09 December 2010

The Adventure is Ending

Next week Eli will be three and a half. Three years and a half years!  If you had asked me three and a half years ago what kind of mother I thought I might be, I'm pretty sure my idea would be drastically different than the reality of today.

First of all, I know I didn't plan on still having Eli sleep in our bed - I'm pretty sure I agonized over what crib set to buy, thinking that my nursery needed to be coordinating and darling.  Funny, although it was ridiculously cute all decked out in cowboy print, I don't think Eli slept in the crib more than a couple times, and the crib was never in the nursery. When it was set up, it was in our room, right next to our bed. After we moved from Michigan we took it down, and for the last year have not missed our giant laundry hamper.

Also, three and a half years ago, when asked, I would have said that I planned on nursing until my baby was a year... maybe. Ha!  I'm not really sure where a year turned into 18 months, which ran into 2, and then became 3.   I know I would never have imagined I would be nursing my preschooler.  Yet, here I am, nursing my preschooler.  

When I got pregnant with Silas I went out to dinner with my good friends Amy and Carrin and begged them for advice on the subject.  Eli was 18 months old, and I was still nursing him quite regularly. I knew he wasn't ready to wean (he was still gagging constantly whenever he ate solids, and puking most of it up) but I wasn't sure I was ready to be one of those crazy mothers who nurses two kids at the same time.  Actually, I'm not sure if I had seen many of those mothers: either there weren't many of them out there, or they were all hiding.  I'd heard enough "When he can ask for it..." comments to make me weary. But, that night, with the gentle encouragement of understanding friends, I decided that I was willing to let Eli decide when he was ready to wean, whether that meant he wean before I had the new baby, or afterward. And so, I carried on nursing my toddler, through the discomfort of my milk drying up in pregnancy and into the life of my new baby.  I was grateful for our nursing relationship when I was engorged in those early days, and Eli was happy to relieve, and when I needed to build up my supply so I could pump for a friend, but most especially for those times when Eli needed a little comfort, a little extra care, a sign that he was just as important to me as the new baby, who nursed all the time. Breastfeeding is really one of the defining factors of mine and Eli's relationship.

Le Leche League publishes a book called Adventures in Tandem Nursing, and I can't think of a better way to describe tandem nursing than as a great adventure. For most people in western society this concept is foreign, as it was to me not too long ago, but when I paid attention to Eli's needs, and considered my own, I found that tandem nursing was a perfect solution for both of us.  As we embarked on the adventure I realized that other tandem nursing moms were around, and they were surprisingly normal (shocking, really!)  I also learned how natural it was to continue nursing Eli, along with Silas.  While there have been times when we've had to set limits and make adjustments to our nursing relationship, I wouldn't give up what we've had for anything.

Yet, here I sit, and I don't think I can even remember the last time Eli nursed.  One week ago?  Maybe two?  He's asked a few nights this week, but is usually asleep before Silas dozes off, which is when I would normally nurse him. I have envisioned weaning as being a big event, but it has come so slowly and naturally that I feel perfectly calm about it.  I feel that Eli has chosen to wean because he is ready to move on, that he knows he can find comfort and love in ways other than nursing, and that he is blessed with confidence and security because of the relationship we have had. Perhaps we will have a few more precious moments together, but the weaning is definitely near, the end of the adventure imminent.
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