Today I cradle you, latched on to me for the last time. Today your body relaxes into mine, nourished and comforted in this way, for the last time. Today, I nurse you for the very. last. time.
I know it’s time, but now that this day is here, the ball in my throat threatens to suffocate me. You are my last baby, and this is our very last time.
Because you are my last baby, all of your firsts, feel like my lasts. I have mourned many of your firsts, but this one feels monumental. This last hurts more than the rest. I stare at your cheeks, your eyelashes, your lips, moving with perfect rhythm. Your hair has gotten longer, curling around your perfect little ear. Your hand, resting on my chest, tiny fingernails three times the size they were when we started this journey together. Your body, now wraps all the way around mine, knees tucked in behind. I can’t believe you still fit so perfectly, intertwined with me.
My eyes are now betraying me. I swallow and choke back sobs so I don’t wake you. I try desperately to remember why I have chosen to stop. In this moment, I can’t remember – but this decision was carefully considered.
My breasts will fill again with milk made especially for you, and my heart aches at the thought of emptying them into plastic. Slowly they will stop producing anything at all. They will stop. Forever. That thought breaks my heart. Shatters it. I will never be able to do this again.
We started this journey 473 days ago. Our 10 feeds a day have tapered down to 2 or 3 most days, but there is nothing you love more, nothing you seek more, and nothing that calms you more. We have been an expert duo for 473 days. Many times, now, you nurse while jumping, dancing, stretching me impossibly far so you can look around and engage in the world around you. You are curious and ready to phase into toddlerhood.
Try as i might, as I beg, to keep you a baby forever, there are celebrations to be had. Celebrations that have already been delayed. Today marks the end of my baby parenting days. Today I lurch myself forward into the next phase with you. Today I celebrate 473 days of being the sole provider of so much of what you need.
Maybe that is part of why it hurts so much – I won’t ever be needed like this again. I won’t have the magic answer to anything that ails you. I won’t be able to pop you on the boob to make your bumps and bruises from toddler topples instantly better, or distract you after immunizations. I won’t be able to nourish you when you are sick. I won’t be able to comfort you in the night, soothing you back to sleep.
Except, of course, that I will. I will still be able to hold you tight. You will still fit perfectly on my lap, no matter how big you get. My kisses will still hold the power to make you magically better. I can nourish you by providing the best food and drinks in so many wonderful varieties! I can hold you, and rock you, and love you – forever.
I will never stop studying the angle of your cheek, your impossibly long eyelashes, and your perfect pout. I will watch the crooked vein on your forehead grow as you get older. No one will ever know you like I know you. No one will have studied every inch of your side profile for 473 days! We will always be bonded in such a special way. You are my last baby. You are one of my precious daughters. I will always be your mom and you will always need me. I know this.
But today, the ache is real. The knot in my stomach is real. The ball in my throat, threatening to suffocate me, is real. The red-hot tears and stifled sobs, are real. They are all reminders of how special this phase of my life has been, how lucky I am to have enjoyed it for as long as I have.
Maybe tomorrow I will be ready to celebrate this. Maybe next week? Today I am mourning.
Today I grieve.