My nest is empty. First, my daughter with her Angel Wings, and now my son with his Strong Young Man’s Fledgling Wings. His whole life is before him; his life, now his own.
Both of my babies breast fed and I adored that experience. It was a chance to have them each just to myself; holding tiny hands, looking into sleepy little eyes, feeling tiny hearts beating in my arms and loving little beings more deeply than I had ever known possible. In those moments I was everything they needed and no one else could provide that for them even had they wanted to. It was such a precious time and it was the happiest of my life.
My son breastfed for a year, almost exactly. Just before his first birthday, I heard his little cry in the other room; up again with the sun. I brought him into my bed and we snuggled and he began to feed just like all the days before. Suddenly, he let go and looked at the breast as if he’d never seen it before and he pushed it away. He was done!
We had gradually eliminated each feeding until the morning one was the only one. I knew it would end and I actually looked forward to the freedom…a little. It would be the first time in nearly two years that my body was my own. It would also mean the end of morning snuggle time as I’d known it. It was bittersweet. I remember looking at his little face and quietly asking, “Are you sure?” He was sure. I smiled at him, but a wave of disappointment moved through me as the realization settled and I flashed to the future, realizing how fast time moves and changes everything before we know it and certainly before we’re ever ready for it to do that.
I’ve had dreams of Dannica since her passing, not many, but vivid and vibrant. In most of them, all but two so far, she’s been a baby or a young child. My mind is often filled with memories of her birth and our short time in the hospital. She struggled to breathe and the nurses took her to the nursery to clear her airways. I slept, knowing she was in good hands. I was angry, however, when I learned that they had supplemented her feeding while she was away from me. I felt strongly about that time and that bond and I didn’t want it sabotaged even in the name of sleep for mommy.
When Danni fed, she gulped loudly and it was both adorable and funny. As a toddler, she still gulped adorably from her sippy cups and would often put too much food in her little mouth and need to be rescued from gagging down (or up) a whole whatever. She breastfed for 14 months. She loved having her little hands held while she fed and when she wasn’t sleepy, she reached her tiny hands up to touch my face, my eyes. She was so tactile, so fascinated with eyes and faces, and she derived comfort from touching these objects of her fascination. She was also a restless feeder at times; busy, constantly moving, looking around, drenched when letting go to look around then smiling and giggling while I cleaned us up and settled her in again. While my baby boy would often fall asleep and be out for the night after feeding, “milk coma,” we called it, Dannica was often still wide awake and would play quietly in her crib until falling asleep on her own.
Dannica was strong and stubborn in many ways as a child. At times when I thought comforting was the thing to do, she’d push me away, fighting hard against little tears brimming in her eyes. Sometimes, I’d hug her or try to comfort her anyway and sometimes she’d crumble and let me. Often, however, she was the one comforting me. She had a sweet way of tilting her little head and lightly resting a little hand, or the back of a little hand, on my cheek or barely touching my hair. The love was palpable and I’d cry when it washed over me.
I still cry every day. Some days I cry many times. Sometimes what I’m feeling isn’t devastating grief. Sometimes, it is this same palpable love that washes over me and I recognize it as Dannica’s presence and that makes me weep with the purity and strength of it. My physical body aches with wanting to take her in my arms, just one more time. Just one minute… just five seconds… one second? Please?!
So much for magic words.
When my son came to me a few weeks back and told me he’d decided to move to Portland, I know he saw (and maybe feared seeing) the look on my face. Even though he couldn’t have known of the images crossing my mind, they were there, flashing back to tiny him, pushing away the breast & the young mother’s thoughts flashing forward to this moment, and she, knowing now, since the beginning of his little life, this moment had followed her all the way to where she now stood.
In this moment, we all stand together. Infant, young mother, young man, older mom. And so it is. And so we’re here, as it should be, in all appropriateness, all the emotions present and accounted for; disappointment, gratitude, grief, happiness, sadness, excitement, relief, pride, adoration, hope. If there is a single word for it, I suppose it is love, ultimately, yes…Love. That is how and why it feels so right and hurts so much all at the same time.