Wednesday, July 29, 2009

nursing a toddler

aka nursing an octopus
aka nursing an acrobat

Oh my little monkey,
It doesn't seem so long ago that your feet just reached the other side of my body, toes curling around my rib cage. You would close your eyes and place tight fists beside either cheek as your full focus was on getting milk into your belly. You were demanding, needing a top-off every hour or two in those early days. Your cries of hunger were desperate and angry then.

But now you're a big boy, your rump on the couch by my hip as you stretch out across me. Your lower hand likes to pinch me, and dig between my ribs. Your top hand pulls on my necklace or shirt collar, or worse, scratches my chest and reaches inside my shirt to poke and pinch. I routinely sport scratch marks from you. Yesterday you were experimenting with using your feet to brace yourself so you could arch your back off my lap. If I would let you nurse standing up, I'm sure you would, but I try to establish some rules and manners. Our days are littered with "Ma-ma? Ma-ma?" as you pat a chair or couch for me to sit down. I often say no now. You get angry - throwing your head back and screaming - but then, you get angry every time your will is thwarted. Only when I'm convinced you need to nurse (or when I need to nurse you) do I acquiesce to your insistent pounding. It truly is a surprise to me that, if I allowed it, you'd nurse as often now as when you were an infant, despite eating several meals a day and drinking water/juice/milk/tea from a cup.

But I just don't enjoy it anymore. When you were tiny and we struggled, I persevered knowing that there was no other option. Your only sustenence was what I made for you. The exhaustion from waking all night, the frustration of being stuck in a chair for most of my day - it was worth it to see you put on weight. Now that you're older, I love to reconnect with you when I come home in the evening, to look into your pure slate-grey eyes, to run my fingers through your thick curls and over your delicate cheeks. But then you start in with the poking and pinching and scratching, and I am the referee again, saying, "No!" and pulling your hands off me. Your daddy even tried to help, devising a blanket/swaddling trick that worked great - and also made you lose your mind with rage.

I really want to let you nurse as long as you need to, but you show no signs of weaning. I haven't set any deadlines, I haven't made any decisions. But I'm looking forward to the day we can cuddle without nursing. I know I'll miss your cheek against my breast, I'll miss those quiet, private moments, and the intense way you look into my eyes. But I won't miss my pinchy little octopus.

(post originally written in March - but it still holds true today)


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