Thursday, November 15, 2012

On the End of Breastfeeding

I have not nursed my son for 4 days. He's 19 months and 3 weeks old. Before then, I nursed him at least once a day, every day, since practically the moment he was born.

Three weeks ago, I started contemplating weaning. I'd never expected to nurse Munch this long. When he was born, I had decided I would see how my body took to breastfeeding and not see myself as a failure if I needed to turn to formula. But, my body did what it needed to and Munch latched and we were off.

Three weeks ago, when I started feeling like it was time to wean, I was very sad about the prospect. This article about the last time our children do things kept echoing in my brain. With each short nursing session, I tried to enjoy every second, emblazon it on my brain. I felt a little panicked. And I felt a tiny bit heartbroken.

Nursing is something I have treasured. It has been a constant in these first months of motherhood. As my son now runs full tilt and identifies bananas and birds and stars, it is a last vesige of Munch's babyhood. First, he learned to hold his head up on his own. Then, he broke the swaddle. He graduated from the Pack n Play in our room to his own crib. Solids became the primary food source. The sleepsack was packed away. And soon nursing would be gone as well.

So, I reasoned, maybe I wasn't quite ready in my heart, even though I was in my head. I support every mother's choice to breastfeed for however long is right for her. But nursing started evolving for me when my son became very communicative. He's a bit of a late talker, so it wasn't until about 15 months that he started really interacting. With him at 19 months, I felt strange being able to hold a relatively meaningful and lengthy conversation with him and then stick my boob in his mouth.

Also, the teeth. He no longer bit me while nursing for 2 minutes--he grew out of that. But at the end of a nursing session, he clamped down and scraped backwards. This was not good. And last Saturday, he took some skin off the nipple. Really not good. And it was in that moment, I think I felt my heart say good-bye to breastfeeding.

So, I said to myself, I'll only nurse him if he asks for it. (Munch asking is him holding the Boppy or any random pillow out to me, giving me a pleading look, and saying, uh uh uh.) We nursed for a rather long session (i.e., about 7 minutes) overnight on Sunday, when I believe he was having teething pain and difficulty sleeping.

And that's been it. That night likely will be the last time I nurse this child, whom I've cuddled to my chest for God knows how many hours since his birth. It was a nice ending--quiet, dark, with the TV flickering, like it was in the early weeks, when I became very familiar with Willie Geist on "Way Too Early" and SportsCenter, when only paid programming was on every other channel.

We ended nursing the way we began, Munch and I--alone as my husband slept, half-asleep, comforted.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Mother's Reflections This Election Day

When I was born, Jimmy Carter was President, but only for a short time. Ronald Reagan was inaugurated a mere 10 months after my birth. I've always felt a fondness for Reagan that is explained only by the fact that for so much of my formative years, he was in the Oval Office. He was the leader I grew up hearing about before I could form my own thoughts about politics and leadership.

Then came Bush 1 and the bombing of Kuwait. Fear of war struck me at 11 years old. I still vividly recall a dream I had during that time, with bombs (shaped like the cannon balls from Super Mario 3)falling in our front yard and my father running for the backyard. I can still see what clothes he was wearing. And that is what I most associate with George H.W. Bush--fear.

I feel blessed that my first son was born during the first term of the first black President of the United States. And I hope that he gets another 4 years to internalize Barack Obama as the leader in his youngest years, the one he grows up used to seeing at the podium. Because 20 months is not long enough for my son to have Barack Obama as a president.

And what will my son learn from a Mitt Romney presidency in the next 4 years, as he begins to understand how the world works? He'll see a staggeringly rich white businessman in the Oval Office. He'll hear about millionaires and banks and cheap labor in China and how the middle class just doesn't cut it.

He might glean that money is what gets you the presidency, not hope, not change, not caring for your neighbors, not giving those who need support the resources essential to a life well lived.

He might hear that a woman's place is at home and wonder why his mother isn't home with him all day. He might hear that all Muslims and non-Christians are wrong and to be feared, despite those he goes to daycare with every day. He might hear that his mother shouldn't have as strong a voice as his father. He might hear that money, that's the bottom line in America.

When I look at my son, I want so desperately for him to have the experience of a compassionate, quietly powerful, dedicated, intelligent leader for his childhood. Yes, Barack Obama's rich too, but he's self-made. He came from a broken home. He has daughters that he lifts up and a wife who is his equal partner.

His is the face I want my son to associate with President of the United States.