Wean: (verb) [with object]
1. Accustom an infant or young mammal to food other than its mothers milk.
1.1 Accustom (someone) to managing without something on which they have become dependent or of which they have become excessively fond
Wane: (verb) [no object]
1. (of the moon) have a progressively smaller part of its visible surface illuminated, so that it appears to decrease in size
1.1 (especially of a condition or feeling) decrease in vigor, power, or extent; become weaker.
It is January 16th and my son is 10 months old today, which means he has been outside living in the world longer than he was inside my body, in my womb. It feels like a minor graduation and I miss him already even though he is always with me. He is also not dependent upon me for survival anymore. You see, my milk is waning. We, my son and I, did not come to an agreement about this; it just started happening. I was nursing him less and less. Scheduling. His and mine. Timing. That he craved other foods. It’s not a surprise, given that, from the beginning, we have had to supplement with formula, as he was rapidly losing weight because did not latch right away and the whole nursing experience was traumatic. The first month my nipples were cracked, broken, bleeding, raw, I was in excruciating pain and acting like I could handle it until I couldn’t and we hired a consultant who took one look at me, hugged me, and advised me to stop nursing, to pump to get my supply up and keep it up, and to get antibiotic ointment on my severely infected nipples. So while I healed we fed our son a combination of pumped milk and formula to get his weight up. It took a while, but my nipples healed, I got the hang of nursing, it stopped being painful once we retrained Huck’s latch. I felt that bonding I’d read about as I fed him. I was protective of my breastfeeding. I wanted my husband to have a part in feeding him, so he took the formula shift to have that experience of bonding and feeding our son, but if I’m really honest, I wanted to solely breastfeed him. I wanted him to be only mine, like he was in my belly, when I’d whisper to him all of my secrets.
I think it was only for a few months, though, that I was his sole source of food, as we started introducing formula at night to help him sleep, then we introduced cereals at 4 months and by now, 10 months, he’s fully into finger food, my pureed vegetables and fruits, even meatballs I make for him. As well as formula and whatever he is getting from my breasts. Which doesn’t seem like much these days. He’ll latch onto me at 6am, when he first wakes. But he used to lie with me for 30 minutes, sucking while both of us were half-asleep and I’d hold him and wake-dream. But now, I’m lucky if he stays latched on me for 5 minutes, as he’s so easily distracted by our dog, by the covers, by the promise of climbing the back of the headboard like his own mountain. He’s in motion. He’s ready to move. Move away. I hold him and he pushes me away. I kiss him and his hand slaps my face.
I am waning.
He is weaning.
I’m not ready to let go and yet he’s completely ready to go go go.
The two words are so close it’s painful. I have this gripped pain in my plexus, this homesick twisty feeling, like heartburn in its most onomatpoetic way.
I have heartburn. Because my 10 month old son is crawling fast away from me and my breasts are drying up of milk.
I am 50 years old and it is just now occurring to me that I cannot do this again: I cannot be pregnant again. I cannot breastfeed again. This entire experience has been a bonus to an already full life. A complete miracle. Unexpected and head-twistingly beautiful. I never thought I’d get to experience a baby growing inside me. Or a baby sucking at my nipple for milk. How is any of this possible? But it was and it is and it’s all going by so fast and evaporating like water on a summer sidewalk and I’m grasping at the ending edges of it desperately thirsty for more. My husband, when I tell him how I feel, says to me, “Why do you always live in a place where it’s not enough?” and that sounds cruel, but he’s right. It’s not enough for me. Now that I’ve done this, I want to do it more. I want my son to feed off me for another 2, 3, 5 months. I want to have another baby. I want to be pregnant again for 9 months and check into a hospital one night and wait there in that gown with my husband and our family and all the terror and joy just percolating in the room with the heartbeat monitor on me and the baby inside just spinning around in the fluid waiting to breathe air.
I want more.
But I am waning and he is weaning and there is nothing I can do about it. And I’m grieving. And I’m bleeding. All today. All happening today on his 10-month birthday, the day that he stood in the center of the crib, balancing between the rails, and one foot went out in front of the other without a wobble and the other too. A step. His first step.
Away from me.
Managing without someone upon whom he is no longer dependent.
Me, managing without someone for whom I have become excessively fond.