Friday, March 27, 2015

Getting Someone (Else) Off My Chest

Toddler nursing.

It is August, 2009. I write, "I can't imagine nursing a two-year-old. I think I would go crazy." My milk-loving toddler weans two and a half months later. It's mostly his idea. Despite my feeling like I have no idea what I'm doing, it seems just right.

Fast-forward to today. My second toddler loves milk even more than her brother did, it seems. At two-and-a-half years old, Ivy is still going strong on the nursing front. She opts for breastmilk instead of breakfast most days, and has a knack for asking, "Mama, kai [can I] nurse?" when it's least convenient to do so. She nurses at least six times a day. Add any kind of stress into the mix—busy day, developmental milestone, Daylight Savings Time—and that number jumps up to eight or nine. I might be going part because I'm not going anywhere, stuck in this chair under a 31-month-old baby.

I've banned the word crazy from our family vocabulary—as in "she's crazy"—because it's a word so often used in our culture to dismiss another person's feelings (especially if that person happens to be female). But I employ "crazy" in my interior monologue on the regular. As in, I'm going/must be/definitely crazy.

The crazy as it pertains to nursing a toddler is really ambivalence. Breastfeeding has never been my favorite thing. But it's not usually my least favorite thing, either. I am split down the middle between ever-so-done with this nursing relationship and awed that I continue to be a source of comfort and nutrition for my daughter in this way. I'd like to have my "body back" (whatever that means) tomorrow, put my foot down and say, "no more nursing"—while I also have the deep sense that when Ivy is 20, I won't wish I'd weaned her sooner. I'd like her to branch out nutritionally and eat a greater variety of foods, sit down to breakfast like a "normal preschooler" (whatever that means)—while I also know that  nothing I serve her in a cup or off a plate is going to match what she can get from my specifically-calibrated-for-Ivy breastmilk. I hate being stuck in a chair at nap time, but I still feel that cuddle-hormone bliss when she drifts off to sleep in my arms.

On a bad day, nursing my toddler can be just the mood-reset button I need. On a different bad day, it's jaw-clenchingly, skin-crawlingly awful. And on a good day, it seems just right.