weaning down
12 September 2000
Damian’s down to two to three nursing sessions a day. A mere month ago, six o’clock would roll around and I’d venture out from my writing hidey hole to a big smile from the little guy. Who would immediately tear down the hall and come back hauling a nursing pillow as big as himself. And insist on a hello-let’s-get-reacquainted nursing session. Which I cut short and then shorter with juice, animal crackers, reading sessions, tickle sessions. Now? I venture out, say hello. He looks up with a big smile, comes running toward me -- and running past me -- wanting me to chase him around the living room. And never seems to notice the lack of Boppy or breast.

Nursing has become synonymous with sleep now. He comes out of the bathtub, Dan wraps him in two towels -- front and back, twice the drying power. Dan brings him into the bedroom where I wait, propped against pillows, Boppy on my lap and PowerBook close enough to websurf with a finger’s touch but far enough away to stay safely dry. And my boy comes onto my lap, his hair slick-wet and water darkened, his toes still damp and his hands pruney-wrinkled. He nurses on the right side as I pull his PJ legs on and sits up for the arms-through-sleeves routine, and then shifts his weight and plops himself down for a left side session. And usually falls asleep within minutes.

Then there’s the hey-it’s-morning-better-nurse-to-wake-sleep-wake session (also known as Mommy buying more horizontal time, but Damian seems to crave the early morning contact too). And the yawn-stumble-yawn fetch-Boppy naptime nursing. Which is slowly being phased out. If Jami’s here, she rocks him to sleep or he falls asleep in her lap while she’s reading to him. Yesterday we came home from running errands and riding escalators and peering down between the floors of the shopping mall and pointing at iguanas in pet stores and hearing our shoes clatter on the bright floor -- we came home from a morning filled with exciting activities and I sat Damian down on the sofa while I put down my bag and took off my shoes. He seemed content to sit there, gazing at nothing with a glazed expression, so I took a few more minutes to straighten up the living room and check email and fix myself some ice water and Damian a glass of juice -- which he never drank. I watched as his eyelids flickered, opened, flickered, closed. And he was out cold, nestled into the couch pillows like a delicately featured doll with dark blue sandals and mussed hair. Dante wandered over, licked that enticing hair. I shooed him away, afraid Damian might wake up, cross at having his hair groomed by a cat. After fifteen minutes or so, Damian did wake up. Just enough to realize he’d be more comfortable lying down. So he stretched out on the couch and took a nap. Just like that. No nursing required. No rocking, no heroic parental endeavors. He fell asleep just like a grownup person.

This is the future and it’s a peaceful thing. Women often say they feel a pang when their child is fully weaned. I can understand that. I don’t know if I’ll feel it. Having a child is a constant push and pull, ebb and flow, balance and imbalance and balance again. I give sometimes more than I want, and -- I hate to say it but -- sometimes less than he probably needs. For the past months, nursing has been almost more than I can handle. It will be a blessing when we stop. But perhaps, yes, a sadness too. My child is growing, slowly, bit by bit, before my eyes. The yearning for that nursing bond is a yearning for baby time, baby snuggles and sweet milky baby breath. That time is gone, and soon his diaper-wearing stage will be gone too, and he’s almost out of his pre-verbal experimenting with sounds. He moves on, constantly adjusting and developing and we’ve got a past now, Damian and his parents. The road he’s traveled is already long enough to have memories of what was, and yet he’s barely begun.

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