.
Kisses to brave Olive and her brave mom.
Everybody (every body? Haha) is different, but I personally found a combination of reducing nursing sessions to 3 or less a day and taking Vitex, a natural fertility supplement, to bring back fertility without weaning completely. If you and your girl don’t feel ready, might be worth trying first.
I will be weaning the tadpole soon. My aim was to get to a year, and then finish. Reading this makes me really feel that that’s the right thing for me to do… to have to explain it would be almost too much to bear, and you are such a warrior for doing so. So Strong! I am already sad for what I will lose.
You’re not silly. You’re human. You’re a mum. And you’re Fab. Happy Mothers day (it’s on sunday here… my first one!)
This admittedly made me cry. I’m still nursing my 15 month old. I especially look forward to our “post work and daycare” nursing session. I’m nowhere close to ready to giving that up, neither is she. I have a feeling, though, I’ll be the one to end this relationship. And I’m sure I’ll go through very similar feelings.
By the way, I’ve heard mamas who wean experience something akin to postpartum depression. Your oxytocin shot a few times a day is now…gone.
I feel exactly the same way. My Little Bit and I are weaning and I feel ridiculous about how sad I feel about it. It’s those quiet moments of togetherness, of “us and only us” that I think I’m saddest to see go. The world falls away and we’re a true team for a short while. I assume I will feel better about this once I’m strutting around in a regular bra, but until then, this just stinks!
I almost cried reading this… because I don’t understand why you are weaning?! If it breaks your heart and it breaks hers too, why why why would you do it?
I am exploring that a little myself here, too, to be honest! We are sort of in between at the moment, but I’ll write an update post next week.
Beautiful…and what I will go through in a few months…thank you so much for voicing so beautifully what I could never put into words.
Great essay. I felt much of the same feelings while weaning each of my first two kids. My first was weaned at 14 months old, when I was 2 months pregnant with #2. I wanted to jump out of my skin at night, when she wanted to nurse every hour and it was physically painful. I wanted a few months “to myself” before I started bf’ing #2. We coslept in a twin bed, so I was still near, and wasn’t back and forth between rooms, but it was still tough.
My son was weaned around two. I had a much harder time letting it go with him. It was him that reduced the frequency, but me who cut him off in the end. It took another year or so to get him to stop putting his hand down my shirt as comfort during the night though! We’ll see what nursing #3 brings. A mom really can feel “touched out”, especially when she’s never been a touchy, cuddly person to begin with. It’s not about how much you love your kids. Sometimes you need your space/ body back to keep from being super annoyed by them.
I cannot remember how many times I said I am going to stop breastfeeding,
Ha! You and me both, Cyn!
Beautifully written, especially the parts about what motherhood feels like. I’m nowhere near weaning (my little is only 9 months) but I still have so many of these feelings you described, so I can only imagine what it will be as he grows older and eventually weans. The transition into parenting has been filled with far more complicated emotions than I imagined. I expected the happiness, the love, the caring, the head-over-heels obsession. I didn’t expect to feel resentment, overwhelming worry and guilt, the longing for other lives. It isn’t a desire to go back to childlessness but a desire to hit pause for one moment, to breathe a bit or to sleep a bit or to not be so “touched out” during the day.
Thank you for sharing. And congratulations on moving into a new and equally wonderful chapter in your relationship with Olive. She will never need you any less, she will just need you in new ways.
Your description is right on – it’s a desire to pause, to leave for a bit and have “me time” but without missing anything.
I used to love the way nursing put me into the calm and loving space with my daughter at the end of the workday. I went back to work at 8 months wish I could have stayed home longer
So beautiful Madeleine! And such an honest description of how so many of us feel! Thank you so much for sharing with us! Hugs!! 🙂
i don’t know if you’ve tapped into the gold mine that is mothering.com, but i think you’ll find amazing support and feedback on this time in your life. the site is chock full of mommas who nurse until 3, 4, 5 years old. no one there will find your sadness silly, as this is an attachment parenting community.
i can’t say i understand, myself, any of what you’re going through. i haven’t even gotten pregnant yet (we’re going to start soon). i have no idea how life will play out, though i believe, in theory, i will still be a stay-at-home momma & be able to let the kid lead the weaning process (even though i have always secretly hoped that happens closer to 3 than 5). i imagine whatever forces are compelling you to wean are greater than just how it looks or seems to be nursing a kiddo who can speak (b/c that obviously has nothing to do with the emotional needs of a nursing toddler). i have gleaned that much from reading your blog. despite your sarcastic comment once on that point, your deep caring and emotional nuance shine through in every post. and i picked up the tremendous emotional teetering and angst you’re going through in what you wrote above, but i didn’t pick up on what forces are driving you to end something so precious to you and olive. it’s easy for someone like me, who reads so many descriptions of people who joyously breastfeed 3- & 4-year-olds, to assume that there’s no way you could want (or believe there’s good reason) to stop breastfeeding so early. but there’s so much (like, for starters, what it’s like to be a momma or actually breastfeed) i don’t know. what *is* this force that manages to be so strong that you’ll endure the heartbreak (yours and olive’s)? from what you’ve written here, i am only taking away a cautionary tale of the pain of weaning too early, and a reminder of the incredible beauty and tenderness that is shared by breastfeeding (seriously, yours is the best, most touching description i’ve read!), and that it’s fleeting and i should hang onto it as long as i can! but there’s obviously more to it. anyway, i’m pondering, touched, and a bit puzzled.
I am puzzled too, to be honest. It was just sort of a gut feeling that it was time. We are sort of in between now, so I am going to see how the week goes and I’ll write an update post and get a little more into the specifics of how and why.
Wonderfully written, Madeleine. Your posts remain heartfelt and entertaining, and always an enjoyable read.
While a little off topic, here are a couple of clips of my favourite comedian that might resonate with you: http://youtu.be/APhS2wDTIrw and http://youtu.be/ttRIz-0HWps
aww that’s so sad 🙁 it sounds like neither of you guys are really ready to stop. Is someone pressuring you? You can always try again in several months or do don’t ask don’t refuse
Oh i just turned into a complete puddle reading this. I never thought I would have the attachment to nursing that I do. And even though the night feedings are draining and I long for normal bras I know weaning is going to be hard for me. Thank you for sharing this
I weaned my daughter when she turned 2 and she is 2.5 now an I still get a little teary when I think about how I no longer nurse her. I don’t regret my decision to wean, but it’s still sad at times. There are so many nice things about not nursing anymore though…
This was lovely. And yet it made me tear up a bit as I know I will soon be heading down the same path. It isn’t easy is it? This motherhood thing. I too never thought I’d be nursing a toddler (17 mo old) but here I am and now I can’t imagine not having done it. I know our time is ending soon but that won’t make it any easier. I suppose all we can do is take solace in memories of the experience. That we were lucky enough to share that with our children.
I intended to breastfeed for as long as I could, I just thought it would’ve been longer than 3 months…I understand everything you say and feel, so many of us have been there before. It does get easier, but you just have to ride the waves of emotion first. Hang in there 🙂
This was just what I needed right now so thank you. I struggled with your same emotions and wants (caffeine!!) and decided to wean my almost 15 month old when she up and decided she was just done nursing. So bittersweet, glad to have made it this far though. Good for you for making it as long as you did, too. Hope you enjoy your caffeine, alcohol, and real bras. 🙂
So beautifully said. I haven’t weaned yet, but the give and take of motherhood and the feelings you have described have all be felt here.
I hope it gets better soon <3
Weaning was way more emotionally difficult for me than it was for Eleanor. I cried for days (I was pregnant at the time so I’ll blame hormones for the melodrama too). It’s been almost a year since the last time I nursed her, and I have a new baby to nurse, but even now I still miss nursing her and sharing that bond with her.
[…] And then, the emotions. Oh god. I mean, I thought I’d heard it all about weaning – the gigantic boobs, the pain, the cabbage leaves in your bra. But I hadn’t heard about the emotional train wreck that rolls into town after breastfeeding stops. Your hormones just immediately nosedive, and shit hits the fan in a rather large way, and in addition to this biological shitstorm you are also saying goodbye to the last thing that makes your baby seem like a baby. The last real primitive physical connection. Hence, this post. […]
Oh how I cried reading this and thinking about the eventual weaning of my 9 month old… So beautifully written. Looking forward to the promised update.
I know I’m a little late in finding this piece, but it has come at the perfect time for me… I’m still happily enjoying my breastfeeding journey, but my goal of reaching 12-months is fast approaching (3-months to go!!!) and I’m already feeling that ‘bye bye’ moment creeping up on us and the sadness I will feel is right there lurking in the shadows…. Right now I’m turning away from it and trying to enjoy each moment left, but it’s really going to be hard… But perhaps more for me than my son??? Thanks for your honesty and for giving me that ‘you’re not alone’ reassurance.