I'm doing well with the changing of the seasons in the weather; not so much with the changing of seasons in life, specifically with my daughter. She's at such a special age right now. I love watching her grow and learn and become more of who she was created to be. She speaks so animatedly, telling me all sorts of things, and I look forward to the day I can actually understand everything she's saying. And she's so affectionate now - with hugs and kisses and snuggles. I'm loving it. But even as I enjoy this stage, I can't help but mourn the loss of the baby stage, just a little bit.
Ellery has weaned herself, and it's sort of breaking my heart.
I know it seems silly that I would be sad about this, especially because she's nearly sixteen months old. I've nursed her past the point that many moms in our culture nurse their babies. To be honest, i was even a little hesitant to admit this at all, fearing what people would think of me. I've heard friends make comments about how weird it is to nurse past one year, or that once the child is old enough to recognize what's happening and ask for it, it's just gross. I understand our culture has sadly cultivated this idea, and that it makes many mothers who do extended nursing embarrassed by their choice. But I realized I'm not embarrassed by this choice, and so I'll let people think what they will.
The funny thing is, nursing was what I was most freaked out about before I became a mom. I wasn't super scared of labor or delivery or the responsibility the way most pregnant women are. I was terrified of breast feeding. It seemed so weird to me, so strange, and almost wrong. I was raised in that good ol' Baptist way where we're supposed to be ashamed of our bodies. Where breasts are bad and only mean sex and that's just dirty. My parents weren't really that way, but I heard plenty of talks on "modesty" and sex growing up, that I equated my female body with wrong and dirty and guilt. And way too tempting for men. (Perhaps that's why I've always rebelled a little in the way I dress...like my wedding dress, for example. Not the most modest.)
It felt strange to me that God would create something meant to nourish babies, but that was also sexually tempting for men. And I wasn't quite sure how to make sense of that as a soon-to-be mother. Would I even be able to nurse my child? Would it hurt? All my mother friends said it was incredibly painful in the beginning, and one even told me it felt like rubbing sand paper on a sunburn. I was terrified.
Then Ellery was born and latched immediately and nursed like a pro. From the very beginning, she was a rock star at nursing. I remember texting one of my friends while still in the hospital, saying that nursing was surprisingly my favorite part of being a mom so far. It was incredibly bonding, and for me, relaxing. I almost fell asleep whenever I nursed Ellery in the first few weeks. One of the lactation nurses said it was because nursing releases oxytocin and prolactin, hormones that help relax the mother. She said it's particularly helpful in nature, as it helps animals stay still while feeding their young so that they don't run off and leave their hungry babies. (Isn't that amazing? Talk about a smart God who designed that.)
I think part of the reason I've been so happy with nursing and so hesitant to give it up is that it's actually something my body can do right when it comes to babies. The hormones from the placenta in my pregnant body like to stop my insulin from working properly, resulting in diabetes. My body likes to refuse to go into labor, meaning I have to have my babies cut out of me. The normal things that most pregnant bodies should be able to do don't happen for me. It is discouraging, and has made me feel like there's something wrong with me. I'm incredibly thankful to be able to get pregnant and maintain a pregnancy, but once that pregnancy happens, this body doesn't cooperate super well. But once the baby is out? This body does what it needs to do. And I'm so thankful I've been able to nourish Ellery in this way. My body has provided plenty of milk. Even though I got pregnant when Ellery was ten months old, and that usually reduces milk production, I've been able to easily continue to nurse her six months into my pregnancy, with plenty of milk. Another thing I'm grateful for.
Speaking of which, my doctor wanted me to stop nursing by my third trimester, which, incidentally, is in two weeks. I thought it might be hard to wean Ellery, but fortunately, she's doing it on her own. I hated the idea of weaning her before she was ready, but she's the one who's giving me the signs that she's ready, which is a blessing. My doctor said nursing in the third trimester can cause contractions, which can lead to pre-term labor. I wanted to laugh when she told me that. I wanted to assure her that nothing, not even breastfeeding, would make my body go into labor early, if at all. In fact, it might be better if I continue to breastfeed, as I would have more of a chance of going into labor!
The thing is, I don't actually believe people go into labor. I know they do, factually, but I have a hard time really believing it. Your water broke? No way. You were having contractions and they got closer together and they made you dilate? Yeah, right. Because of my experience with not going into labor, I just can't fathom how it works when people actually do. I sort of roll my eyes when I hear people say how it's natural and what our bodies were designed to do and that our bodies know what to do. Um, maybe your body, but not mine. Mine stays pregnant as long as possible and basically refuses to be forced into labor. Even after nearly 40 hours of labor-inducing drugs, I dilated approximately zero centimeters. Spicy food, castor oil, sex, tons of walking - my body laughs at those feeble attempts at labor induction!
But nursing? My body gets that. It doesn't refuse to cooperate in that way. I may not be able to grow the healthiest baby without sending too much sugar to my child, and I may not be able to deliver naturally, but I can nourish my baby with the healthiest food once he's born.
So I'll say goodbye to this season with Ellery with gratefulness at how special it has been. And I can be glad to soon be welcoming another child into our home. I'm trying to choose to be happy about each phase, without being sad about leaving one phase or trying to rush too soon into the next. I want to live each day fully present and in the moment. If anyone has figured out how to do that, please tell me how.