Don't cry because it's over.
Smile because it happened. - Dr. Seuss
Ryan and I left for our trip (more to come on that soon) and were gone for 5 days and 4 nights. I didn't pump and leave her bottles because I was positive she wouldn't take them (she's taken a bottle all of maybe 4 times in her life, while I was doula-ing). I had in my mind for a few months that it would be a good time to wean her. 18 months is good enough, right? It seemed so far away in February when I planned it.
As the time for our trip drew near, I knew it was coming. I started taking a lot of pictures of her while she was nursing and I started treasuring every moment, ridding the distractions and just focusing on her. The way she'd kick her legs, play with my hair. Look at me and smile while she was still latched on.
She didn't seem like a big girl. She still seemed like my baby, who still needed and wanted her mama. I know everyone else looks at her and sees a toddler who is becoming verbal, eating solids (more than her siblings, usually), saying her prayers, and playing games. I think a mother always looks at her child and in some way, still sees her baby.
And of course babies grow up. They grow out their hair, the sweet chunk on their thighs disappears, and they don't need you to put on their shoes anymore. It's good for them to grow, it's what God intended. I know in my heart that it's good that she's growing up. But this nursing relationship has been different to me. It's never been any work for either of us, and I can safely say that it's been a blissful 18 months of bonding and sweet time for us.
I've spent hours upon hours holding and treasuring her. Cuddled up in bed, night after night, inhaling the sweet smell of sweat and sour milk, while going through the usual routine of waking-latching-drifting off to sleep together. Sitting in our favorite nursing chair, examining every inch of her smooth, dark skin, noticing any little blemish and offering a kiss- as if my kiss would heal her wound. Sometimes I'd have to ward off pokes, pinches, and violent tugs of my hair!
But she's the fourth. I have three big kids who need my time and attention, and every time I'd sit down to cuddle them or read to them, Caeli would want to nurse, and she'd kick her sibling until they'd leave, upset or crying because she hurt them. We tried but couldn't fix that.
And I have to wonder if my moods and lack of postpartum depression this time around have been because I wasn't nursing a baby when she was conceived; I had almost a year off for my hormones to become normal again. I nursed Jack until he was 25 months, and weaning him was my last chance to cure my premenstrual dysphoric disorder- a horrible horrible mood disorder that affected everyone in our family. I was upset because he was so upset. He cried so much- he didn't understand. It seemed logical to me that being gone on a trip would sort of force the issue for Caeli and me, and it did.
I came home after being gone for five days and saw her in the morning a few minutes after she woke up. She was hesitant to leave my mom's side and come to me (I expected that and respected her space), and about a minute later she let me hold her. I spoke sweetly and she touched my face, then moved her eyes and hands down to my breasts. I hugged her close and distracted her, and she hugged me back. And that was pretty much it.
No more nursies.
She hasn't asked anymore. She'll sit on my lap and want to cuddle, and when she's tired I'll offer her a pacifier. She gives me sweet, giant hugs and will pat me on the back like she was a man hugging his best man-friend. But she doesn't ask anymore, and she doesn't seem to really miss it. So why do I?
I will always cherish these 18 months. They've been so very sweet and Caeli continues to be the gift that God made known to me before she was conceived.