I never used this space to really explore and write about my breast-feeding experience. Breast-feeding was just a thing I did. It wasn't, alone, an incredibly important or emotional experience for me. I follow many breast-feeding moms on Instagram who frequently post photos of themselves nursing their babes and write long-form captions about the emotional weavings of the breast-feeding experience, and it makes me feel like I missed something. I remember nursing a barely 1-year-old Mads at a friend's wedding, in an effort to keep him from wiggling and running about and interrupting the ceremony more than anything. At the reception, the mother of the bride, whom I've known since I was 11 and is a member of the La Leche League, took the time to pause her revelry (and the general soaking-in of her beautiful daughter's beautiful wedding) to tell me she'd seen me nursing my baby during the ceremony and it had made her so incredibly happy. I was touched, and I was glad she was touched (I was touched by her touchedness, and by her expression of her touchedness), but, also, breast-feeding was just a thing I was doing back then. You know? I wasn't shy about it (I had no qualms about nursing my baby sans cover in many public places), but I wasn't precious about it either. Sometimes Mads and I gazed lovingly into each other's eyes, and sometimes I swatted his diapered butt and told him not to lizard crawl all over my lap, and sometimes he'd get squirted in the face with milk when I'd unclasp my nursing bra, and I'd have a giggle fit for many minutes afterward, and sometimes I nursed him just to get him to pass out milk-drunk so I could sneak off and make out with his dad. I breast-fed my son, mostly on demand, for two years. We also co-slept, and while he would not stand for being held close to me in a sling or carrier, he demanded to be held close to me in my arms and on my body in his every waking and sleeping moment. In short, my baby was touching me, feeding from me, laying on me or against me, held in my arms, for two years. That is the big, important, emotional experience, altogether--the constant physical contact. Breast-feeding was just part of it.
Martigan was weaned out of necessity. An opportunity opened for me, to work full-time for a business I was excited about, and off I went in my prettiest hippie duds. I became a full-time working mom. At that point, Mads was nursing before his afternoon naps and before bed. The first little step toward weaning I'd taken when he turned a year old, which was to stop those public feedings--not because I was embarrassed, but because I needed boundaries, and I needed to decide (at least a little) when and how my body was available to him. We'd stopped night feedings shortly before he turned 2, because up to that point he spent most of the night literally attached to my breast, and my hips were beginning to ache from sleeping on my side for two years straight. We'd experimented a little with weaning those before-nap feedings, but he wailed and carried on as if his world was crashing around him, and it hurt my heart, and I didn't know what to do. Then, I went to work and was saved from the hard choices. For the first week, I would nurse him as soon as I got home. But those honey-I'm-home feeding sessions got pushed back later and later as we settled into a new rhythm, and soon, he didn't ask to be nursed at all. He only asked to be held.
Which brings me to my point: At fast-approaching-five, Mads still asks to be held. There's no more "wan-nur!" (which was, by the way, how he asked for boob, as in, "wanna nurse"), but at about the same intervals as breast-feeding occurred during his infant days, he wants to be hugged close. He wants to sit my lap. In the mornings, first thing, Mads gets into bed with us. He must start the day with snuggles, pressing his little cheek against my chest and announcing sleepily, "You're so warm. I love you so much." After breakfast, before I've even finished what's on my plate, he wants to sit in my lap. At lunch he wants to hold my hand. He still wants to be picked up periodically through the day and carried on my hip, though he's quickly becoming too big for me. Essentially, our days of nursing ended abruptly and are far behind us, but he still comes to my body for comfort and nourishment. I know one day, he won't climb into our bed in the morning. One day he will be too big to pick up. One day he won't want to rest his face in the crook of my neck. On days when I'm feeling touched-out, I think about this, like I did when he was an infant on my breast--these days are not forever. They'll be over before I know it, and I'll wonder how time moves so fast, and what happened to this boy who was practically an appendage of my body, he was so close and so constant.
About Mads, 4 Years & 7 Months Old:
- When his dad gives him instructions, Mads responds, "At your service!"
- Wolfman and Mads have started their first Dungeons & Dragons campaign. (Mads is a wizard who can burn and freeze things with his hands.)
- A sleigh bell hangs from the handlebars of his bike, and a joker card rattles against the spokes of the back wheel (Get it? A Joker card on a Batman bike?)
- According to Mads: Mom is sweet as watermelon. Dad is sweet as pickles (bread and butter pickles, that is).
- Mads can set up the Rube Goldberg game "Mouse Trap" completely on his own (and his dad is so proud and tells everyone, even complete strangers).
- Parenting win: when we started turning reggae music on to calm our dog when she seemed particularly antsy (studies have shown shelter dogs respond positively to easy listening and reggae), we discovered reggae also calms a particularly antsy Martigan.
- Martigan, accepting my stick figure drawings of our family but never once attempting to draw a stick figure of his own, has finally begun drawing humanoid shapes (see above). He starts with the legs and moves up.
- Officially, Martigan's first musical (as in, the first musical he's watched and musical soundtrack he's listened to on repeat) is Little Shop of Horrors.
- Mads tells me he's going to use "ballet pink" in his painting and holds up the soft baby pink bottle of acrylic paint. I ask, "how did you know that's ballet pink?" He answers, "It's the color of a ballet shoe; it's ballet pink!"
- Here and there, Mads has been getting dressed on his own in the mornings, without prompting, without help. Getting dressed and undressed have always been big struggles for us, so this is HUGE.
- We introduced Mads to Car Talk. I skipped to the end of that first episode so he could hear the, "Don't drive like my brother" bit, and he recognized Click and Clack's voices as Rusty and Dusty from Cars. Later that same day, while he was playing independently in the living room, he asked to listen to more "Rusty and Dusty."
- Mads has been taking a theatre class for the past month, and he loves it. He insists on showing up early each week. He loves his class, loves wandering the halls of the Cary Art Center before class, and maybe also he loves that this is his first class where I drop him off, wave good bye, the door closes, and he gets to experience something that is totally his own, without me.
- After his theatre class, Mads likes to go to Firehouse Subs with Grandma and me. He's obsessed with Firehouse Subs.
- Mads builds transformers with his duplo blocks, making robot transformation noises with his mouth as he switches up their bodies, removing wings and etc.
- Sometimes Mads announces that he's not Martigan, he's "Martigod." Martigod is very stinky, and often we respond to this announcement, "Oh, no, not that guy; he's the worst!" Mads then reassures us, "Oh, guys, I'm just joking! I'm Martigan!"
- He says, "I love ya, Mom. I love ya, Dad," at least five times a day.
- Martigan's favorite books this month: Valensteins by Ethan Long, Creepy Pair of Underwear! by Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown, Naked! by Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi, all the Curious George we can get our hands on
- Martigan's favorite shows and movies this month: Transformers: Rescue Bots, Super Wings!, Scooby-Doo