After 2 years and 5 months, Park and I have finalized the sweet chapter of breastfeeding together. Over the years I've pondered time and time again how this would end, how it would feel and how it would actually work itself out, whether or not it would be a fight or whether or not it would be of his own choosing. Looking back I can't help but feel ever so strongly what a blessed time we shared together and wonderful opportunity I gave myself and he gave me. And instead of feeling a sense of sadness over the maturing of my little baby boy or instead of feeling the eagerness to be DONE ALREADY, it was truly a bitter sweet reality. A little sadness and a little joy, a little of my wanting to end it more than he...and most of all a true excitement for Park's growing independence and the preparedness for the journey to come with our new addition.
When Park was born, the nurturing instincts of motherhood instantly took hold of me and breastfeeding became second nature. (I should also comment that it was super easy because Park knew what he was doing right away.) All I needed to do was follow his lead. He was such a sweet little guy, never crying or putting up a fight because he always had exactly what he needed. I knew from the get go that instead of fighting mine and his instincts, I would let him nurse as much and as often as he needed. And let me just add that I had NO IDEA what I was doing...I just did what felt right.
I'm sure many of you with children have heard advice about everything including feeding, sleeping, pacifying and so on. On one end I would hear the encouraging words from breastfeeding advocates stating what I was doing with Park was right (because it was right for us) while on the other end, I would hear or read advice that would put the both of us on a schedule...particularly the every 3 hours mumbo jumbo. Now I'm not judging on what is right or wrong for anyone else, I just knew that the only thing "right" for Park and I was just for Park and I. So although I welcomed the advice from others, I also took it only into a consideration.
Instead of fighting my inner instincts, instead of depriving Park of what he needed (because that's what it is for infants... "NEEDS") and giving in to my pure sleep deprivation and ability to do and behave as I selfishly chose, I gave in to his needs and his schedule. I should also add that I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to do so since I am a stay at home mother. I followed Park's lead, he didn't need to follow mine. I was also fortunate enough to have a partner that supported my decision to do what I felt was right for all of us. He never questioned how much Park nursed nor did he question our co-sleeping. Park slept with us for his first year and Marshall wouldn't have had it any other way. He, too, followed his own instincts as a father.
Park always wanted to nurse, whether hungry or not. He, unfortunately, did not like the pacifier (which I tried for a year) so I inevitably was just that....a pacifier. It was difficult at times, but fighting that difficulty would only make it harder for the both of us. Infants need to pacify...so that is what I let him do. When Park wanted to eat, to pacify, to sleep, to anything, I did those things with him. Although I spent a lot of time on the couch and resting, it was what we both needed. And it was wonderful. I was able to get the rest I needed that I wasn't getting throughout the night while he was getting everything he needed, me. And although I couldn't get up and go whenever I wanted, and although I had a little one glued to me at most times, I loved it because I didn't fight it. I knew it wouldn't be forever and I could never take back this most precious time with my firstborn, so I surrendered...completely...to my son and to my sole role as a mother and a nurturer.
I never planned on how long Park and I would breastfeed, although I did have a goal of making it until he was eating solids. There was a time when I was so sleep deprived that I worried about our habits and my needs and wondered if it was time for us to discontinue nursing (around 8 months). I seriously considered quitting and would have had it felt the right thing to do for the both of us. But it didn't feel right or natural, so I pushed through the tough times where I felt I was going to pass out from exhaustion and was soon to find everything fall into place and become easier. The transition from co-sleeping to sleeping in his own bed and bedroom was easy, the transition from Park waking up throughout the night to nurse to sleeping through the night was easy, it was all just EASY. It would have been more difficult I think if I had focused on the time it took to get him into his own room (1 year) and sleeping through the night (14 months), but by surrendering to his needs and his time to feel comfortable in doing so made those transitions more tolerable for everyone.
Once Park hit close to 2 years of age, I was getting VERY ready to be done nursing. I knew breastfeeding was more of a type of bonding behavior/habit that could easily be replaced by another source of comfort. But as all of you know, habits are very hard to break. Then 2 years of age rolled around and with the behaviors Park was displaying and the dreaded autism scare, I felt it the wrong time to make a drastic change in our experience together. So I waited, I ignored the "advice" I so often heard from anyone wanting to be heard, and made the decision when I knew we were definitely ready.
And so it was last week. With the baby coming just around the corner and with my natural instincts telling me I was more than ready to end this chapter with Park, I booked a trip to visit the most beautiful women in my life (my mother, grandmother, sister and aunts) and let Park and his Daddy have some bonding time while also "weaning" him from me and really, me from him. (Like I said, habits are very hard to break.) So I felt that the best way to get us out of the habit was for us to be apart. And after being gone for 6 days, I came back and realized how easy it was! Neither he nor I "needed" it any longer. The habit was broken while our bond remained unchanged.
I try not to think about the fact that this chapter between my little guy and I is over with because there is absolutely no point in dwelling on it. I love that Park is growing up and not needing me like he used to. When I am a little saddened at the ending, I remind myself quickly that not only do I need to prepare for the next child/breastfeeding and really want a break but that I've already been over it for months.
And so like I said, it has been a bitter sweet ending to a wonderful chapter in our lives and the beginning of a new one. I revel in delight at the growing and maturing of my now almost 2 1/2 year old. It's exciting to see him grow up and become independent. And I know that our experience breastfeeding together was perfect for the both of us....that I did what I felt was right. And most of all I really feel a sense of a huge accomplishment, not because of how long we nursed but for doing just what we felt was right for all of us!
May you all also parent the way you feel is right for you and your children, despite what others may good intentionally advise and I hope the consideration in your decisions is you and your child's well being, not just one or the other.
I hope you all had a wonderful Halloween weekend and your kiddos received lots of goodies to share with you all:) I don't think Park realizes it but he has been sharing a ton of chocolate with his Mommy and baby brother!