Henry nursed for the last time on a Saturday morning several weeks ago, shortly after turning one.
Nursing was not something I joyfully anticipated while pregnant. I wasn’t enamored with the bonding it offered, wasn’t looking forward to someone needing my body around the clock. I was going to do it because it was easiest, cheapest, and (supposedly) best for my baby, but that was it. Perhaps because I went into it unexcited, or perhaps because it is much harder than many people think, but I was not a fan. I struggled with supply, Henry was the world’s slowest eater, and I felt so trapped. 6 months, I told myself, that’s all I’m doing. We introduced bottles early and I am so thankful we did, as Henry has never had an issue taking a bottle from anyone, and I counted down the months.
And then six months came and went, and I realized I didn’t dread it anymore, didn’t hate it, didn’t love the mechanics of it, but desperately loved those cuddles with my baby boy. 1 year, I told myself, I will definitely be ready by then.
He started self-weaning as soon as we introduced solid foods, and I was fine with that. He still nursed a couple times a day, and I was sad to see those sessions go as he dwindled, but very ready to be done with pumping. By 11 months, he only nursed in the mornings when he woke, and I cherished those sleepy snuggles to start our day. When he turned one I kept intending to stop, kept shrugging it off, kept getting up when he woke and pulling him into the comfy chair. Soon, I said, soon.
On a Saturday morning shortly after he turned one, he nursed. The next morning, he refused. And the morning after that, and the one after that. And so it was that we were done.
It’s not that I am devastated to be done nursing. I was ready, he was ready, and I was intending to do it. I just didn’t imagine it ending like that, didn’t realize that the last time I snuggled him close and breathed in his sweet baby-ness while he nursed would be that day. I had great expectations for our final nursing moment. I was going to soak it in, going to drink in my baby needing me in that unique way for the last time. I was going to cherish it and remember it and store it away in my heart and mind in that precious space that is for cataloguing Henry’s baby moments.
Instead, I nursed half awake, quick to hand him off to James and get back into bed. Because I didn’t know it was the last time.
This will happen a lot, I’m sure. He’s a tiny person, this kid of mine, not a guest actor in the film of my life, playing his role to a T and fulfilling all the moments I have planned. He doesn’t always respond how I imagined, doesn’t react how I hoped. I will spend my whole life having expectations ignored, mourning moments that didn’t happen on my terms. Life with Henry will not go accordingly to my great expectations. That is the tragedy of parenthood, of life lived with other humans.
But there is the joy of those unexpected moments too. Every day he does things I wouldn’t have known to expect, little things that are demanding more and more space in the catalogue of my heart. The way he has learned to climb on everything and then squeals until we notice. How much he loves cheers-ing anything I hold. How he has started raising up his arms to wrap around my neck and place his chubby cheek against mine. How he laughs and hurls his body across my own when I lie on the floor to try to rebuild some abs after carrying him destroyed them. Lesser moments, greater joy.
This isn’t a lesson we learn once. I’m sure I will spend my whole life being crushed by the ways he thwarts my expectations of a moment or a memory. But along the way I hope I learn even more to love the beauty of things I didn’t even know to expect.