“This is the last time I nurse you,” my heart whispered.
I didn’t want it to be, she didn’t want it to be, and yet, I knew that it was. It happened on Friday afternoon, on the patio, in the warm sunlight, with the gentle breeze blowing, while the older two played in the backyard.
It was the last time.
I held her long toddler body, her legs spilling over my arms, and looked at her long eye lashes, closed. The flush of her cheeks. Felt her warm skin cling to mine, held her as she was gently breathing, and drinking me in. And I knew, it was the last time. And I wanted to remember it. Just her. Just this moment that would quickly get pounded out of my mind by all the busyness, and all the noise, and to-do’s, and onto the next-things.
Nobody talks about it. The last time you nurse your baby. You hear about the “guilt” moms experience when they wean their child, or go back to work. What you don’t hear about though, is the grief.
The quiet grief of weaning.
I hate to call it that. And yet, I’m not sure what else it is. It’s surely not guilt. “Mom-guilt,” is a very cheap way of explaining the complex emotions mothers feel, and is almost always used in comparison with other moms, rather than the deep soul of a woman in relation to her child.
I just want to say something: There is a quiet ache a mother feels, the last time she nurses her baby.
It’s similar to the ache she feels the night before their first birthday. When she holds her extra long, and wants to rock her, for hours and hours, and whispers,
Don’t grow up, Baby. Not yet.
Please don’t grow up. Please just stay this little. Stay with me.
The last time you nurse your baby, no one will know about it, but you.
It will be unceremonious.
You will know it’s time, even if you aren’t quite ready. Beginnings and endings are both like that.
And on that day, in that moment, as your heart whispers, “This is the last time I nurse you,” I hope you give yourself permission to feel the quiet grief of weaning. I hope you know it’s okay. It’s okay to hold something in your hands that has been so beautiful, and release it like a butterfly flying away. It’s okay to mourn it’s departure just a little bit, as you watch it fly away.
Grief is necessary for growth.
So grieve, dear one, and grow. And something that’s been so integral, it’s been a part of your being, a part of your physiological make-up, a part of your baby’s nurturing and nutrition, for such a long time, may require some closure. From the womb, you fed her with your own body. From birth, you fed her with your own body. Since birth, you have been her land flowing with milk and honey. Her sustanance. Her soothing presence. You have poured yourself out like a drink-offering, shaken up and spilling over, and she has drank to her hearts delight. And now, the time for nursing is ending. And…
Maybe you feel sweet relief.
Maybe you feel free.
Maybe you feel happy to have your “body” back.
Maybe you feel sad, like you’re losing something. Or someone.
It’s okay to feel all of these things at once.
For the mama who is weaning, or about to, I know the deep aching love you feel, and I want to give you a language for it. Not so you can tell other people, but so you can tell your baby. Your partner in this nursing life. So can release the beauty in your hand, and watch it fly.
Because whenever that day, or final nursing session comes, here is a blessing to whisper over your baby, or toddler. I pray this can bring closure and also make space for grief, growth, and gratitude as you close one beautiful season, and begin another.
“The Last Time I Nurse You”
Remember the moment we first met? The moment you were born, and they put your slippery little body on my chest, and I nursed you? You barely knew how, but you knew enough to try. I guess, it was the same for me. I barely knew how, but I knew enough to try. And there on the bed in the birthing room, I held you so gently. I kissed your wet head, and I thanked God you were born, and they wrapped us in blankets, skin on skin, and I nursed you.
And I loved you. I held your tiny body in my arms, and as small as you were, you had the power to captivate me. Completely. I was bound by you, and to you.
From our first day together, until now, there’s not a day that’s gone by, that we haven’t done this one thing. Nursed.
Every morning. Every night. I’d rock you in the dark, and nurse you. I’d soothe you. And sometimes, as I’d sit there in the dark, looking at the glow of my phone, my heart sinking by the news stories, and sorrows on Facebook, you’d remind me of why I was here: to keep you alive, to sustain you. I couldn’t fix the whole world, but I could feed you. I could fix your world. And somehow, you’d soothe me. As small as you were, you’d soothe me. Your soft gentle rhythm, your nearness, wrapped into mine. Sometimes, I wasn’t sure if I was holding you,
or if you were holding me.
Wee were holding eachother.
Day after day, and night after night. And sometimes, all through the night. You stayed as close to me as when you were in my womb, tucked in my arms, held in my embrace, nursing the night away, wrapped together.
I guess I just want you to know, I’ve loved nursing you.
I loved this time with you.
All the times I had to slip away at parties, or find some quiet place. All the nights held in my embrace. I nursed you.
Some nights you cried so many times, always waking me, nearly breaking me, and even then, I nursed you. And I loved you. And I would do it again. And again. And again.
I’d give my body for you. And I have.
But, now it’s time for nursing to be done.
My child, this is the last time I nurse you.
But I want you to know, it is not the last time I love you.
And though I don’t hold you to my breast, I will pull you to my chest. Where you can hear my heart. Can you feel it beating? Can you feel my breathing? I’m right here. Still. Loving you.
You will no longer feed on my milk, but you will feed on my love.
Instead of holding you low, I will lift you higher, and higher, to my face. You will feel my embrace. And I will look deep in your eyes, and you can see mine. I’m right here.
And yes, this is the end of something, but it is also the beginning of something.
You’ve grown. And so have I. And now, we don’t have to nurse, because now we can cuddle. We don’t have to nurse, because now we can snuggle.
Now we get to bond in new ways. We can hug and hold hands. We can lay in eachother’s arms and whisper stories and tell jokes. We can giggle, and laugh, and sing. We can have new adventures and get milkshakes. We can become friends.
My child, I wish I could freeze it–this moment with you, just like this.
This is the last time I nurse you.
But it is not the last time I love you.
It is not the last time I hold you.
It is not the last time I feed you.
Now you won’t feed on my milk, you will feed solely, completely, entirely
on my love.
And it will never dry up, or run out.
Dear Mamas, if you didn’t nurse, I hope this does not bring an ounce of guilt to you. If you did nurse, I hope it gives permission for grief. I know nobody talks about it. But I pray the quiet grief of weaning, brings forth new growth in you. As you allow your heart to grieve just a little, may your grief give way to gratitude for the time God allowed for you to nurse your baby. May you feel deep joy for the season that is behind you, and for the one that is yet to come.
–>Pin this for later, or pass on to a mama friend.
Much love, Rebekah
P.S. If you nursed, do you remember where you were during your baby’s last nursing session? Share in the comments. <3
Lynda Dietz says
I specifically remember the last time I nursed our youngest, because I knew she would be the last baby, and this was it. I had nursed her much longer than the oldest two because our third baby had had too many medical issues to be able to suck, swallow, and breathe at the same time, so I’d never been able to nurse him at all. She was the last child and I wanted that baby-ness to hold on as long as possible. But the final time wasn’t even something that was planned: we were staying at a Ronald McDonald house in Pittsburgh while #3 was in Children’s Hospital for yet another extended stay, and my husband had to take the other kids back home while I stayed for the week. I remember her fussing before bedtime, restless in an unfamiliar place, as I nursed her to sleep, frustrated myself at the way the events were playing out. And my husband, quietly saying, “You know she just needs to be done, as much as you don’t want to let it go.” It really was a grief to process, and I remember crying with the knowledge that I would never nurse a baby again. This post really resonated with me, because yes, you can feel the grief and the freedom at the same time without either one diminishing the other.
Ah Lynda, thank you for sharing your experience. It actually does my heart much good to hear that other mothers have experienced this same grief. And also to honor it, and give some words to the complex unexplainable feelings a mother carries within her own soul. It’s unceremonious, and yet, you remember it. I imagine most mothers do. And I think that speaks to its specialness. Thank you for sharing this with me. I love you and miss you dearly. And I am praying for your dear husband.
Lynda Dietz says
I miss you too!! XOXOXO