For 22 months, 670 days, I served as Ella’s source of milk and comfort. When I traveled my trusty pump was my most intimate companion. I have no idea how many hours I spent nursing and pumping, or how many thousands of ounces of liquid gold my body produced and it doesn’t matter. I am so proud that I helped her grow from this tiny little 5lb 11oz baby:
To this thriving, growing, brilliant toddler.
Friday night, the evening that marked Ella’s 22nd month, was our last night of nursing. I planned it out. I knew that when we got back from California, it was time for us to be done. I hadn’t been producing milk for a few months thanks to the hormonal changes brought on by pregnancy. Not actually getting milk anymore did not make a single bit of difference for Ella. It was the comfort and closeness of being with mom that I think she looked forward to every night before bed.
I struggled to set a date on which I would tell her that it was time to be done with mommy’s milk after slowly eliminating feedings for the past several months. The only thing that made my decision easier was the fact that just as it was in the early weeks of her life, it became painful for me. I began having strong nursing aversions, pain, and often became anxious. I tried to hide this from Ella but she’s look up at me concerned and gently stroke my collarbone. I felt bad that I was starting to hate nursing. It wasn’t something I looked forward to anymore even though I liked the comfort it provided to Ella.
All week leading up to the big cutoff, I explained to Ella how she is such a big girl that she didn’t need mommy milk anymore, because like the big sister in her book, she can eat pizza and apples and ice cream. When her brother comes, he’ll only get to drink milk because he’s a baby, not big like she is. I made sure to tell her that I’d still cuddle with her and give her lots of hugs and kisses. That I love her and she didn’t do anything to make mommy’s milk go away, it was just time. She would nod and stroke my belly.
I told her these things all over again on Friday night as we agreed that it was the last night for milk. When she was done, we took off the blanket that we snuggled under in our nursing chair. Got up and said goodnight to all of her favorite things – our shadows, her piggy bank, the flower pictures on her wall and the butterflies above her bed. We gave each other big hugs and kissed goodnight and I laid her down, tucking her in, snug as a bug in a rug. She smiled and said night night as I left her room.
Then came Saturday night. The first night as a ‘big girl.’ I kissed her goodnight and gave her a big hug. Josh took her upstairs to read some books. They came down 20 minutes later to find me in the basement because Ella asked to kiss mommy again. He did his best to mimic mommy and Ella’s bedtime routine. He said goodnight to all her things and tucked her in snug as a bug, but it apparently wasn’t the same. She cried out for me for a good 20-30 minutes. It broke my heart. Luckily she was all smiles when she saw me Sunday morning.
Last night, much better. Instead of leaving the entire routine to Josh, I did everything we normally do, except sit in the chair. She asked for milk and pulled my shirt. She refused to give me good night kisses, but when I put her in bed, she only cried for five minutes before falling fast asleep. And that was that.
My emotions are all over the place. I cried a bit, mourning the loss of my baby who is no longer a baby. Mourning one thing that I was able to give her that no one else could and the sweet, cuddly time we had together when the world was quiet and it was just the two of us. At the same time I feel a sense of relief. No more pain, no more stressing about being home at bedtime or putting everything on hold until 8:30 pm. I’m glad we weaned slowly because I cannot imagine what a mess I’d be if we’d gone cold turkey.
So goodnight books, goodnight shadows, goodnight pigs, goodnight flowers, goodnight nursing, and goodnight Ella, my big girl.