Tuesday, March 19, 2013
My boy is growing up. He's doing it in oh so many ways. He's learned to walk, to say 'please' and 'thank you', to wave to his daddy when he leaves for work, and just the other night he learned to pull the trigger on his favourite Lego gun. But in the past week he's also stopped breastfeeding.
I'll be honest: the decision was mostly mine. If I'd given him the chance, he'd still be happily nursing before every nap and bedtime, but I was finally ready for it to end. This feels like a momentous thing to say, and yet in many ways it doesn't feel like the big change I thought it would.
For a while he had been pretty miserable on and off. He had a cold, then got over it. He was suddenly teething with all four back molars, along with his lower lateral incisors, and then that started to settle down. He'd wake often in the night and refuse to be comforted unless we brought him into our bed. Of course, this meant easier, and more constant, on-demand feeding. Finally, one night I'd had it: I was absolutely touched out. I moved Ethan firmly to the Husband's side of the bed and told both of my boys, 'Just don't touch me. I'm sorry, but I just can't be touched right now.' We went to sleep.
For quite a few days after that, things were fine. I would feed E at nap times and bed time, refusing him access at other times of the day if he signed 'please' and tugged at my shirt. 'Not now, Sweetie,' I would say, 'that's for later. That's for when you go to sleep.' Mostly, he was okay with that...or at least he'd deal with it if I distracted him or gave him a chance to whinge for a minute or two.
But I kept thinking about that feeling of being touched so much that you NEED your personal space. I'm a touchy, huggy, cuddly person. I thrive on hand-holding, hugging, heads on shoulders, or hands resting on knees. And now in my life I also get plenty of little arms round my neck, slobbery, bitey baby kisses, and absentminded hand squeezes when we read books or watch TV. For me to get touched too much was a definite sign that something needed to change.
Ethan is certainly old enough to stop feeding at 17 months. He doesn't really eat much when we have a nursing session. It's more for comfort and calm than anything else. And I no longer teared up at the prospect of denying him - as he knows them - the boobies.
It was far easier than I had expected, but it wasn't easy. When I would cuddle him but refuse to take up my top, he would scream and thrash and arch his back. He flailed his arms, tugged my shirt, and once or twice, tried to hit me. My boobs got hard and hot and sore and full of what little milk I was denying my son. If I lay on my side at night - which I'm prone to do - I would leak all over my shirt; something that's frustrated me since the early days of breastfeeding.
But over the week, the screaming wriggling fits grew less and less. The other night, Ethan cuddled into me without complaint as we sat in the chair in his room. I rocked him and sang songs, and he only moved once to tap my nose with his finger and say, 'that!' Today, we read books, and then just rocked and sang songs to go down for a nap. He didn't even need to nuzzle his face into my shoulder; just leaning against me, holding my hand was enough. The sore, hot, fullness in my chest has slowly faded away and my body feels like I've always remembered: not heaving full or empty and deflated, but just...normal.
My body is now my own again. My hands are still needed to wipe noses or wipe tears. My arms are still required to cuddle, and rock, and carry, and soothe. My lips kiss, my eyes watch, my shoulders cradle weary heads, and my teeth and belly button are still objects of fascination, but I have back a degree of personal space. I gave it up more than willingly, but at the end of 17 long, tiring, amazing months, I'm very glad to have that space for myself and of myself back. My little boy is growing up.