Your body is now big enough to curl around mine when you give me a hug as I hold you on my hip, your arms draped heavily over my shoulder. I stared at your face today as you were in my arms, bouncing bunny crackers up and down my arm. “Hop, hop, hop,” you said, as you moved your head side to side in rhythm to a song that was only in your mind. You patted your little hands on my neck and face and said ‘gently’ proudly, “Gee-tul, gee-tul, mama.” I hugged you close and whispered, “I love you” in your ear. “Aloe-you, mama,” you replied, bobbing your head up and down. You feel so solid now, like a boy, and no longer delicate like a baby. Your toddler body had a growth spurt this week, and you tripped all over your feet yesterday like a puppy stumbling around. You were so frustrated then, falling often, but today you scurry up chairs and climb the train table with full confidence and stable-footedness.
You are amazing. You turn 20 months old in five days.
The last year and a half has been such a challenging learning experience. I am so incredibly proud to be your mom, and I vow to tell you that every day. You are beautiful, smart, intelligent, and beyond curious. You point to words in books, photos on pages, objects outside and look at me with wide eyes expecting me to explain the world to you. It’s a massive job, and I try to keep up, but I feel like you are explaining the world to me.
It has been almost three months now since you have weaned yourself from nursing. You no longer rely or need my body for your physical growth, but your demand for me has increased emotionally and mentally tenfold. The first week of your weaning was difficult. We moved from your first home in Virginia to your dad’s hometown in Florida. Maybe you were upset about the move, or stressed out about all of the changes and pulled away from me… Maybe it was your cold and high fever that prompted weaning… Maybe you were just ready… I tried and tried to continue offering, thinking it may have been another nursing strike. I pumped and wanted to make sure that my body could still provide if you needed it to, but you didn’t, and it didn’t upset you.
I remember the last time you happily nursed like it was yesterday. It distinctly felt final to me — shockingly so. I remember sobbing later that night, feeling like that bond had changed. When I was pregnant with you, my goal was to let my body nurse you until you no longer needed it to. I wanted to let you self-wean when you were ready. As I held you in my arms that night as you nursed; I felt closure. You nursed at a time that was not usual for you, and it was almost as if you knew it was going to be the last time. When you finished, you threw your body backward over my lap, and had the biggest smile on your face. It was incredibly gratifying, almost as if you were saying thank you. You laid there so content and I am beyond grateful to you for that intense moment. I took a photo, and it will forever be one of my favorite keepsakes. The last time you nursed was the day you turned 17-months-old.
It was a hard change emotionally for me, especially combined with moving, adjusting to a new life in Florida, a new commute, a new daycare, a new job. Everything was new, and now this included our post-nursing relationship. I was sad not to have that time cuddling with you, but you have blossomed in so many other ways that I cannot even express how surprising it has been. Maybe it was our move, maybe it was weaning, maybe it was just your age, but you have started sleeping through the night since that day. I am proud that I have been there for you every moment that you have needed me, as much as a working-mom could, day and night since you have been born. I have never refused your request to nurse, nor have I ever left you alone at night crying or wanting me. I have trusted my instincts and nursed you back to sleep, nursed you for comfort, and nursed you for food, all on your demand. It has been challenging, but every second of it has been worth it — even the bad seconds.
A friend once told me never to quit on a bad day. There were many bad days, to be honest, and there always will be, that’s what I am finding to be true as a parent. My goal was to provide for you what you needed as long as you needed it, and it has been my greatest accomplishment in life.
I will forever miss those moments that only photos can describe.
watching you fall asleep in my arms after nursing during a hot summer day
your hand searching to touch mine in the middle of the night
your tiny feet pressing into my arms, tucking around my side, or wiggling free
A month ago this week, I left my career to stay home full-time with you as your mom. This has been another month of changes and adjustments, but it brings tears to my eyes daily with happiness now instead of struggle, knowing that we go through each day together with our highs and lows. I had put a lot of pressure on myself as a working mother, and we are both feeling that pressure lifting as we start this new life together.
I cannot thank you enough for everything you have taught me and the gifts you have given me.
I love you.