We have begun the countdown. I am going away this week and leaving my children behind. For three days. For the first time. And then there will be no more nursing.
All done nursing when mommy goes on the airplane.
We go to airport?
Mommy goes to the airport. I am going to go on an airplane and be away. You’ll stay with daddy and there will be no more nursing.
It seems right and fair that I give them warning. I have been warning them for weeks as we whittled the sessions down to before nap and at night and then just once at bedtime. As I have all but stopped, my supply dropped dramatically and my deflated glands hung shriveled and discarded like plastic sandwich bags washed for intended reuse. Working out at the gym diminished their purpose as well when pecs and delts began to form behind the sagging flesh and replaced once perky sources of baby milk. Its bitter sweet, this end. But I am ready for it.
I thought the end arrived unexpectedly Saturday night. After a regretfully late scheduled family haircut and low blood sugar trolling for gluten free dinner alternatives, we arrived home much past bedtime. Tavi and Bea fell asleep in the car and transferred without much fanfare to bed. Neither one nursed. I sat there unsure of what to do for a few minutes before I slunk off the bed like I was getting away with something.
Sunday night resulted in a stand off and I gave in because the deal was: when mommy goes on the airplane. And I was not ready to force the memory of that last time at my breasts as I had done with Ivy.
It felt like Tavi had been ripped from my arms even though we gave voluntary hugs and kisses when I left before dawn on Thursday morning. The cold empty space against my chest felt closely like heartbreak. I had to control myself to keep from running from the snaking TSA security line and back to my babies. I held my shredded heart in my mouth as the plane lurched forward into the sky towards the Mexican sun. The pain, excruciating. I wrote reams of consciousness in my journal, hoping to wash the pain away with ink. Pieces of my heart were still tightly tethered to the ground until, close to tears; I finally fessed up to my seatmates that I was on my first childfree getaway. The retired couple next to me nodded empathetically, sharing the loss of their own empty nest. I thought: this is how it will feel when they leave me forever.
Once in San Diego waiting for my friend and indulging in several text messages imploring the status of my children, I began to look forward to my vacation. And once both Mary and the driver arrived, buckled in my seat belt and on a one-way route across the border I began to loosen up. A couple of margaritas didn’t hurt either. Not to mention the massage / facial and sauna / jacuzzi combo. By the time I had enjoyed some good food, great scenery and a little shopping I was looking forward to a bed to myself.
I bought a prepaid international phone card before I left but didn’t count on not having cell phone service on the southern side of a very ugly fence. My attempts to speak with the Spanish-speaking operator failed miserably and after a desperate attempt to send a meager email, I realized it was for the best. My children were in capable hands and I was on vacation. Vacation meaning from my life, which meant the thankless tasks of motherhood. But I missed my children and regretted my resentment for them. And oh the guilt!
Over the course of the next three days I consoled my grief and guilt in gallons of margaritas, deep tissue manipulation and strolls along the beach. Don’t get me wrong, I had an amazing time and enjoyed the freedom of choosing to do whatever I wanted to do whenever I wanted to do it. But at night I tossed and turned in a fitful attempt at solo sleep. I was used to having my co-sleeplings grab, punch and kick me awake in the dark. And I had hot flashes as the few remaining nursing hormones fled my body in a delayed post partum exorcism. My body retired from lactation in a beach front hotel overlooking the Pacific ocean. I was “done”.
As soon as I saw my wriggling children sleepy and restless in the back seat of the car, I was happy to be home. When I was making my connecting flight, I was terrified I would miss my plane and be without my girls for another night. But I made it and anxiously arrived at PDX. And now here they were looking more like children and less like the babies I imagined I abandoned. Ivy fought sleep and was happy to see me. Tavi made a feeble attempt to feign anger before she relented and grinned the whole ride home as I held her hand. Bea squirmed and blew me kisses until the car was parked in the front of our house. Inside I delivered promised goodies and they all begged for bed. As I snuggled up next to my little urchins, I held my breath. Tavi assumed her position beside me and asked so sweetly it cracked my mending heart, “Nurse please?”
I’m sorry, baby. It’s all gone. We’re all done nursing when mommy went on the airplane.
At that last sweet soothing, curled in my arms, I made them say good-bye. “Bye-bye nursing. All done.” I was sad, but looking forward to my trip. But now home again, picking up a dropped routine, I almost caved. I felt myself giving in but decided, really, it was time. I would have no other easy out after this. And I was ready. I am ready to have my body back.
The next night Tavi asked again and after being refused fussed and flung her arms madly. Bea pushed out her bottom lip and threatened to cry, but was too tired to fight. And I think they knew the line was drawn. There was no going back now. The following night, Bea pleaded in one last effort and melted into the pillows where she fell asleep with my arm around her. I’m sure the asking will slowly taper into a memory. One I hope they will keep, at least that feeling of closeness and knowing that we once shared my body.