When I thought about nursing my daughter, I always imagined that it would be a surreal, bonding experience; that small birds would alight on my shoulders and my noxious singing voice would suddenly be transformed into that of a Disney princess's. I would sing about how beautiful she was, nestled in my bosom; how bounteous and firm my bosom was in its coreseted top (size 2); how we gazed into each other's eyes until she drifted off to sleep and I could pluck her, her small rosebud mouth opening obediently, off of me to lie, suppine in slumber, in her crib.
Ha. Ha. *Insane laughter ensues*
More like: She nurses so much I have to carry her to the bathroom if I want to pee and I am required to nurse her while I pee. I nurse her on car trips in the car, while she's in her carseat, because she can't go for longer than 45 minutes. I get thrush, so I research that freaky violet stuff which I consider painting on my chest and on the inside of her mouth, but chicken out because I'm afraid it will stain everything. I get endless tubes of Nystatin and wonder how much she can digest before it actually harms her. I dread putting her on and I dread taking her off, because she doesn't want to come off and I literally have to wrench myself from her clamped mouth. She is hot and sweaty all the time and sticks to me. I can't wash there, because of the dreaded threat of perfumed soap offending her, so I feel coated in a perpetual sheen of body grease. Usually, she eats and eats and then throws it all up (all over me), so I'm guessing that's why she's so hungry all the time, like a little bird with a bottomless belly. She didn't look in my eyes. She liked one nursing position and one only. I tried every other one; I either squashed her or it hurt too much or she cried, her little hands batting me in fury.
That was in the beginning, for about the first six months; it started getting a bit easier after that. It didn't get easier when everyone said it would--a couple of weeks, they said--it still hurt terribly and she cluster nursed all the time. But after six months, when we started solids, she eased up a bit. I didn't start her on cow's milk until she was a year, and was still nursing her about five times a day on her first birthday.
Like my idealistic ideas about nursing, I also had idealistic ideas about weaning. I wasn't quite ready when she turned one, so I didn't try hard; I just expected she'd go on a nursing strike and that would be that. But it never happened. If anything, she stepped it up as I started to wean her off feedings. What was most interesting to me was the general and varied reaction of people who heard I was still nursing Bo at her first birthday:
- "Oh my God. I don't know how you did it. I couldn't do it past _________."
- "I went straight to bottle. The thought of nursing---ew. But good for you!"
- "When are you going to stop? When she can ask for it, right? Cause that's weird. I once knew this woman who nursed and her kid was asking for it and pulling up her shirt!"
I was either a superhero, a somewhat acceptable freak, or a bonafide freak already, Because at a year, kids can ask for boobs--and Bo was already yanking on my shirt and screaming for it. She liked to stick her hands either up or down my shirt and grab me and yell what she wanted in my face; if we were in public, I'd laugh it off and stick a toy in her hands, but people gave me looks already. I didn't really care. We're already a conspicuous family; my one-year-old grabbing at me every two seconds only really made other people uncomfortable.
As her first year progressed, she did not naturally wean herself like the books suggested she probably would. I had heard all of these encouraging stories about how one day the child just decided to forgo the boob and lo! Nursing was done and there was no drama. But not Bo. As the year wore on a few things happened. Bo came up with her own name for nursing--she calls it "Na-Nums." She would grab me in public, scream "MAMA! NA-NUM!"
She also weaned herself off of my right boob. All of a sudden, one day, she decided she did not want the right boob. And didn't want it after that AT ALL, don't even SHOW it to her, she'll smack it and scream NOOOO. Now, occasionally, she will decide to try it out, and she gets this look on her face like it's such a total lark, like HOLY SHIT, I'M GOING TO TRY THIS THING OUT! LOOK AT CRAZY ME! and then she tries it, and immediately pops her head up, makes a disgusted face and wipes her tongue.
Now Bo nurses once in the morning, when she wakes up; once when she gets home from daycare, at around five; and once after dinner. Three times on the weekdays. On weekends, all bets are off and I am a human milk spigot. If I'm sitting on the couch, na-num's on the menu. Her preferred way is lying on top of me, legs on either side of my belly, her hands up my shirt squeezing my belly. If I get annoyed and resist the belly squeezing (I've always hated people touching my belly) Bo will start to sob hysterically. Ironically, the part of my body that I am most self-conscious about is the part that seems to be an integral part of her nursing comfort.
Now I don't much tell people I'm nursing. I don't know if people don't expect it of me, or if they just aren't used to it, but they are generally surprised and don't know what to do with the information--some people are genuinely shocked. I only know one other person who nursed past a year, and she is a former hippie who still dresses the part; it's what I always pictured a woman who nursed past a year to look like. I'm proud of what Bo and I have done--she's a brave, fearless little girl who is incredibly affectionate and knows exactly what she wants--and I'm proud of what my body has done. It ranks as one of the top three best decisions I've made in my life, after adopting and marrying my husband. And I do, perversely, like challenging people's ideas of what extended nursing is "supposed" to look like. It's not so weird when a baby asks for what she wants; it's no less weird than a child asking for a bottle.
Recently, several people I work with have asked for my advice on nursing their babies. And I've had a couple of friends tell me they now intend on nursing for as long as the baby wants because of how positive an experience I ended up having. These past two years have given me a healthy dose of pain--my mom battled two types of cancer, and I lost my beloved job (and I now work for my replacement, which kills me every. single. day I go to work). But nursing Bo has made a lot of it worth it: I wouldn't have been able to continue nursing her, for example, if I hadn't lost my job. And knowing that other moms might try it out now is pretty awesome.
And-- I ended up losing 60 lbs. Nursing is better than any diet.
So now I am officially "pacimama," used for comfort, falling asleep, and a general panacea for all ills. Bo likes to nurse and watch tv--she'll pop off to comment on the action, then pop back on. Eventually I suppose I'll have to get more aggressive at weaning her, because I don't want to go much past two years and she'll be two in a few days. But every time I think about it, I imagine all the drama. I just want Bo to let it go herself, and I don't think she will.
So tell me your weaning stories. I could use some boobvice.