Monday, June 14, 2010

The Third Little Goodbye

Motherhood is made up of many little goodbyes. Today marks our third.

The first little goodbye was when he left my womb. We had been inseparable for nine months and I knew his every little move, gloried in his kicks, rolls and stretches. He heard my steady, slow heartbeat as his constant lullaby and I revelled in the times when I could hear his rapid, growing heartbeat through a monitor at the doctor's office. Then he was born in a wonderful "Hello world!" that was also a "Goodbye sweet womb." The first little goodbye.

The next little goodbye was when he moved into his own crib. When we brought him home from the hospital, he slept feet from me in a beautiful round bassinet. If he wimpered in his sleep, I heard and answered. If he scooted over, I saw and marvelled. If he wiggled his feet out of his swaddling, I giggled and snapped a picture. But he grew too big for the bassinet and, at two months, we moved him into his crib in the room just down the hall. He sleeps better there. So do we. But it was the second little goodbye.

And, now, with tears filling my eyes I will tell you about the third little goodbye. When he was two days old, my milk came in. We worked hard those first few days to learn the beautiful rhythm of nursing. I would stroke his jaw with my finger until he opened his mouth wide as a baby bird's beak, then we would connect in a wonderful bond of mother and baby. He would drink as his eyes rolled back in his head and I would just watch him. At first, it seemed to take him forever to complete a feeding. I would read memoirs of other mothers, check email, blog, or write thank-you notes while he nursed, balancing his tiny body on the nursing pillow. Then, as he grew bigger, he also nursed faster and wiggled around more. He would open his astonishingly blue eyes wide and look at me while he nursed, then pull away and smile with a satisfied sigh that drew a proud smile from my own lips. For a while, he even had a little white milk-blister right in the middle of his top lip. After a time, we learned our favorite nursing position--side-lying. If he woke in the night, Jon would bring him to me in our bed and he would lay beside me, tummy to tummy, and nurse until he was finished. I could just lie in the dark, listening to the quiet gulping and feeling his warm baby skin against me. Sometimes I'd doze in and out of sleep. When he finished, I'd carry him back to his own crib where he'd stretch and roll over to his tummy to dream sweetly. At bedtime, I'd nurse him in the rocking chair that was Mumsie's and mom's and now mine. I'd nurse and Jon would pray over us. Then I'd carry Benjamin to his crib and lay him down with a kiss on the cheek. Last night, at 8:22pm, we did this for the last time. When he woke up this morning at 6:00am, instead of bringing him to me to nurse, Jon took him to the living room and gave him a cup of whole milk. The extruciating thing is that he didn't seem to mind the difference. Tonight, while I am at Bible study, Jon will put him to bed. For the rest of this week, we will follow a new routine. Jon will put him to bed and get him up in the morning. We are confident that, after one week, he will not remember the ritual that sustained his life for nearly sixteen months. He will not miss it. I will be able to give him a cup or bottle of milk without him tugging at my shirt. And it will never be a part of his permanent store of memories, which is as it should be. But I will never forget the joy and frustration and freedom and slavery of breastfeeding my baby. So far, the third little goodbye is the hardest.

I know that there will be other goodbyes. Sooner than I think, he will go to kindergarten and then junior high and then high school. He will someday leave my car for his own wheels. He will graduate from high school and move on to college. He will leave our home. He will make his own. Motherhood is a whole series of little and big goodbyes. We know this when we sign on for the job. Without the goodbyes, our little birds would never soar. And I want him to soar high. But perhaps no one will think too harshly of me if I just cry just for a little while now while he's napping.


Leah said...

Aw that entry made me teary eyed! Beautiful memories for you mama and you did his body so well. You have nurtured him spiritually and physically. I remember nursing and weaning Raina. It was by far one of the hardest things to let go of for me.

Shanna said...

This is really beautifully written. I love it. And you.

Dana said...

What a BEAUTIFUL entry! :)