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?”
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.