Today marks the end of World Breastfeeding Week 2016.
In 2014, when my son was 2 and-a-half, we participated in a special photo shoot to honor World Breastfeeding Week. I remember that afternoon so well, I remember the joy in celebrating the natural and healthy bond between mother and child. I treasure the photos taken.
It seems like yesterday.
But time dances by, and two years have since passed. In the interim, I’ve written quite a lot on breastfeeding. I’ve examined how our pornographic culture impacts our vision of women’s breasts. I’ve interviewed a bereaved mother who donated 92 gallons of breast milk after the loss of her son. I wrote about a remarkable lesbian couple that co-nursed their daughter. I’ve shared important personal reflections about my own journey breastfeeding. I’ve also supported mothers who feel pressured from their partners to wean before their child is ready.
Today, I am still breastfeeding. But this stage in motherhood is coming to an end. For my little one only nurses at night or upon waking now. My body isn’t making very much milk — hardly a drop in the day. I remember when I could pump ounces and fill bottles. It’s changing. It’s time.
For 4 and-a-half years antibodies, proteins, fats, and wonders yet to be fully understood by science have journeyed from my body into his. He has nurtured, grown, and strengthened himself from healthy foods yes, but also from breast milk.
“Whatever you are doing mama, keep doing it,” the pediatrician recently noted. Fully supportive of breastfeeding, the doctor was very impressed. “Your boy is confident, kind, and healthy.” Plus, he rarely gets sick.
And I am so grateful.
I’m so grateful I didn’t listen to the naysayers or the critics. I trusted my son. I trusted “breastsleeping” and felt at ease with nursing in public. I trusted the wisdom of this ancient mother-child dance. As a yoga teacher, meditator, doula, and chaplain, I’ve learned a great deal about trusting the rhythms and natural flow of the body. My son will stop completely when he’s ready. Yes, he is taking his time, not too many 4 and-a-half-year olds in the US still get “nummies” but around the world it’s much more common. He’s certainly within the biological norm — and he’s letting go.
I told him we’d have a party when he is ready to stop.
“We’ll have a party?” he asked.
“Yes, we will invite friends to celebrate that you are moving into the next stage of your life.”
“But first I will cry,” he said.
“I understand,” I say.
Yes, beginnings and endings are often poignant mixes of joy and sorrow. I know I’ll cry, too.
I look at him. “When you are ready to stop, let me know and we’ll plan something wonderful,” I say. Then I add, “There’s no rush.” Why after all would one rush to end something so tender and sweet? We don’t have to rush an ending that is already in the works.
As the world ends this celebration, I reflect on the end of breastfeeding on a personal level. One day in the not-too-distant future my breast will make the last drop. The final, ending drop of this journey. That last, white drop of sweet mama milk. That last swallow of nourishment made from my cells and strengthening his own.
I don’t know when that will happen.There’s a wisdom for each stage, an honoring of each passage. But it’s not too far off. I’m quite certain we won’t come close to making it to the next World Breastfeeding Week.
I pause now to thank that forthcoming last drop. For it represents every, single, pearly, white ounce of life sustaining milk made from my flesh to nourish my sweet one. It represents the end of this stage and the opening to the next.
The last drop from my breast.
(Photo above comes from a Pinterest post from the Birth without Fear blog)
In her articles and personal blog posts, Amy reflects upon birth, death, motherhood, ethics, and religion/spirituality. She is a regular contributor to PhillyVoice and has blogged for Attachment Parenting International, The Birthing Site, Philly.com, and Holistic Parenting Magazine.
Author and educator Peggy O'Mara observes: "With her triple identity as yoga teacher, doula, and chaplain, Amy Wright Glenn brings a one-of-a-kind tenderness and empathy to her writing and she's not afraid to talk about the difficult parts of life."