Sunday, July 20, 2008

Cutting the Cord

The cord is very symbolic for me, as you might imagine... the cord that kept my children alive, and ended the life of my first. I will never be able to extrapolate what pieces of me just naturally want to keep that cord attached for as long as possible, and which pieces of me need to keep it attached because of what I have lost. It makes me feel slightly off when I imagine that part of my clinginess to my children may not be simply what I consider to be "good parenting", but is actually me feeling anxious and insecure, wallowing in a desire to infantalize them and keep them under my wing as long as I possibly can.

The cord felt important to me from the beginning. I remember saying to Greg, before Charlotte was born, "Don't let them cut the cord until you get a picture, a picture of me and the baby still attached." That photo was perhaps the farthest thing from my radar at the time of Charlotte's birth, and with Liam being born by c-section, that was never a possibility. However, when Aoife was born and I got my dreamy birth I had always imagined, it all happened just as I had hoped: the baby emerged, with ease, I lifted her to my breast, and she was covered with a blanket at once. We marvelled at her beauty before even looking to determine her sex, and only when my placenta began to emerge did we remember about the cord. And suddenly, it came to me, this wish I had forgotten all about in the nearly three years since the cord had become my enemy: Take a picture. I want to remember this. And so we did.

Two years and almost four months later, my baby is still my baby: she still falls asleep in my arms at least once a day, and she still nurses at least twice day, when she wakes up and before her nap in the afternoon. And I see, on the horizon, that I am going to need to cut that cord, soon, and I have a plan to do that in two months.

Need to? Have to?
Of course I don't ever have to. By cutting to cord I am, of course, referring to weaning, which in some people's opinion should have happened years ago anyhow. But I find it getting harder as she gets older, verbally expressing that nursing is her favorite thing, how much she loves her cuddles, snuggling in for that closeness that never does get precisely replicated. But I also do respect that my daughter is getting older, that she is a very independent, lovely person of her own, and that it is her right to move forward into this next stage of independence. I am proud of her, and I am glad for what I have given her. I have given myself two months to taper down, to get down to one, and then I plan to throw a little party for her, with the china tea-set that Greg's aunt gave to Aoife at birth, so excited she was to finally have a little girl in the family.

I feel a slight sadness and longing about this already, but I know that my darling girl will keep me near. She is such a snuggle love. It is going to be time.


Rebecca said...

My Johnny is 28 months and still nursing 2x a day plus at night. I will look forward to hearing how it goes with Aoife, since I'd like to be headed down the weaning road as well. Nursing has been a joy for us both and I've continued despite misgivings from my husband and my mother. However, as we come closer to three than two, I keep thinking he'll grow tired of it eventually.

Rachel said...

You are one of the few people I have heard of having a natural birth after having a c-section.

Janya said...

what a glorious photo.


excavator said...


When my oldest boy was 4 weeks old I went to a Laleche meeting, my first. I'd never considered how long I might nurse, no one had ever asked me. I was very surprised and nearly shocked when the mother beside me nursed her 4 year old.

Later, when I recounted this at my post-partum baby shower, my grandmother exclaimed: "That's terrible! !!

Well, seeing that mother nurse a young child set a frame of normalcy for me. I absorbed the League's philosophy of child-led weaning and resolved to wean when he was ready.

He loved nursing so much. And it was a nice way to reaffirm connection during stressful times, his stormy 3's, another pregnancy, and the stress of a new baby in the house. Yes, I tandomed for a year and a half.

It was helpful to have a nursing child when the baby was born, because it was one way of introducing the new family member: "look at all the milk he brought you". Having a nursing toddler helped with issues of over-supply.

So, I hope the child-protective services people aren't reading this, but I nursed my oldest until he was 5 and a half, and the youngest went to 6. I set 6 as the outer limit, so in a sense there was some mommy-imposition in their weaning, but I'm really glad I stuck with the plan of child-led weaning. Weaning went very peacefully, and I have no regrets to mar that lovely time in my life. All told I nursed continuously for nearly 10 years.

A book I found very useful was "A Nursing Mother's Guide to Weaning". It helped me to look at reasons I'd considered weaning earlier, and to see if those were truly serving of my and my child's needs.

Of course, I'm not saying everyone should nurse to 6 years old. I was just responding to what seemed like a poignancy in your voice. And I wanted to offer support for nursing longer, and an alternative to the idea that nursing fosters dependence. My boys are very independent people.

I also wanted to offer support for staying attuned to Aoife's responses as you guide the weaning process; you can always turn back if she is distressed and showing you she's unready. Weaning can always be suspended, and attempted later.

I hope this hasn't seemed like an imposition. I love your blog, and really appreciate your gentle and loving voice.

Meg said...

You sound very mature to put Aoife's needs above your own longing to nurse. I think if you think it's a good thing to wean and she's ready, then you should do it. I'm not sure starting and stopping would be best for her or you. When you go for it, I think you should go for it.

But. something tells me that you will do just what she needs. You are so in tune with your kids and their needs and very sensitive to them. Thank you for sharing this very personal thing with us.

Hennifer said...

I'm struggling with weaning myself. My daughter just turned 2 last week. I nursed my oldest until 14 months and have been adamant that I will be weaning this month but it is here and I'm just not quiet sure it is what either of us want/need. She only nurses once a day, occasionally twice. She sleeps through the night. She takes naps at daycare with ease. She sleeps at her father's no problems but she cries at bedtime if no "mama milk". It has been a turbulent year+ for me and my family so I feel in some ways as if I'm just making excuses for that intimacy. Best of luck to you and Aiofe. Beautiful photo and congrats on a successful VBAC

Tania said...

I am so jealous of the fact that you are still nursing, I think that is one of the greatest things you can do to bond with your child at one month or at six years old. I unfortuently gave birth 7 weeks early and my daughter and I never really got that experience, nursed/pumped/gave her formula for about six weeks straight, but it became to hard for me, there was NO joy in an overtired mummy or a hungry baby, they had wanted me to nurse her for 30 min on each side, then feed her a bottle(formula) then put her down(which was hard in itself) and then pump for 30 minutes, as I said, I just never produced what was needed, (biggest catch was 2 ounces, it was a celebration)I think that what you have done is fantastic and to excavator--you are did a wonderful thing as well----
So keep on nursing as long as she wants it and you can do it, I applaude you!!!

I did give my daughter breast milk though, my friend was pregnant at the same time and she had so much milk plus her middle son was only 13 months old when her youngest was born so she has two babies drinking breast milk and made enough for five, now that made some heads turn when I said it wasn't MY breast milk, and the funny thing is that there is a place I live by that actually buys breast milk from women for situations like mine!! My thought was it is breast milk and she is getting it whether from me or someone else....

On another note, I lost a son at 24ish weeks pregnant, the whole episode was a "fluke" (my dr's words) the CORD entry made so much sense to me, he was alive until they cut the cord,it was ME that had kept him alive and I felt it was ME that had killed him, he would have been three this past July,(adjusted age) he was born in February, so he was 3 on the 10th of February, I have always thought of Anthony having TWO birthdays, anyway I never thought of myself as a over protective parent but I see now that some of the things other mothers let go with ease I can't!! She is almost 6 now but she is a mumma's girl and always will be, for that I am forever grateful, althoug I hope I don't make her a neurotic nut!!

Keep on doing what feels good to you as a mother, to hell with others.......