Sunday, June 6, 2010

...And we're done...

Last night, I nursed Parker for the last time.  It was such a great experience, and I'm glad I was in the moment for the entire marathon session.  I think he sensed something was up, as he never nurses that long anymore.  But, he seemed so calm, and he took his time with what would ultimately be the last time we both would experience such closeness in that way.

Many of you know how much difficulty Parker and I had learning to nurse.  In the end, the two of us have battled:  Not being put to the breast until days after birth and even then we weren't "allowed" to nurse long since Parker was so tired and needed to eat quickly at each scheduled NICU feeding; constant around the clock pumping in the first few weeks of Parker's life; a nipple shield to help Parker latch since I had flat nipples; NICU bottles and nipples full of expressed breast milk which ultimately contributed to nipple confusion; pacifier use by the hospital within the first hour of his birth (and continued throughout  his 9-day NICU stay) which also ultimately contributed to nipple confusion; bruised, cracked, bleeding nipples that led to several visits with a lactation consultant; plenty of days where crying was the only thing on the agenda; after learning how to latch and nurse properly, Parker refused all alternative methods of feeding until solids were introduced at six months, which made it impossible for me to go anywhere or do anything without Parker in tow; three bouts of mastitis (one at 4 months, another at 14 months, and another just a few weeks ago); chronic clogged ducts and milk blisters that have lasted our entire breastfeeding journey and Lecithin supplements up to four times per day to help thin out my milk...and that's just what I can remember.  I feel so proud of myself for perservering in the face of adversity throughout the past 15 months, 3 weeks and 2 days.  You never realize how difficult it is to breastfeed your child not only physically, but mentally as well...until you're doing it.  Everyone has something to say about breastfeeding.  People love that you're doing it, but they don't want you to do it too long and when you do it for an extended period of time those same supportive people sometimes become non-supportive.  Some people think you shouldn't do it at all.  Some people will try to convince you that it doesn't matter, even when they know it matters to you.  Some people will support you no matter what you choose...but, those people are not the norm.

But, along with the battle came a great that I hope I'll never forget as time goes on.  One that I hope I'll be able to experience again someday if we're blessed with another baby.  I loved the time that Parker and I spent together, just us.  I blogged a few months ago about a snapshot in time during one of our nursing sessions...and I can't tell you how many times per day I have felt the same wasn't just that one time. last night...

I knew this was our last nursing session.  It has been planned for a week or so.  Parker has been getting more and more independent and he has been self-weaning in his own way over the past few weeks.  We always nursed in the recliner in the family room.  But, Parker began to latch, unlatch, get off the chair and grab a toy and come back and want to latch...lather, rinse, repeat.  It became too much, and he wasn't getting in some good nursing sessions.  So, we started nursing in the glider in his quiet.  Parker sprawled out on the boppy pillow and would self-soothe by playing with his hair, and just wrapping himself up in me.  It was like old times.  But, I began to feel that I was forcing the issue since I knew he would be more distracted if we were downstairs...and I wondered if he was just ready to let go...but, had some ambivalence...just like his mommy.  So, the date was set...and I cherished every nursing session even more so...if that was possible.

I let Parker nurse as long as he wanted last night...and long he did.  He began on the left breast.  A calm came over him almost instantly when he latched.  He played with his hair and his eyes fluttered.  He put his left leg on my chest and shoulder and nestled in.  When he finally switched breasts, he nestled in again.  Only this time he seemed to be trying to savor the moment.  My heart melted as he reached up and guided the hand that was propping up my face to his hair.  He wanted me to play with his hair.  Then, at the same time I was playing with his hair, he reached up and pulled some of my curls so that they landed on my chest.  He began twirling my curls.  With his other hand, ge held my breast.  A little later, he reached up and grabbed my hand.  He held my hand for a long time...twirling his fingers in and out of mine.  Then, he put his fist to my mouth.  He wanted me to kiss his fingers, and his open hand, and the inside of his wrist, and the inside of his forearm, and the inside of his elbow, and eventually his cheek.  That was our thing.  He loved when I did that.  The anticipation as I kept moving towards his face always made him smile and laugh...but, he never unlatched.  I don't know how he did it...but, he always did it..he never missed a beat.  When he was finished nursing, he unlatched...something that he did sporadically.  Most times I would have to pry him off of me, even when he was in a deep sleep.  But, I think he wanted to do this his way.  He unlatched, and smiled at me.  I picked him up and laid his head on my shoulder.  I walked around the dark room with him and held him.  He held me back.  His nighttime turtle was turned on (it's a turtle that sits on the floor and the shell has little star-shaped holes on it where the light passes through and shines "stars" and a "moon" on the ceiling and walls in either blue, orange, or green.  Tonight it was green.).  He was looking at the stars and cuddling me.  Then, he reached out to touch a star on the wall.  So, we walked around the room, quietly touching the stars and smiling.  I began singing his sleep song...Silent Night.  I always have to sing all three verses and then hum through it one time before putting him down.  So, I did.  He laid his head down on my shoulder...and I heard him take that deep breath that he takes just before he falls deeply asleep.  I kissed the back of his head.  I laid him in the crib...always on his tummy and his knees.  He didn't move.  I didn't either.  I just looked at him for a little while.  I felt truly blessed.

It was a good ending to this chapter of our lives.  I'm not sure who to thank for this.  Parker?  Myself?  God?  All I know is that I'm thankful.  I'm thankful for being able to experience pregnancy, childbirth, taking care of a newborn, taking care of an infant, and now taking care of a toddler.  I'm thankful for being able to feel pain, sadness, love, joy, heartache, compassion, worry, fear, responsibility, and unconditional love.  It makes me human.  It makes me feel alive.  I love my family...and they remind me every day how special I am...and how lucky we all are to have each other.  Thank you, Parker, for making me a mommy...and making me love it.

Every ending symbolizes a new beginning.  I wonder what the future holds...

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