It took a very patient nurse -- after numerous attempts of putting my nipple in his unresponsive mouth to no avail --to squirt formula all over my breast to get the party started. "Don't be such a lazy baby," she gently chastised him in her lilting Jamaican accent, finally getting him to eat.
I loved breastfeeding because it bonded me to my sons. It also made me feel powerful - the stuff coming out of my booby was keeping my sons alive! It was trippy. Breastfeeding, as part of motherhood overall, also provided me with a distinct, defined role. While my husband worked, I got up every hour around the clock, turning a baby with a gigantic head and skin-and-bones chicken body into a baby with a gigantic head and matching gigantic body.
I didn't go into breastfeeding -- or motherhood -- with any set plan or set ideas. I was clueless. Truly. Like an animal in the wild, I just went on instinct. It felt right to let them sleep in my bed and carry them as much as they wanted and to constantly feed them. It just felt right. And, because it felt right, I would hold up Dr. Sears books as a defense against my husband screaming "Ferberize him!" while our baby screamed and my boobs squirted milk in response.
With both my sons at around 10 months of age I decided it was time to introduce a sippy cup. I was still breastfeeding, but at this point it was more a source of comfort than nourishment. I was still liking the process, but I wasn't quite loving it. First, they didn't need my milk to stay alive. Cheerios and Pirate's Booty and 12 jars of Earth's Best baby food a day had that covered. Secondly, I was annoyed at both their inability to fall asleep without their booby pacifier and with my husband's subsequent gloating.
By the time they reached 12 months I was done. Like that, on a dime. (Actually with my younger son I don't remember one day of just stopping. It was more we both just eased off of it.) With my older son, however, I'll never forget when I cut him loose from the boob. We were at our apartment and a bunch of the families from his play group were over. I was sitting on the floor talking to one of the moms when I hear "Ma." Waddling toward me with chubby arms outstretched is my plaid-shirted, big-headed toddler. Just as his clumsy, pudgy hands tugged at my shirt, something inside me made me announce "enough." It just felt right to break the breastfeeding bond.
Though I chose to end breastfeeding I was afraid that once I stopped our bond wouldn't be as close. With both my sons I found that we actually grew closer because their newfound independence made me more free, both physically and emotionally. For them, because they were no longer physically tied to me, they could literally run off in new directions, allowing them to grow and mature.
Now, 18 years later Nature -- in her infinite wisdom -- is helping both my son and I prepare for his release from the parental nest in much the same way. (Interestingly though it's my husband who is now having the harder time separating.)
Last year when our son announced Northeastern in Boston as his college choice I was so happy for him but was devastated for me. I wasn't ready to stop mothering him. I still wanted to make him french toast and do his laundry and drive him wherever he wanted to go. It didn't feel right to have him away from us.
But something happened this past summer. Whether he's doing it consciously or not, he's just not around. He's hiking. Or at a concert. Or home but is so involved in a programming project, he might as well not be home.
He's also been pulling away and becoming more independent. He has his license and no longer requires a chauffeur. He makes his own french toast. The kid won't even let me get him a plum, as in "I'm getting a plum, you want one?" to which he replies "no, I'll get it when I get up."
Finally, just like with the breastfeeding at 10 months, I'm ready to give him a little push toward the college equivalent of the "sippy cup." In the last few weeks I found I'm not as enthused about doing his (insert expletive here) laundry or his dishes or anything else that I feel an almost 19-year-old man should be doing. (In his defense, he would do anything and everything we asked him.) I can't believe I'm writing this, but it's time for him to be out of the house and on his own.
Just like it took my body and mind time to adjust to the end of breastfeeding, I know there will be a period of adjustment to seeing his empty bedroom (and subsequently his brother's after that). The difference between now and a few months ago is that I'm ready and looking forward to the next stage of motherhood with my sons. It just feels right.