I have a super power.
I can worry, full throttle, about two completely contradictory things at the same time. I’ll illustrate with a current example:
As soon as Ira turned one, I began to worry that I was nursing him both for too long, and too short. Apparently my definition of “too long” was any moment past age one, and my definition of “too short” was any moment less than two years. I could work up a good head of steam on both of these themes at the same time. See? It really is quite the superpower (And, need I say? This is not Gail’s favorite part of my personality).
I’ve met my goal of nursing for a solid year. I was able pump at the office and kept Ira in breastmilk-only for that whole time, with the help of a good freezer stash from when Gail was nursing (though most of that surplus was donated to an adoptive family). Ira has nursed well, gained weight beautifully, and been an extremely pleasant nursing companion. He’s snuggly, and doesn’t kick, pinch, or bite (though I had to be pretty firm with him on that last one). So, it’s not just that I nursed; I actually nursed really well, enjoyed it, and am grateful to have had such a positive experience since I built up the whole thing after not nursing Leigh (actually, that’s not quite true, I did comfort nurse Leigh some, but the point remains: my time as a non-bio-non-milk-producing mom definitely impacted my view/hopes/dreams heading into nursing Ira).
As silly as it seems to be worrying about these impossibly contradictory things, I actually didn’t make up these pressures. The AAP guidelines recommend nursing for one year, and I know from friends that some doctors seem to treat that as a deadline; as soon as your baby turns one, your doctor starts encouraging weaning (thankfully, that’s not the case for us). I’ve heard from other moms that constant questions (sometimes from virtual strangers) regarding “when are you going to wean” get really old during year two. On the other hand, sources like KellyMom treat any nursing less than two years as suspect (this agrees with the WHO guideline embraced by hippies everywhere). So both of these worries I have are real, at least in the sense that there are many people out there right this very instant who would think I’m nursing Ira too long, and there are many other people who firmly believe that if I stop now, it will be a mistake.
When I worry about nursing too long and too short at once, I’m measuring my actions against standards outside my own family, and as it turns out, these standards actually are contradictory. But when I set aside the double-hamster-wheel worrying, and ask what I want, for myself, my son, and my family, it turns out I am actually ready to be done.
I’m ready for us to have complete freedom regarding who is with either of the kids 24/7. I’m ready to share more of that 5 am feeding duty. I’m ready to get my body back as my own, and work on finishing some of the healing that’s been on hold until I’m done nursing. I can see our son growing up, and I believe he can do this. For now, I’m enjoying a little more low-pressure-no-pumping nursing, but the end is likely near. The more I think about it, examining what I see in Ira, how my feelings are changing, and how the balance in our family has subtly shifted as we’ve gradually dropped one, two, three feedings (we’re down to two), it feels like the right choice for us.