Two years ago, after 34 hours of labor, a little boy was placed on my chest. His little mouth rooted around and he latched on for the first time. I couldn’t believe that my body had grown and housed this little human, and now, even though he was no longer housed in my womb, he was being nourished by my body. He smelled heavenly. His little eyes trying to focus on the big, bright world around him, could see nothing but mama, and I soaked in that moment.
Two years later I look at my baby boy, not really a baby anymore, and as I walk down the hall, still groggy from lack of sleep from the night before, Captain smiles at me with his toothy grin, framed by perfect, full red lips. “Mama! Chair? Noosh? Noosh? Mmmammma! Noosh?” He pats the seat of our faded pink second-hand (third, fourth, fifth-hand?) rocker covered in blankets. Captain wants me to sit in our creaky, musty chair, scoop him up into my lap and nurse.
How did this happen? I didn’t plan on nursing a toddler. I thought everyone stopped at 12 months when I first had him. But as I breathe in the scent of his sweet, sweaty blonde head and watch his fat little toes (miniatures of Milkman’s!) dangle off the edge of the arm rest and stare into those brown eyes– oh those sweet, giant eyes that melt my heart– I realize that for most of us first time nursing moms, we don’t plan to nurse past babyhood.
But as time goes on, that newborn becomes and infant and during some nursing session at 2am you look over to see you are nursing a toddler, and somehow you wake up one morning and that little newborn is two years old.
I will not bore you with facts about the average weaning of a child for the last 6,000 years being much older than a baby, or the benefits of full-term nursing, but I will encourage you, new mama, that as you trek through that awful 3 week old fussy latch at 3:30am and you are both crying and you want to give up, that it becomes second nature. And pretty soon those awkward elbows and hands and chins and tiny noses and large breasts seem to fade til there is nothing but you and your nursling, working together in perfect harmony. Soon it is second nature. Sometimes you don’t even realize you’re nursing, because it’s just simply what you do.
Sometimes it wearies me. Sometimes I say “no, mama doesn’t want to now.” And there are tears. And I explain I am “ouchies” or I am tired, or I’m sick of nursing after nursing his little sister a dozen times the night before. It’s a little easier to distract him these days with a water cup or a book (though never with kisses or cuddles… If there is no nursing he is not about to give me lovin’!) Sometimes, I cry and tell Milkman that I hate nursing and I don’t want to do it anymore. Sometimes I am touched out and frustrated that my body seems to belong to every person under this roof but me.
But other times, it is how we bond and how we stay close. It’s how we become friends and it’s how we learn. (Nothing like him raising the roof, dancing and nursing while I sing A, B, C’s to signal him our nursing session is coming to an end!). It is how he deals with unfamiliar situations, it fixes every smashed finger and scraped knee, it provides magical antibodies when he is getting sick. It’s how I get my cuddle fix in with a very busy and distracted little boy. God uses nursing to teach me to sit and rest and be close with my child and shut the rest of the world out. It is how I remember he is still little and needs his mama.
I don’t know when we will wean. Every time I mention it to Milkman he smiles and tells me he supports me regardless but behind the words I know he’s thinking “you say you’re done, but we know you’ll be a giant hormonal wreck when it’s over!” So we will wean someday, just not today.
And so for now, I will nurse my two year old. And I will do so, knowing that these moments will not last forever. Because today, Captain is 2 years old, and it’s gone by so quickly I can scarcely believe it.
Happy Birthday, my sweet boy. Thank you for all you teach me. Thank you for staying little, just a little while longer.