My youngest daughter and I have officially said goodbye to our nursing relationship. I didn't expect it to happen so soon. I thought we would go well past her first birthday - we had been pretty exclusive. I was rather dedicated . . . even taking her along to a half-marathon girl's trip and a trip to Haiti. It's a little frustrating that the whole thing fizzled just a few weeks later, since both of those trips would have been a lot less stressful without a baby in tow. I mean, A LOT LESS STRESSFUL.

(that would be us, nursing in the jumpseat of a military C-130 jet,
ready to be evacuated from Haiti)

But something happened once our newly adopted son Kembe came home. It just became more and more difficult to find the space and time to sit still with Karis. I was distracted, and she was distracted. If we weren't in a quiet room, she was squirming and looking around and pretty much trying to order her milk "to go". (Ouch). And since the last time I was able to sit in a quiet room was, um, NEVER, nursing just started to be a tug-of-war. But more than that, Kembe was really going through some grieving in those first few weeks. I needed my arms available. Karis is a happy, attached little baby who is content to sit and drink from a bottle as she interacts with the world. I felt like Kembe needed that spot on my lap.

So, over the course of the last month, we transitioned to a few more bottles each day. I tried to maintain the nursing just in the morning and at night. But each time I tried, Karis acted more and more irritated with it. She is a girl on the go. She is cruising around the furniture, taking her bottle along for the ride. I could sense that it was time . . . but I just wasn't ready.

I spent several days last week trying to have some closure with our nursing relationship. I wanted to have that special last session . . . where I would gaze at her lovingly and rub her head, and have some magical symbolic moment that I could remember forever. Every night, I would try to have this moment, and every night it would be interrupted by a screaming 3-year-old, or Jafta trying to build a fort over my head, or Karis trying to squirm away to chase after Kembe. Finally, I just realized I needed to let it go. The last two times I tried, she cried as if the very offer was an insult. She had moved on.

So yesterday, I cleaned out the bins that held my nursing covers. It was also the bin that held the receiving blankets, and the burp clothes and all the other items you use for a newborn. I folded them away with the bittersweet thought that I would never use these items again. Karis is our last baby. We will never have a need for this newborn paraphernalia that we collected with such intention and anticipation.

For some reason, this was just so profoundly sad for me. So much so, that I sobbed to the point that Mark had to hide the children from their grief-stricken mother for a good fifteen minutes. It's the parenting paradox, that is so painful and confusing at the same time. I spend so much of my day assuring myself that things will get easier. There are so many aspects to this season that are difficult - so many little ones that are so dependent. It's easy to blissfully look ahead to a more autonomous future when they get just a little more independence. And yet, it's so painful that they are growing so fast. I'm so in love with my sweet little Karis, and just a little devastated that she won't be this chunky, squealing, raspberry-blowing baby forever.

photo by DrewB

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