Tonight I nursed my baby girl for one last time. It’s been a while coming. I’ve been wanting to for a while, but I wasn’t ready. I would keep making excuses, like “We’re going on vacation soon, and I want to nurse her on the plane,” or “She still has a couple teeth left to come in,” or “Well, you already nursed her this morning so you can’t stop now.” But this morning when I woke up, I made the decision: Today was the day. It’s time.
We haven’t had an easy journey, me and this little girl of mine. From before she was born, I knew she would be trouble. My plans for a hippy hypnobirth were ruined when she decided that, despite my best efforts, she would not flip for me. So a scheduled C-section landed me in bed for four weeks, and all I could do was nurse. From the first night in the hospital, she cried — a lot. Even though she never left my side (or front rather) for the first three months of her life, it seemed like all she did was cry.
And I was in a bad place. Postpartum depression had a real go at me. It’s amazing how something you are supposed to love and cherish and nurture can bring on just pure soul-crushing darkness. I loved her, but not in the way a mother is expected to love their baby. It was more of a “Well, you’re here and I’m the one who wanted you, so I guess I’m gonna take care of you” way. My son was 25 months old when she was born, and I think I resented her for taking me away from him. I thought a two-year age gap would be good for them, make them close. But I didn’t realize how much I would miss him.
I’ll never know if it was just in her nature or if it was the result of the energy she received from me, but she always seemed unhappy. Unless she was in my arms, she’d wail and wail. I couldn’t take her anywhere in the car. She hated the stroller. She didn’t want to sit in a bouncy chair or lie on a mat or be held by anyone else. And even if I did hold her, she’d still cry. We would cry. So I nursed. I nursed out of anger. I nursed out of frustration. I nursed to shut her up. I nursed to get her to sleep, and I nursed to wake her up. It was all I could do. In my shattered state, it was all I could manage most days.
754 days. They say it goes fast, but when you break it down like that, it doesn’t seem like an accurate representation of what we just lived through. Surely time stopped on us then, if the calendar only says 754 days.
Tonight before bed, I told her. As she grappled at my breast, desperate to latch on and drift off to sleep, I said to her, “This is the last night of boobie. After tonight, no more boobie OK?” “OK” she replied as she started to suckle.
I turned the light off, and then I began to cry. This is it, I thought to myself, the last time. There may or may not be more babies to nurse, but this is the last time you’re going to nurse her. Some days nursing was the only connection you ever felt with her. But we don’t need it now. Somehow, slowly, we made it out of the woods. I don’t know how or when it happened exactly, but we did. I look at her, and my heart swells. I hug her tighter than anyone else I’ve ever hugged before. This little girl, who brought me to my lowest point in my life, has now made me love in a way I never knew I could. The guilt I feel for not being her best mom in those first two years is immense. But I am determined to make up for it. I am and will always be her champion.
She knows it’s the last time because she doesn’t drift off to sleep like normal. Her hands softly wander my breast as she looks up at me. This was our thing. No matter what we were struggling with, nursing was our thing. And I know in the weeks to come, she may cry and beg and try to rip off my shirt. But I’ll stand firm. And I’ll take her into my arms and look into her beautiful blue eyes and tell her, “It’s OK, Mommy loves you so, so much baby girl. We don’t need boobie anymore, we’re good.” And we are good. We really are.