Last year, at about this time, I wrote about weaning my daughter Emily. At that time, I cut out nursing at night, and limited her to three nurses a day. We've continued like that for the past year. Now Emily is almost three and my body is tired. I've gotten sick recently, I'm under stress and I'm writing a book that has me working around the clock. I don't really have the energy to nurse Emily, yet I also haven't had the energy to stop. And then there's the fact that I feel guilty about working so much, and nursing Emily is one thing I know she really wants that I can give her.
But last month, a good friend weaned her son, who is also nearing three, and I felt inspired. Both of us are in our mid-forties, nursing our second kids, and when I saw her do it, I realized I could, too.
I talked it over with Joan and she pointed out that I was about to go away for a weekend writing retreat, and it was going to be the longest time I'd ever spent away from Emily. Joan said, 'You'll be gone all weekend. It's the perfect time. You should do it.'
In the back of mind, I'd had this vague plan of cutting Emily back gradually in time for her third birthday. But really, what kind of birthday present is that - taking away her nur-nurs?
Joan got the ball rolling. She told Emily that Mama Vicki's body wasn't going to be able to make milk anymore. Then she told Emily that she'd be more like Justin once she stopped nursing. Emily's eyes definitely lit up at that one.
Still, I wasn't quite sure I was ready myself. It wasn't that I even liked nursing anymore, it's just that I was caught in the grip of inertia. Stopping seemed like too much work.
Joan reminded me, "When you get clear about it, Vicki, it'll be easy."
So I thought about it and got clear. I haven't enjoyed nursing for a long time. I tolerate it, mostly, for Emily's sake. I hate the fact that Emily often seems to see me primarily as a giant walking breast.
"Weaning her can broaden our relationship," I thought. "Maybe she'll start looking into my eyes, instead of always at my breasts."
When Justin weaned, I remember worrying that we would lose our special bond. But I'm not concerned about that with Emily. Having traveled this road before, I know there are endless ways to be special and endless ways to be close.
The only sad part for me was knowing that an era was ending. Emily is my last baby and I am moving into middle age. Nursing her has been a way to hold on to some vestige of something that is passing away. But as the days progressed, and our weaning date grew closer, I realized that the sadness I thought I was going to feel really wasn't materializing. I realized I was ready to move on to the next stage of life and the next stage of being Emily's mother.
Even in our last days of nursing, I didn't feel any longing to prolong each nurse. I was still the one to say, 'Okay, Emily. That's enough. I'm putting the nur-nurs away."
Tomorrow is our last nursing day - once in the morning and once at night. I asked Emily what she wanted as a 'no more nurse' present and she asked for a shot glass. This might strike you as odd, but Emily's been drinking out of a shot glass for years (really, they are just right for a toddler's hands, and they don't break when they hit the floor). Emily's favorite shot glass broke six months ago when I dropped it in the sink and she wants a replacement. She wants it to be plain, with no letters, no designs and no handles.
So I went to the liquor store yesterday morning to buy one. As I forked over my $1.50, I looked down and noticed that I was still wearing my slippers. It was 8:45 in the morning. I'd just dropped the kids off at school and now I was in liquor store, still needing my hair brushed, I might add. I felt like a desperate woman waiting for a drink. When the man handed me the shot glass, I said to him, "Really, this is for my two-year-old daughter. She's not going to be nursing anymore and she asked for a shot glass." He smiled at me as if I was crazy, and I guess, perhaps, I was.
The night of our last nurse, I cooked the special dinner Emily ordered - carrot cake and carrots. I decided to add rice, chicken apple sausages, broccoli and bubbly apple juice - all of her favorite foods. Emily got her smooth, unmarked shot glass over dinner, and afterwards, we went off to nurse one last time. I tried to dredge up some sadness for that last nurse, but frankly, I was just glad when it was over, and we could move on to a bedtime story.
The next morning, Emily got up and asked to nurse. When I reminded her we'd had our last nurse, she cried a little, and pretty quickly moved on. That night I left for my writing retreat, and from what Joan says, they all had a great time without me.
When I got home on Sunday, Emily ran over and hugged me, but she didn't ask to nurse. She hasn't brought it up, not once, and it's been four days. Some of that is our clarity, a lot of it is her temperament, and some of it is just the fact that it was time.
My breasts are full, but no engorged. My friend Yona said I should put a cabbage leaf on my breasts to ease the swelling, but I don't think I'll have to take things that far.
This morning, Emily woke up at six, and came and cuddled with me in bed. This is time we always would have nursed. Today, she was the baby kitty and I was the Mama kitty. We meowed at each other. I licked her face and rubbed her fur. She purred and snuggled closer. Then we got up and made pancakes from scratch, feeling just as close to each other as ever.
Laura Davis is a nationally syndicated columnist and the co-author, with Janis Keyser, of Becoming the Parent You Want to Be: A Sourcebook of Strategies for the First Five Years (Broadway Books, 1997). Laura and Janis are currently writing a book for the parents of elementary school children. Laura is the mother of six-year-old Justin, two-year-old Emily and stepmom to twenty-two year-old Daniel. Out of respect for the privacy of her family members, they are being identified by pseudonyms in this story.