April is Child-Led Weaning Awareness Month! If you would like to contribute, please e-mail your story and photo(s) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Our goal is to help normalize breastfeeding past infancy and help parents who may feel alienated. So, even if you helped the weaning process along, but breastfed past infancy- please still send in your story!)
Image and text by Cecilia Rands
You were a surprise. Vomit on a cold February morning that could not be explained away was, eventually, explained right into a baby. A baby?! Yes, a baby. You were a surprise. A funny feeling at the end of July and a bathroom break that wasn’t quite ordinary, could not be explained away, was explained right into labour, delivering a baby. A baby?!
Yes, a baby. Early, surprising, a baby. You continued to surprise. With your strength and independence, and your stubborn, stubborn attitude. Don’t listen to the nurse, mama, you whispered in the middle of the night. It’s okay, I just need you. Don’t listen to them – I know better. We know better. And it was when I trusted you that I was truly surprised – that you did know better. Right from day one. You always knew best. That was the most surprising part. So I let myself be surprised. By how much you could, and would, nurse. And how quickly you grew, for such a tiny, tiny baby.
How quickly my heart grew, as you gained weight and gained strength and gained attitude and gained smiles and laughs and it just kept growing and growing – while you fed, my soul fed. I never wanted to be apart from you, never wanted to leave you with anyone. I was surprised at my own dependence on you and your love. I was surprised by how breastfeeding fed me, helped me to grow, into this new role, this new life. Helped ease me into it, day by day, feed by feed. And I was surprised by how much I loved it.
But you kept surprising me. You kept growing – which I think surprises all mothers (can’t you stay small forever?) And then the dreaded day came, and I had to leave you, had to go back to school, to work. We had had over a year together, a beautiful, wonderful, life-changing year. And I thought I would be okay, no matter what happened. They warned me. “She might wean,” they said. “She might forget all about you,” they said. And I was surprised to realize how much that scared me. That I might lose it – that quickly, that easily, that unwillingly. Lose the ability to comfort you, to hold you (as you so rarely wanted to be held anymore – too much to do, too much to see). Lose the feeling of you falling asleep at the breast, drifting off, getting heavier and heavier in my arms and finally, slowly, slipping off with your mouth still in a perfect little pout. I was scared to lose you.
But you were a surprise. Yes, you were fine while I was gone – fine all day, fine for your nap, fine with a cup of milk, fine fine fine. And I was scared. But then – the surprising part – you still needed me. You still wanted me. Yes, you were fine while I was gone. But when I was there, I was there! Why would you settle for second best if I was there? And that was the best part, maybe the most surprising part. Realising your flexibility, your versatility, and my own ability to manage it all. To manage you, and school, and work, and life. It was scary, and it was hard. But we managed. Together, and apart, we managed.
You will be two soon. And you still need me. You are still fine when I am not there, and we spend longer stretches apart than ever before. But when we were are together, we are inseparable. You point at the side you want and at where you want to sit. More than ever before, you make the choices and assert your independence and make me laugh while you nurse. You stop in the middle to giggle at your dad, you pat my chest with your free hand in such a sweet, loving, soft way. You surprise me every day, little girl. With your independence and your intelligence and your wonderful, loving nature. And that a person as miraculous as you could still want, could still need me.
I’m surprised that I don’t want to stop. I will follow you and your cues and your needs and wants and we will manage this, as we have for the last year and a half, together. I’m surprised at how much this relationship has done for both of us, has meant for both of us. And I am ready for whatever surprises lay around the corner.