Excuse Me While I Weep Into My Freedom

This afternoon I put Quinn down for her nap after lunch. What’s the big deal, you ask? Well, friend, I didn’t nurse her first. Just lunch, books, nap.  Again, you inquire: so why all your wailing and gnashing of teeth? Because, silly. I’m weaning her from the great milk factory known as my bosoms.  It’s a moment to which I’ve been looking forward for at least six months.  It’s a time that I’ve imagined as somewhere, out on the horizon–a beautiful sunset that I can see, but not quite touch. And it’s here. It’s finally here. My daughter now longer needs me as her primary source of nutrition, and I am free.

So, of course I want to cry.

I’m a year-and-done kind of breastfeeder. I nurse instead of giving formula, because that’s what works for us, and I’m lucky enough to be able to do it. But once I get the okay to introduce milk to the wee one, man, I’m outta there.  No extended breastfeeding for me, no sirree. This malt shop is closing down. Because you know what not nursing anymore means? It means I get to leave the house for more than two hours at a time (highlights and a shopping trip, here I come!). It means I get to go back to that Belgian restaurant not far from us to try not just one, but two–two!–beers. It means that I can meet up with my girlfriends for an evening and not be the only one who gets to the restaurant at 7:30.

But I’m not making any dinner plans yet. Six months ago, when I was on the No Dairy Allowed/I Don’t Think I Can Do This plan because of Quinn’s little issue with lactose (and by little, I mean nights of her screaming in pain until we figured out that Momma needed to lay off the ice cream), I thought this day couldn’t get here quickly enough. But between you, me and the breast pump gathering dust in the corner, I’m not ready to do it yet.

What’s funny is that I used to a be a person who was always looking to the next step: when I was an editor, I constantly had my eye on the next promotion (though, that could have had more to do with my desire to quit my second job, namely because I was a terrible waitress, and also, free time is nice). When I decided to go to grad school, I was impatient to have to wait a semester to start. And when I met David, I couldn’t wait to be married to him (but really, have you seen the guy? You would’ve been the same way…). If I decided I wanted something, I wanted it now. And I wasn’t very happy in the present, for some reason. I needed to know there was something waiting for me around the corner.

That tendency toward the impatient slowed down dramatically once I started teaching. Because there are no promotions when you’re in the classroom. There are no significant pay raises (insert pro-teacher diatribe…here). You work year to year, simply striving to improve on the small scale: your teaching habits, your students’ achievement, your knowledge of your field. And that was satisfying enough for me. Good friends and the cute husband helped, too.

Once I had Saoirse, and then Quinn, though? Well, any impatience I had left skidded to a crashing stop. Against a brick wall. Enforced by steel.

Almost three and a half years ago, I happened into the happiest time of my life that I’ve ever known. David and I were this little team working to raise a family (if I appear to be implying that this little team never experienced some discord among the ranks, that’s okay. I will chuckle and let you believe it). And these babies–these girls! Oh my goodness. I just wanted to soak in every single awesome second, and I quickly–so, so quickly–realized that absolutely nothing was better than the moment in which I was standing.

Do you hear the violins and see the rainbows and butterflies dancing around the sky, too? I know, I’m being dramatic, but I think most parents out there (at least, the ones who don’t have regular dates with Child Protection Services) can empathize.

But it brings me to this moment–this time to wean my youngest daughter. It’s not about the breastfeeding, itself. Because once you’ve been through the shock/pain/awkwardness of the first couple months the first time around, it’s usually cake (chocolate, please). I’m talking about those precious moments first thing in the morning and last thing at night where I get to just sit there, for those brief seconds before Quinn gets distracted and starts looking around for her sister, and just hold her and look at her. It’s about the reality that I feel like I don’t know this little girl nearly as much as I do her big sister. It’s about that awful cliché that’s a cliché because it’s true: as my mother put it once, this time flies more quickly than you can turn the pages of a book.

I feel like I’m in a moving car, trying to stomp on the brakes to slow it down. Trust me, both the mighty Quinn and I are ready to complete this chapter. Her pediatrician told me yesterday that she’s about to break her first four new teeth at the top of her mouth at the exact same time, so the timing is more than convenient for my, uh, sake. So, in about a week, at bedtime, I will dress Quinn in her pjs and nurse her for the last time. My bet is that she will be nonchalant, but I will most likely need some tissues as soon as I’m out of her room. But I will dry my hot mess of a teary-eyed self, and I will make a date for dinner and a movie with my husband, because now we can.

I’ve been ready, and I’m sure by the time I’m enjoying my second glass of Orval, I’ll be fine. But the transition is the pits.  It’s odd that just living day to day can still make you so conscious of time. Quinn’s my baby–is she my last? Who knows?– and the next stage is here. You might say it’s only been a year. To this mom, though, dramatic or not…

…it’s the end of an era.

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