Wednesday, June 4, 2014

nursing my toddler

It's one thirty in the afternoon and I'm nursing my toddler to sleep for his afternoon nap. Around 9 o'clock this evening he'll crawl up into my lap and snuggle in the same position we've been using for the past 22 months and nurse himself to sleep again for the night. When he wakes up in the morning and stands up in his crib and yells with warm, raspy lungs "mamaaaa" the first thing he'll say after good morning is "nurse in mama's bed?" and that's what we'll do. 

I remember telling my mom when my son Finn was born, "you can't get mad at me if I don't nurse him as long as you nursed us". A mom who nursed my brothers and me well into our toddler years. She laughed and said we'll nurse however long we want. And now here I am nursing my almost two year old. 

I look at his body on my lap now. His legs stretching way across my stomach and hanging down to the floor. His long arms crossed in front of him hugging his blanket. His head with his hair that is getting longer and blonder every day. His hair that I said I am never cutting. Let it grow! Let him grow! Just not too fast.

I mentioned nursing Finn the other day when I was getting my hair done and I saw surprised looks from the women in the salon. "Isn't he one?!" A woman said with astonishment. "Actually, he's almost two" I responded. 

The truth is, nursing has always been good to us. It's been the sanctuary in crowded rooms when Finn gets overwhelmed or tired and needs to take a break. It's been the savior of meltdowns and tantrums. It's been the best band aid when he falls or bumps his head and wants love just from his mama. It's been the best travel companion, nursing Finn to sleep on planes, on boats, on long car rides. Those car rides when I strain my neck and body and twist myself over his car seat so he can reach and nurse until he drifts to sleep. It has been those special bonding moments between him and I, him staring up at me with those big blue eyes. I talk to him and tell him stories and he watches and really, really listens. He has never had a pacifier. He has never had a binky or a bottle. He has just nursed. 

And sometimes, I think,  it can be as simple as that if you let it. When you're pregnant you receive all kinds of advice whether you asked for it or not. One moment I remember was a mom who talked to me about nursing. "Don't make it harder than it needs to be. The moms who stress about their milk and their pumping and their bodies have the hardest time. It's the most beautiful time- go into it with ease". Nursing Finn those first couple months during the challenges and adjustments I tried to keep those words in mind. I nursed him when he was hungry. I pumped when I needed to pump. Somedays it felt like all we did was nurse. All day long. But throughout it all- I tried to stay calm. And I think Finn felt that. 

The other Saturday Finn woke up and James went and got him. He was so distracted and happy dad was home he wanted to go downstairs and start playing. I was waiting in bed for him to come crawl up on my lap and nurse. Our morning ritual where I look into his eyes and rub his little feet before we get up and start moving through the day. 

I thought to myself, "this is how it will be one day when Finn stops nursing for good". Because one day there will be that last time he nurses. Will it be in the morning? Or maybe late at night? Whenever he decides to stop I know it will be the right time for us. I'll know that nursing Finn for this long was what worked for our family. It's what made me ache with happiness. It's what made me feel like I was keeping my son safe, and warm, and close to my heart. It's what gave me the memories of a newborn asleep in my arms, milk breathed and happy, dreaming on my lap. These memories will remind me of a time when my son needed me and just me. A time when once, I was delicious.

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