A few weeks ago, I nursed Ingrid for the very last time. Per our usual bedtime routine, I turned off the lights and held her in the rocking chair, preparing to nurse her like normal. Instead of melting into me like she does, she pushed away and said, “No. I go to bed.” A little surprised and a little relieved, I laid her in her crib and she went to sleep. The next night, she wanted Phil to put her to bed. The night after that, I laid her down again, without trying the rocking chair first. Here we are, about two weeks later, and she has never asked to nurse since.
When Ingrid was born, I was determined to nurse her exclusively for a year. And with a lot of hard work and a teeny bit of good luck, we made it to her first birthday. She never had a drop of formula and wouldn’t even drink breast milk from a bottle, which goes to show you how much breastfeeding became a part of my daily life. I breastfed Ingrid more than I did anything else. More than I brushed my teeth, more than I put on clothes, more than I ate, more than anything. At a year old, Ingrid was still nursing about five or six times a day — a clear sign to me that no end was in sight. Over the next several months, she gradually nursed less and less, going from five feedings a day to four, from three feedings a day to two, until we were finally nursing just once a day, at bedtime.
Nursing is a funny thing, you see. Because for the past three to four months, I had been hoping so much that she would be done. Nursing while pregnant is exhausting. During my first trimester when I was sick as a dog and could barely function, nursing was such a task. I needed a break. I needed to be able to put her to bed without it. I needed her to be able to go to bed for someone else. I needed to be done. And now that it is done, like really, truly done, I am so sad. I have cried about it nearly every day since our last time. Because something that was so special, such a part of me and her, is gone.
Ingrid woke up a little early this morning so we brought her into bed with us, and as she laid there sucking her thumb and snuggling between us, I so wanted to offer myself to her. I had to remind myself that we didn’t do that anymore, that those days were over. She is a “big girl” now. Instead, I rubbed her hair and listened to her sweetly sing the most adorable little version of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” you ever did hear.
And yes, it’s true that I am thankful to have a little break before our new little love arrives in the spring. 20 months of breastfeeding is a lot of months of breastfeeding. I am proud that we made it this far, and I am thankful to be able to do this all again come April. I know then I’ll start a new story with a new baby, and it will make and break my heart all over again.
The truth is, nursing Ingrid was one of my favorite things I have ever done. I’m proud to have done it for so long. I’m proud to have gone with my instincts instead of books. I’m proud to have ignored the clock and the bottles to nurse her on demand. I’m proud to be a breastfeeding mother. I’m proud to have given Ingrid that gift. And I’m honored to have been given so much more through it.