Last Saturday, Shepard decided to end our breastfeeding relationship. Although I’ve been preparing to wean him in the next few months, I was not ready for the totally abrupt way he chose to break things off. I’ve been having a really hard week trying to deal with the fact that my baby no longer wants or needs me in that way. And that I’m never going to have that relationship with another baby again.
Breastfeeding with Shepard was always a little more challenging with Caden. The first six months or so he would repeatedly spit up the majority of what he ate – usually while he was eating. I was frustrated by how hard it was for him to keep things down. I was sad that a lot of the time he’d give up on eating because it was clearly bothering him when it kept coming back up again. I was forever engorged and desperately hoping he’d suddenly start wanting to eat more than he had been. We had a rocky start, but we kept with it. I didn’t really have a choice, though – despite his lack of interest in eating much, he absolutely refused to take a bottle. Not of breast milk, and definitely not of formula. I was stuck between being relieved that he needed me, but also feeling trapped because I could never go anywhere or do anything without him for more than an hour or two the first nine months of his life.
Breastfeeding with Caden was such a totally different experience. All Caden wanted to do was eat. All day long. All night long. For months and months and months. There were many times that I considered weaning him from breast milk to formula, at least half of the time, because it was unbelievable how much time we spent every day and night just sitting there nursing. Before I gave birth to him I thought that the maximum time I would ever breastfeed would be for twelve months. Well, that birthday came and went and I knew there was no way either of us could let go yet. Around fifteen months I was starting to think about wanting another baby and realizing that I needed to start weaning Caden. Very slowly we took away a feeding month by month. We let go together, when we were both ready, on his 19 month birthday.
I expected it to go about the same with Shepard. Breastfeeding is something the mother can control, right? Not really. I’ve been mentally preparing myself to have him weaned in the same fashion around August or September – when he was between 18 and 19 months. I guess Shepard had other plans. I should have expected it. Besides his first feeding in the morning, in the last few months he usually was just playing around more than actually eating. It wasn’t quite the beautiful bonding experience I always shared with Caden at the end.
What really bothers me is that I don’t even remember our last feeding. It was the morning of our last day of vacation. And I remember just wishing he’d hurry and fall back to sleep so I’d have time to check out the Traverse City Farmer’s Market before I had to pack everything up to go home. It’s not that I don’t have hundreds of other memories of that bond, but I wish I had a last time mental snapshot to hold on to like I have with Caden.
Shepard decided to push the hurt a little farther by acting like I betrayed him the next four or so days. Like it was my choice! Suddenly every time I tried to even go near him he’d start screaming and run away. He’d jump on Greg crying if I even looked at him. I didn’t understand what happened. I’ll probably never understand. But it’s over.
And now it’s time for a new era in my motherhood experience. I’ve spent the last four and a half years either pregnant or breastfeeding. I do not plan to have any more children. I need to figure out what happens next. I’ll probably always be sad at the way things ended between Shepard and I, but I need to stop dwelling on it. It’s been a very emotional week for me and I’m ready to move on.
Even though it was hurtful to me, I’m glad that Shepard was able to let go on his own. I don’t feel like I robbed him of anything, like I did with Caden. Shepard has always shown a lot more independence and this is just another example of that. He’s not a baby anymore, though he’ll forever be my baby.
I’m excited to start finding new and more creative ways to be a good mom. Breastfeeding is easy. Actually using my mind and energy to stimulate my kids is a lot more challenging. I’m looking forward to actually sleeping through the night on a regular basis. I’m excited that I now have the freedom to leave overnight or go on weekend trips without having to worry about leaving a hungry baby behind. My role has shifted a bit and I think it’s a good thing. I’m still sad, but I’ll get over it. I love my kids and they’ll still love me, even without that bond that was destined to end. We just need to find new ways to become close. I’m looking forward to the challenge.