Each time I broached the subject, she chose to ignore me.
“Sophia, in a few days mommy is going on a trip. She’s going to take an airplane to Florida. You’ll stay with daddy (this evoked a broad smile). But during this time, mommy won’t be giving you milk. And when I come back we’ll be all done with mommy’s milk.”
I know she heard me. The kid doesn’t miss a trick. She can be deeply engrossed in playing drama queen, coloring her hands, or reading a book…but will recite back to me bits of overheard conversations had with other people.
“Do you understand what mommy is telling you?”
I wanted it to be a mutual decision, but the way things were going, it didn’t look like that was going to happen anytime soon. Oh, there were certainly times when she woke up and didn’t immediately ask for my milk:
“I woke up. I want to paint!” Or
“Play with pegs! Play with pegs!”
And there are times when her babysitter or her father puts her down and she knows they have no milk to offer her.
But, if she was tired, sick, or just looking for a little snuggle time…she’d ask. It had been my rule for the last couple of weeks to only give when she asked. And, she WAS asking less than she used to. But still, she asked.
So, on that final morning, when I fetched her from her crib, head buzzing from a sleepless night, I took her into my bed and told her it was the last time.
“I want milky.” She told me.
“Okay, Sophia, but this is the last time.”
I had a romantic notion of what the last time would be like. Full of emotion. A sense of heightened connection. The bitter-sweetness of saying goodbye to one phase of our relationship and the dawn of a new one.
But for the first few minutes she kept slapping at her legs as she drank. It was distracting.
“What are you doing?” I asked her.
“I’m playing with my legs,” she said, matter-of-factly, carefully putting words the together to form a sentence.
I tried to focus on the thought of it being the last session and my mind wandered, the way it always does when I’m feeding her. Where were my sunglasses? Did I leave Kevin the emergency phone number? She pulled off, and I snapped back to the present.
“Another one,” she demanded, sitting up and pointing to my other breast. Oh yes. It’s time, I thought as we switched places in bed.
And it ended just the way it always did. Abruptly. With Sophia sated and ready to move on to the next thing.
I, too, am ready to move to the next thing.
Epilogue: Lean, Mean and (finally) Weaned
Sophia spotted me at baggage claim from about sixty feet away, in a cinematic moment she ran to me, arms outstretched, face a-glow, “MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY.” We embraced tightly.
Oh how I missed her. Oh how that hug pained me. Tears sprang to my eyes as she crushed my engorged, sore breasts to my chest.
Later, I checked in with Kevin, “Did she ask for…you-know?”
I breathed a sigh of relief. It had been Kevin’s fear that she would tantrum for the one thing he could not give her while I was gone. But no, she had understood that both me AND my breasts were absent, and settled for the water and cows milk he gave her. I had hoped that there was no turning back at this point. That she was ready to move on. But that night after she had changed into her pjs, brushed her teeth, and read a book, she turned to me and asked for milk.
It was the moment of truth.
“We talked about this Soph. There’s no more milk. Milky went away.” A little white lie. Actually, I read that your breasts can produce milk up to six months after weaning—which wasn’t doing much for my resolve. Neither was the pain of engorgement.
She burst into tears! “Mommy! I want milky! I want MILKY!” My heart ached. My breasts ached.
I looked to Kevin for direction. Kevin was Switzerland. “I’ll support whatever you want to do.” And then he was my psychologist/husband, “but you did tell her no.”
Ugh. The worst thing you can do to a behaviorist is to suggest to her that she might be sending mixed messages. It was all I needed to hear.
To Sophia, “I love you, Sweetheart.”
To Kevin, “Could you put her to bed for me?”
Sophia and I both sobbed as he lay her down to sleep. She was quiet within two minutes. It took me about two hours to pull myself together.
“I don’t know why I decided to stop!” I told Kevin. And it was true. I couldn’t pinpoint a reason. Was it because of what I was afraid everyone else was thinking? Was it because I had set an arbitrary deadline? Was it because I was ready?
It was a full two weeks before my body reverted to its original form. I agonized through clogged ducts, fear of mastitis, and more waffling. But, I remained committed to my decision, and one day I woke up and was staring at my pre-pregnancy-self in the mirror. Deflated. Oh yeah. That’s what they looked like.
Sophia tried one last time when we were cuddling in bed and reading, activities that have replaced the first feeding of the day. “I want milky,” she tested, gesturing to my chest so there would be no mistaking what she meant. I tried a new angle…something I had read somewhere. “Soph, when you were a baby, mommy made special milk that’s just for babies. But you’re a big girl now. You’re two years old. You can do so many big-girl things like drink milk from a cup, eat with a fork, walk….” I listed off all the things she could do as a big girl.
This time there were no tears. From either of us.
Sophie silently digested this information, slid of the bed, suggested, “Play, downstairs?” And we both moved on to whatever was to come next.