Weaning is happening. I can’t really say “I am weaning!” or “Sly is weaning!” because my son is as desperate as ever to suck out whatever remains of my milk and I find myself repeatedly discarding my concrete plan to drop feedings in favor of whatever will work in the moment, whether it’s more boob, a graham cracker, seeing a man outside the window (“look, Sly! A man! A man!”), Elmo’s song, bubbles, FaceTime, a penny, another penny, ANOTHER PENNY, ANYTHING. I am not a pillar of weaning certainty. I am more like a robe without a hanger. I am trying hard to find a hanger. But still, the time between nursings is stretching and right after Sly drinks, he almost always asks for water or milk. So it is likely that he is getting as much hydration from my body as I get when I chew a piece of gum. And this weaning that is happening to us, it is probably what’s been massaging my anxiety, like Mickey did for Rocky, stoking the fight in my hormonally wrecked body. Breastfeeding is a wonder and a deeply respectable beverage/food choice for humans who are new to the world, but, for me, letting breastfeeding go is a shit show, much more so than starting it was.
I get it, I see what is going on. I am weaning more than my child. I’m weaning myself. And not just off of breastfeeding and not just off of the sweet physical closeness of the breastfeeding relationship; I’m weaning myself off the the early motherhood high. It feels like the turning point of an adult relationship, when the pheromones drop away and you turn to look at the person you are dating and instead of seeing a god-like dream creature who was born to love and be loved by your perfect self, you see a likable dude wearing a T-shirt. It’s not that it’s bad; it’s that it’s regular. There is no chemical boost to help cement your union. It’s just you and your baby. Or, it’s just you and your partner and your conversations and your familiar holding hands and your bodies finding their way next to each other, particularly at the beginning and the end of the day, pulled not by the hot rush of new-thing hormones, but by love, however you define it, and responsibility and loyalty and the promise of somewhat infinite understanding.
Things are just regular good now, for me. And the regular good is great. But I also have ants under the bookcase and we’re going to be on COBRA insurance for a little while and I don’t know what my future looks like, career-wise, but I’m guessing it will not look at all how it has looked for the past ten years. I am hoping I will be writing a lot, in this career future, but it is all so foggy and freaky at this particular second, like driving up Route 1 in California as the sun is going away, and I cannot look at the beautiful vistas, I can only grip the shit out of the door handle and will us to stay in our little winding lane.
As I said, I am weaning.
Now is probably not the time to berate myself for avoiding the view. Now is the time to stare straight ahead and look at the dried leaves stuck in between the windshield wipers and open the glove compartment and see if there are any fun treasures I forgot I stored there (a lot of questionable mix CDs). These are metaphors but also very effective if you experience acrophobia while being a passenger in a car!
The hardest part of letting go of one phase of motherhood for the next — whatever that is for you, whether it’s the chemical horror show that is weaning or going back to a job outside the house or just some indiscernible change in you or your child that screws up some faint equilibrium — is that we tuck all this in. If I didn’t tell you here, you wouldn’t know. You’d see me on the street and (I HOPE) think, “Wow, that mom is chill.” Because, when I hold my child, I am mostly chill. He is freaking out, so I am chill. He is fast walking to a busy street corner because there had been a dog on that corner a second before and, in a chill manner, I fast walk up to him and scoop his little body close to mine and redirect us home. And instead of writhing wildly the way he does, which is what I’m doing inside, I head back to our apartment with the gait of a proud thoroughbred, a little smile on my face, my eyes toward the sky, not only in an effort to impress my invisible audience, but to not terrify my child. I’m trying not to terrify him. I think it’s mostly working.
The other day, I was grocery shopping at the co-op by myself and a very little boy walked up to me, crying, and said, “Mommy. Mommy.” He took my hand. It was so shocking and moving, I had to take huge breaths so I wouldn’t start crying myself. “You can’t find your Mommy?” I asked. He shook his head. “OK.” I had no idea what to do. “Let’s find her.” A woman standing nearby on a step stool, shelving cheese, had been watching and offered to page the mom on the PA. I thought, this kid is way too little to know his mom’s name, WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO? But he did! He knew her first name! The cheese woman paged her, and the boy and I stood holding hands, and I was crying at that point but pretending it was a reaction to the bright cheese lights and the mom quickly appeared, she’d been so close by, it was funny, even though it wasn’t. The boy totally relaxed and they walked away to get some bread or something. The cheese lady said, “You handled that really well,” and I wanted to run up to her, because my own mother was not there, and hold her hand and say, “Thank you,” and stand there with her waiting to be rescued. Instead, I stood where I was and brushed it off like it was no big deal. I cried the whole way home and have since been trying to teach my son my name with mixed results.
Things are making sense to me now. From the day our kids are born and left with us, we are starting the forever process of weaning them from ourselves and ourselves from them and it is just hard. Fun can be had, great times can be had, but this weaning thing, whether it is from boobs or from our company or from an idea we had about who they were, it is always there, pulling on a hook in the middle of our chests until, I don’t know, until forever.