Friday, April 09, 2010

The Birthday

It was 2pm and the day was not going well. I had in my lap, a birthday girl whose 2nd birthday not only meant she was taller, smarter, and stronger, but that her second set of molars were ready to make mountains out of her molehill gums. She was nursing, unable to get into a deep sleep because of the pain, while sharing my lap with the growing belly, darkened areolas, and sensitive nipples that come with a second pregnancy.

She was miserable. I was miserable. I was touched-out and her crying was grating against my ear drums. I really wanted to just leave her there and lock myself in the bathroom. Instead I closed my eyes and pretended I wasn't there. LA-LA-LA-LA-LA. That maturity in the room was overwhelming, let me tell you.

So I sat there with my eyes closed, hoping that she wouldn't realize that while I was there in body, I wasn't there in spirit. And my thoughts took me on a journey.

I could wean her. She's 2 today. She got her recommended 2 year minimum. I can be done with this! Good bye sore nipples!

I could. But how long would weaning take? a few weeks? In that time, the molars will have come through and the problem would have fixed itself. And then what? I'll have given up one of my best parenting skills forever. I'd be fixing a temporary problem with a permanent solution- one that will affect much more than sensitive nipples: sleep, tantrums, uneasiness with strange places and people, etc.

And pregnancy is temporary, too. My nipples won't hurt forever. Remember last fall when twiddling didn't bother me? It can be like that again. Just a few more months.

Yeah. I won't be pregnant, any more, but then I'll have to do this with 2 kids! Look at me! I can't even handle my generally-mellow toddler.

Right. Generally mellow. If this were a regular occurrence, I would need to alter our nursing relationship, but she's almost never this cranky. She's only like this when she teethes or is sick. And this is the last time she'll be teething for a while. She won't be teething when the baby comes. In fact, she might be helpful. I remember being so engorged that I couldn't lie on my belly for almost 4 months postpartum. I slept with towels under my breasts for well past a year. I remember thinking that I could end hunger in the world's children if they just lined up at my door. I was jealous of the moms I knew who had older nurslings; what I needed was a nursing toddler!

She's twiddling. I could still just leave her here on the bed and hide in the bathroom. But what would that fix? She'd still be teething and hurting. PLUS she'd be abandoned. Yeah. that's going to fix everything.

Sigh. I know some people think that when a mom nurses a toddler or older child, she's doing it for herself, that she somehow gets a weird "high" from it. On the other hand I know some people think that she's being a martyr mother and giving up her needs and wants. It's neither. Sometimes you benefit the most and sometimes the child does. And most of the time it's in between.

I opened my eyes and looked down at my Margaret, asleep. I had to stay there because I knew if I moved her she'd wake up immediately because of her teeth. There went my plans for the day. But she won't always be this way: cranky, unable to sleep well, fussy. It's temporary.

She won't always be this way: small, trusting, and needing me to help her sleep. That's temporary, too.

I don't know how long our nursing relationship will last. She might decide tomorrow that my pregnancy colostrum is no good and end the relationship just like that. Or I may end up nursing 3 children at some point. But I always need to respond with sensitivity. Right now, that means nursing my two year old.

This post is part of the 2010 API Principles of Parenting blog carnival, a series of monthly parenting blog carnivals, hosted by API Speaks. Learn more about attachment parenting by visiting the API website.


  1. First time commenter here - I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed this post. I love that you acknowledged all the parts - her teething, your pregnancy, her mental state and your mental state - and how their interactions made up the whole of the situation.

    I am currently pregnant with my first and I hope that I can remember to do this later when something seems too much at the time. Thank you!

  2. Breastfeeding three would mean that you'd have a line up going!

  3. beautiful post!

    Although I haven't seriously considered weaning my toddler this pregnancy since he's still under 2, I have totally had these same thoughts during the times when I'm sore and he's teething and I just can't stand being sucked on anymore! I know my little guy is not even close to being done with nursing and I still can't imagine parenting him without it either.

  4. Thank you for sharing your thoughts through that! responding with sensitivity is something I need to work on. You are a great mom Heather! I keep thinking how I need to be a better mom the way you are, so it's nice to know that you do think the same way as I do at times! I just need to respond in the way you do!

    And because of you I will be doing the 2 yr minimum, if Ava wants to. I didn't know about it before, just the AAP recommendation of 1 yr. Maybe someday I'll make it to a LLL meeting and learn more.

  5. I really loved this post. I loved how you looked at Margret and took the time to evaluate both of your needs. And you took a long term approach, i wish more parents did this in other normal everyday things. I look at V and wonder why did I wean N by the time she was 14 months? I'll be nursing V longer if she so desires and if my body lets me.

  6. Annalise4:43 PM

    Thanks for posting this, it made me tear up. I haven't been enjoying our nursing sessions so much lately and have been tempted to cut her off.... but I know that's not what I REALLY want. So it's good to be reminded :)

  7. This is fantastic!

    "I know some people think that when a mom nurses a toddler or older child, she's doing it for herself"

    I always laugh my guts out when I hear this and think back to the pregnancy sensitivity. I did end up making my 2nd son take a 1-month break from nursing before his brother was born. But he was over 3 years old at the time, so it was a lot different.

    In my experience, the sensitivity goes away instantly when the baby is born (assuming the baby doesn't cause new pain with an improper latch, etc.). Hang in there!

  8. oh I know how you feel. ds is 22 months he will be 2 on june 1st. I am actually at a less sensitive stage after the first trimester. thank goodness. hugs and you can do this you are almost there!

  9. Oh how I can relate! I love how you take time to evaluate yours and Margaret's needs in this post. Someone once told me "remember, this is a breastfeeding relationship and there are two people in it." Thus taking both parties interests into account should be taking place. Great post.

  10. I enjoyed this post, too. I am 26 weeks pregnant, nursing a 2 year old. This is my second time around doing this, and it wasn't easy the first time and it isn't easy now. At first, I would frustratingly fight against him, put bandaids on my nipples,tell him their owie, try to tell him the Milk is just gone....I even went out and bought a bottle..a bottle!! Never done that before in my life. He laughed at me and filled it with crackers.
    The end of the story is, I realized that he didn't understand any of this and all he needed was his Mommy to nurse him and be happy, like old times. When I changed my attitude, it changed my perspective, and now we are back to happily nursing.


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