I didn’t know

I didn’t know when I nursed the baby this morning that it may have been for the last time.

We had a good long nurse, an hour or so, and I did take the time (I must remember) to lovingly gaze at his upturned face. To tousle the little bits of hair on his bald head. To remind myself of his nose and chin – the traits that are definitely from me – and also the roundness of his head and dimples – the traits that are his Daddy all the way. To note the soft little lips suckling that belie the incredible strength that is this baby. To cuddle and hold him close, so close, and to tickle his little toes. To watch his little cheeks pucker in and out with the milk. To marvel at the movement at his temple that shows a full suck, and the little gurgling in his belly as it fills with this stuff – this marvelous stuff that only I can give him.

It’s been a wild ride, kid.

When your brother was born, he didn’t nurse. He was born so early that he didn’t know how. We had to teach him, slowly, painfully, feeding him out of syringes and medicine droppers until he could learn to drink from a bottle and from me. Every ounce was hard-won, and when he finally nursed at 4.5 weeks, we rejoiced with great cheers and happy, made-up songs.

When you were born, you were having none of that. Right there in the delivery room, you looked around. You sized up the room, eyed the doctor and the nurses, let your gaze settle on me for a bit, and began to nurse. I was estatic. You were estatic. This was going to work. Of course, nothing is perfect. You were a little, ahem, too enthusiastic sometimes, and it wasn’t easy for me this time. But you … you nursed, and grew, and became a big little boy in no time.

You’re nearly 18 pounds now, at 5.5 months. You’re a big boy. You can handle this transition that we now need to make to bottles and pumped milk or formula.

But can I?

I will miss it.

The oncologist who is preparing me for chemo talked with me about giving up breastfeeding. There may be a way to keep at it on the off-weeks, but there is a risk. A big risk. Basically, it would pump the baby full of chemicals, and I’m not willing to risk that for my child. He is a beautiful, wonderful, smart boy, and I’m not willing to risk very much on his behalf, actually. He will grow to be a happy, adventurous child like his brother — and I can’t wait to see that! Besides, my greatest fear with the chemo is that my body is already so depleted from the breastfeeding, the middle-of-the-night (and both edges-of-the-night) feedings, constantly being “on,” the pregnancy, the bedrest, and let’s not forget the Doritos! (Just a little humor there, folks, no need to be concerned).

So we planned the weaning with the lactation consultant on Thursday. Decided to give up one feeding every three days, and keep breastfeeding the other (eight) times. To wean us both from the milk, the delivery, the closeness.

And then I had my bone scan and CT scan today. I won’t bore you with the details now (although I may do so later), but as we were leaving, I asked the technician, “Now, how long should I wait to breastfeed the baby? Two or three hours?”

Nope.

Thirty.

I can’t breastfeed at all until Monday.

I’ve asked my mom to stay and help WhyDaddy get bottles into the baby for the first couple days. It’s not going well. I’m up now (4:00) because the last feeding was painfully loud. Screaming and crying echoed through the upstairs bedrooms. And the baby was upset too. (I kid. WhyDaddy has patience beyond patience, and he is so wonderfully perfect with these children. I am so lucky. We all are so lucky.) They’ll get it. WhyDaddy and Little Bear will get it. It’s just going to take some time.

Because the bottle — or the cup — is just not as comforting as Mommy.

As we left for our appointments this morning, my mother asked if the baby needed a quick feed. I tossed over my shoulder, “No, I don’t think so. He ate just an hour ago.” If I had known that it would be my last chance, I would have grabbed him and put him to my breast (the good one) and held him there for as long as he needed.

Or maybe just forever.

June 2007 Perfect Post Awards

35 Responses to I didn’t know

  1. You are handling this, friend, with wit and sensitivity and courage. I applaud your strength and insight.

    And your love for that baby boy just comes shining through in this post.

    But I do think you’ll need the sleep at night so that you can minimize the chemo’s impact on your body.

    (hugs)

  2. the new girl says:

    I really admire your ability to put forth the kind of support you need during this time. I can so relate to not wanting pity or people to ‘feel bad for you.’ I never do well with that either.

    And so, I am sending a positive message of support to you. I am holding a place for you and your family in my heart and mind and I will send you good, healing energy.

  3. Bon says:

    wit and strength and insight indeed…Slouching Mom said it well. i am sorry that the last time came and went for you without you knowing. and yet, like you said, it was a good last time…that’s good. i can tell you, having just weaned O finally earlier this month, each last time i gave myself was equally poignant and bittersweet, until in the end i knew i just had to stop and be done with it. but i am lucky to have had that choice. and i wish you had, too.

    but your writing about it…beautiful. you made me laugh and smile and nod, and i hope in putting all this on the page there is catharsis for you. i also hope Little Bear takes to the bottle soon, and there will be peace in the household and more sleep for you, for your body to heal.

  4. Kim says:

    So much of parenting is a “first” and a “last.” How many of those I have missed already with my two! There is always an ache- a growing pain. When I weaned Stella- after a very fortunate 19 months- I was the one crying, although I was sure she would have nursed until she moved out at 18. Go figure. They’re always surprising us. Your “little” guy will do just fine- they’re the flexible ones!

    Stranger, friend, you’re in my heart.

  5. Robin says:

    I’m sorry that the end of your days breastfeeding the baby came to such an abrupt and unexpected end on top of everything else you’re facing. I had a very abrupt and unsought weaning with my second child (for very different reasons, but quite traumatic for both of us). Be gentle with yourself. On top of everything else, an end to breastfeeding can bring its own challenges, both physical and emotional.

    I KNOW that your strength and grace will get through this newest hurdle as you’re facing all the others, and I’m so very glad that you’re working together with a local LC, but if you want or need to talk more about this with someone who’s both a btdt mother and an LC I’ve got a strong and a good ear for listening.

  6. MC Milker says:

    Beautiful post. So much about parenting is letting go. You are in my thoughts

  7. coolbeans says:

    With my first baby, we had to stop breastfeeding at seven months cold turkey. I did know the last time was the last, and I can remember the pain in my heart when it was over.

    But, we got through it and though it was very important to me at the time and I do wish we could have gone longer, it’s certainly not the most important thing today, two days before he turns into a teenager. Your strength, humor and love are powerful. Those things pool in the corners of who they are, giving them a reservoir to draw from as they move through the world as men. We can’t see in on their chins or taste it when we kiss them, but it is so, so good. You will see.

  8. canape says:

    Yes. You are lucky to have the very patient and very wonderful Whydaddy. You have 3 very wonderful boys. Four, because I of course count the pup as well.

  9. LawyerMama says:

    It’s bittersweet whenever you stop nursing, isn’t it? You’ll still have the closeness once he gets used to the bottles. And how wonderful it will be to come home from chemo and snuggle your beautiful little boys.

  10. whymommy says:

    How beautiful of you all to share with me like this. I hesitated this time before hitting “post,” as I’ve recently shared my blog with playgroup friends, work friends, and longtime friends in real life, but it’s real. And I needed to talk about it. And hearing from you — it makes it easier.

    You’re right. You’re all so, so right.

    Thank you.

  11. Heather! says:

    *hugs* endings are never easy. hope the boy settles down with the bottles soon enough so you can get back to cuddling in earnest.

  12. Liz says:

    What idiot that cancer is for even considering taking you on. Your power and inner strength will get you through this. Easy. You are an amazing woman. Sending you heaps of positive healing thoughts and here’s to some sleep for you soon.

  13. amygeekgrl says:

    this is my first time to visit your blog, but i had to comment. big hugs to you, mama. i can only imagine what you are going through with both the cancer and having to wean well before you were ready, but i know that you will get through this. you will all get through this.
    i can sense that you are an incredibly strong woman and mother and you will kick cancer’s ass.
    sending you lots of positive and healing vibes your way.

  14. I’ve started this comment about ten times. Other commenters before me have already said what I want to say, and more eloquently. I wait every day for your latest update, and think of you at the oddest moments, feeling like perhaps at that very moment you need light and love sent your way.

    Know that when you feel this way, it shakes up the universe and we feel it too, and we oblige you.

  15. spacemom says:

    ouch, that hurts. I am sorry that you couldn’t end this on your terms.

    But he will still snuggle you… I promise!

  16. Kristen says:

    God. I’m not sure how you’re doing it – but damned if your honesty and optimism is kicking my ass into gear.

    Thank you.

    And c’mon. The chemo drugs can’t be as bad as what he’ll get in that there formula.

    HA. KIDDING!

  17. It is very hard to wean a perfectly happily nursing baby. I had to do it with my son at 5 months for allergy reasons (too complicated to go into here). We had to do it cold turkey.

    He would not take bottles at all and I could not go near him with one because he knew that I had better stuff that what was in the bottle. My sister finally fed him the first successful bottle and from then on he was fine. So, hang in there. It might be hard, but have someone else do the bottles and he will come around soon.

    My thoughts are with you.

  18. whymommy says:

    Thought I’d post an update — Little Bear is doing GREAT. He still won’t look sideways at a bottle, but he’s slowly accepting the cup. A bit. And after he’s done with that, I just feed him with a medicine dropper until we’ve got a couple ounces in him. We’ll get it. I know we’ll get it.

  19. Dawn says:

    Your humor is comforting… and undoubtedly your biggest defense in this fight. My baby is only a few weeks younger than yours, so I know the comfort you take from the nursing – but also know that my oldest son weaned himself from me around this age and we’re as close as a mom and a 10 yr old can be. *hugs*

  20. […] Now, I sit here crying because this woman has to deal with so, so much right now. I can easily put myself into her shoes through her writing (especially this post. […]

  21. Jennifer says:

    Just stopping by to say something. I don’t know what to say. Your post is a beautiful one. Your strength is powerful.

    Go kick some cancer ass.

    We’re all rooting for you.

  22. […] can nourish my baby. I can comfort her through teething pain. And, I do not have cancer. WhyMommy’s eloquence shames me with all that I take for granted. No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments […]

  23. mo-wo says:

    What a rip. That Little Bear will be alright soon enough. You a little later but better I can feel it.

  24. Ally says:

    I related to the description of your first and second born’s nursing abilities. We had the same trouble with our first– born too soon, not knowing how to suck, feeing with syringes, etc, until she finally learned how to nurse. When my second was born she went right to the boob, and I literally shouted, “I have a nursing champion! A champion!” “Uh, okay then,” the nurses seemed to think aloud.

    I feel your pain in this post; having to give up breast-feeding is no small thing. It is a loss, and it’s okay to grieve for it.

    Know that we’re all here, thinking of you and praying for you through all of this.

  25. […] Blog Antagonist Her Bad Mother awarded My Level of Awareness Coming to a Nursery Near You awarded Toddler Planet Mom Writes awarded Mama Saga Twas Brillig awarded The Butrfly Garden techmamas awarded Jessica […]

  26. Daisy says:

    Gulp. A dear friend just went through chemo, and I keep picturing her in your place. Good luck doesn’t say enough: rest assured that I will think of you and I admire your strength.

  27. […] thank Dawn from Coming to a Nursery Near You, who nominated me for a June Perfect Post Award for I Didn’t Know, my piece about the end of my nursing relationship with Little Bear.  I should have thanked her […]

  28. […] presents Toddler Planet posted at Toddler […]

  29. […] post I wrote when I realized that I had just nursed my little boy for the last time.  I called it I Didn’t Know. No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI […]

  30. Just found you from the breast fest.

    Such a sad post, and so well said. I wish you well.

  31. That must have been very difficult for you.
    A very beautiful post. Moving!
    My thoughts are with you.

  32. Meleah says:

    God Bless You! I have treasured nursing my twins more than anything else…how hard that must have been for you…God Bless You for giving your son every bit of breastmilk you could give him.

  33. […] woke up from his nap and I nursed him, WhyMommy’s post about not knowing it was the last time she nursed in the forefront of my brain, and I took the time to look in his […]

  34. […] of the first thing I ever read of your blog, that connected me to you forever, where you were heartbroken because you had to wean […]

  35. K says:

    I share your tears. I came home from a Dr. who told me to stop breastfeeding while he treated my “infection”. I couldn’t give my baby girl (just two months old) the bottle; I had to have her grandmother do it. I just cried and cried, since it felt so foreign to me after having nursed her older brother for 14 months. Luckily, she took to it well. I continued to try to breastfeed (against dr’s orders) from the healthy breast for another month, then had the very same experience that you did: I didn’t know when I went in the morning for my PT scan that was going to be the last time that I nursed her. I didn’t know that they were going to inject radioactive fluid into my veins. And it didn’t matter how long I was going to remain radioactive, since the chemo therapy for IBC was to start the following week anyway. Like you, if I had known, I would have cherished that moment, or gone back in the house for one last time. I am sure by now your little one is doing well, as is my chunky little 6 month old. I am catching up with your posts, as it seems that you are exactly one year ahead of me in this parallel journey. Keep up the fight.

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