I nursed Jack for the last time yesterday morning, November 30.
He’ll be nine months old on Friday. I’ve always said that I’d want to breastfeed until about six months, and we have been gradually moving toward an all-formula-and-solids diet. For the last few weeks I was really just nursing him in the morning. In the last two weeks, we’ve even had to supplement that feeding with a bottle. So none of this was a great surprise. But when he didn’t want to nurse anymore and we were only halfway done yesterday, I knew it was time.
He’s crawling now. He’s interested in everything. He wants to look around, go places, explore. I get it. But it was (is) still hard not to feel rejected and hurt when he doesn’t “need” me in that way anymore.
There are exchanges, of course. He can hug me, reach for me, crawl to me. He even says, “ma-ma-ma-ma” when he wants me to pick him up. (Who knows if he’s actually saying “Mama”? Probably not. But still.) And I feel like a sap saying this, but my little baby is growing up so fast!
The heartbreaking thing about parenthood is that if we do the job right, eventually our kids don’t need us anymore. I see the anxiety of my mother-in-law, whose children are all in their 30s and very independent minded people. I see her still trying to mother them. And to me, raised by very laissez-faire parents (who are both dead now), it’s frustrating and saddening to watch. But now I can, at least partly, get it.
I want Jack to always need me. But I also know that would be a very unhealthy and destructive road to go. I want him to be happy and healthy and independent and functional in the world. To accomplish that end, I’ll need to not only let him go, but keep my mouth shut about my own feelings. Those of you who know me at all well know how hard it is to keep my mouth shut about anything. But I don’t want to burden him with my losses as he grows into the world and becomes a man. (Another reason to have a good therapist!)
I wouldn’t want him to be afraid to take chances and go it alone. That’s how he’ll grow and learn. I’m not advocating packing his bags for him tomorrow, but one day, I will watch him pack his own bags and move away. And this is just the first step toward that goodbye. It breaks my heart and makes me proud, all at once.
So this morning I got up and fixed him a bottle. I’ll cry about it later.