Sometime last week, in the middle of the night, Nora nursed for the last time. I wish I could say that I remember the exact day and time, but I don’t. It was either Wednesday or Thursday or Friday. It wasn’t for very long. I didn’t do anything special to mark the occasion, because I’d known for days that one of our nursing sessions would be our last. We just nursed briefly and both went back to bed.
I never knew it when I started breastfeeding, but it became central to my understanding of motherhood. Through breastfeeding, I first realized that I had so much to learn as a mother. It was also the first thing I learned how to do well. Through breastfeeding, I learned how to put Nora first, to postpone trips to the bathroom and snacks and doing just one more chore, in order to feed a hungry child. It was also how I learned to set boundaries between the two of us, how to say no if she was biting or nursing for the 90th time that day. Most of all, it taught me how to persevere, in the face of obstacles. You don’t nurse for 26 months without enduring and problem solving.
Now, I’m learning how to let go. Just as pregnancy is just long enough to crave labor, breastfeeding through the second year is just long enough (for me) to be done with breastfeeding. It has nothing to do with wanting my body back or trying to teach her more independence. It’s more that we’ve both had our fill of this stage in our lives. After she turned 2, she simply asked for it less and less and I stopped offering. She learned to sleep longer through the night on her own and I got some much needed sleep. We slowly and naturally increased the length between nursing sessions, sometimes going two days before resuming. And then, in a hotel in the Wisconsin Dells last week, we had what would be our final feeding. And now, here we are, 7 or 6 or 5 days later and I am officially calling it.
And in calling it, I’m turning towards this new stage our lives, where she can learn to be comforted in new ways and I can learn how to harness all of her rambunctious-intelligent-creative-caring-exhausting toddler energy for good.