Everybody weans…. A fellow birth worker posted a while back and used that phrase. It caused me to pause. But I shelved the thought process for a few months out of busyness.
Then I nursed my second, and possibly last baby, for the last time. Sadly, I don’t remember the last time I nursed my first born. It seemed to happen overnight and then we were done. But with my youngest I knew this was likely the last time I would ever breastfeed, and I wasn’t going to waste it. I curled my body around her so that we were one ball of warmth. I stroked her cheek. I listened to the sound of suckling. I put my nose to her curly blond hair and breathed in deeply. I cast my thoughts to those first few days of breastfeeding and various memories since. I pictured the look of her gaping mouth in expectation for “nursies”. And the only words that could possibly express my overall feelings of getting to nurse my two precious girls, for even a single day, was overwhelming gratitude. So many don’t get the opportunity. And even though my breastfeeding relationship with my second was often overshadowed by fluctuating diet needs, tongue tie, and cluster feedings, I wouldn’t trade a minute of it.
For the first time I knew how true that statement was. Every single person was once a baby nestled in their mother’s womb. Every single person once met with bright lights and a brand new world. Every single person had this amazing thing called breastmilk custom fit for their biology. A literal liquid miracle that never rests but is constantly changing and adjusting to fit what we need.
Weaning happens a lot of different ways. Sometimes it happens as long as into elementary school. Sometimes it’s after that 6 month mark when solid food is introduced. Sometimes weaning happens the moment we are born. Sometimes weaning happens while a mother morns with empty arms.
Reasons for weaning are as varied: child loses interest, our milk dries up, we have medical conditions that keep us from breastfeeding, breastfeeding added stress to the family, Postpartum depression, and probably countless other reasons. And I would guess that most of the time it happens, no matter when it happens, it is bittersweet. Filled with relief that the struggle or time is done, and a strong or small wish for one more time. That weaning can happen years apart for different people and still be too soon, or a long time coming. And sadly many mothers leave that stage with regret, wishing they’d done it longer or wishing they’d ended sooner.
In our world we tend to compare everything we do with others. My house isn’t as clean as hers. She makes cookies, whereas I buy the ones from the store. I breastfed for a week, she did it for four years. the list is endless.
And what’s worse is we rack up imaginary values for ourselves based on those comparisons. Like I’m a 4 out of 10 mom because I buy Lunchables for my kids instead of making sandwiches in the shape of dinosaurs. Or maybe think I’m an 8 out of 10 mom because I don’t come to the school drop off line in my pj’s. And sometimes our imaginary value changes as often as daily.
And breastfeeding often falls along those same lines.
Few things are perfect in this world. And while breastmilk itself is perfect, breastfeeding is not always. Every family is different, every baby, and every mother. And without comparing ourselves, elevating, or belittling ourselves… maybe we can all be together in one thing.
And when you are weaned does not make you better or worse. When you wean your child does not make you more or less of a mom.
It is a journey we all go through and even when it is easy physically there is more often than not a tear shed.
How much we love our children is not measured in breastmilk, dinosaur shaped sandwiches, fresh baked cookies, or clean houses.
How much we love our children is measured in love. And that love, like breastmilk, is custom fit for each of us, and, like breastmilk, it never rests but constantly changes and grows to fit what we need. The inside jokes, that extra ticklish spot, that comfort food on a bad day, that song we dance to, knowing a favorite color. Love is measured in love.