Maternite – perfect souvenir from the Barcelona Museu Picasso
February 21st, 2014 – the last day I nursed Beckett came at the end of a week-long chaos parade, its start marked by Steven’s departure on an eleven-day work trip to Europe. He was going to London first and our plan was to meet in Barcelona, taking advantage of the “cheap” trip and opportunity for some much needed marital bonding time. Seven days would be the longest I’d ever been away from the baby. On top of the separation anxiety (more mine than his), I finally had to face reality – it was time to stop breastfeeding. We were already at month fifteen, three months longer than I had originally planned and a year longer than I thought I would last. He was drinking whole milk and fully transitioned to eating solid food, so there was no longer a physical need for us to keep going – outside of my addiction to our twice a day nursing sessions. Being gone a week meant if I didn’t wean him in time I’d be stuck lugging an electric pump with me overseas (not an option), or feeling engorgement and other possible side effects of going cold turkey (migraines, cramping, sadness) while on the trip. “I’ll start in a week,” I thought.
Three weeks passed and I was still doing two-a-days; it was my last chance to drop one of the two feeds. I did, but clung on like my life depended on it, sometimes trying to extend the solitary feed by re-latching after he was finished. The day before Steven left, the baby was hit with a fit of vomiting. After a long night of cleaning and worry, I drove to my parents’ house Wednesday morning with a cloudy brain and puffy eyes – minus one husband and plus one sick infant. I was blessed that same evening with my own stomach virus, no doubt caught from the baby. I had made sure to clean every trace of throw up from his body but hadn’t been as thorough with what landed on me. I fought through the discomfort for another night – I could never really distinguish real sickness from the effects of sleep deprivation – and had a full fledged virus by Thursday morning. It ravaged my body for two days and left behind two new friends – a sore throat and body aches. Between the stress of preparing the house to be sold, packing for Spain, and figuring out how to take care of a 15 month old (thank God for grandparents), the double illness put me over. After receiving a steroid shot at an emergency clinic and going on a fruitless search for a pharmacy open past six pm, I reached sanity depletion that Saturday night.
I was able to get my antibiotics Sunday morning, following panicked teary calls to my mom and husband. Beckett was fully recovered by that point and I struggled through a seemingly endless morning of keeping him entertained. I gave up on the idea of rest and carted him from playground to playground attempting to expend his energy – I was hopeful I would cash in on a long nap time. The rest of the day was a blur but a feeling of normalcy seemed within reach by late evening – I finished throwing my clothes into a suitcase and collapsed into bed.
The Monday morning of my flight I was at my parents’ house where he’d be staying for the week. When the time came I interrupted his playing and grabbed his hand. “Milk?” I asked. His eyes went wide with excitement and he held his arms out to be picked up. I happily obliged and took him to my sister’s room where we settled in her large leather armchair. It had been almost two days since our last session; my virus had robbed me of any food to produce milk for him. It was a convenient natural weaning system but I was sad I couldn’t savor the last few days as planned. He nursed for a few minutes before pushing off, and an immediate sadness washed over me. I realized it was almost over. He lasted a little longer on the other side before pushing off again – I tried to re-latch him but unsuccessfully. “That’s it?” I asked him, “no more milk?” He smiled at me and waved his hands back and forth, signing “all done”. He was all done…forever. I tried not to cry as I let him back onto the floor and he scampered off to the living room to find his toys. In many ways it was the perfect ending – I would have had a harder time had he not been ready to let go – but there was no scenario that didn’t make me want to cancel my trip and get him back to our nursing routine.
In those last few minutes we shared I ceremoniously stroked his head, pushing strands of hair at his temple behind his ears and squeezing his little hands. I watched the rhythmic sucking of his mouth, the curve of his little nose, and counted his eyelashes – soft wisps that were nonexistent when he was born. There were few times if any in his busy days as a toddler that I was afforded the luxury of staring at his face, so I tried to memorize his features and capsule this moment in time. Nothing would fill the space he was leaving behind.