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Breast Intentions

Hitting the two-year mark

A few months later, when Hank turned 2, that all changed. Maybe hitting the two-year mark freaked me out. Or relieved me from obligation. All I know is, suddenly I was sick and tired of nursing. Tired of dropping what I was doing and dropping my pj top. Tired of worrying about how much coffee and wine I was drinking. Tired of sleeping with Hank and being woken for nighttime feedings. Tired of all my shirts being stretched out by Hank's plunging hand. I wanted my body back. I wanted my life back. I wanted to go to the Gap and buy dozens of new T-shirts.

Besides, Hank now weighed 30 pounds. He had a vocabulary of 50 to 100 words. He wasn't a baby anymore. I began talking to other long-term-nursing veterans, who gave me weaning advice ranging from the quirky (put mustard on your nipples) to the practical: Go away on a trip and let your milk dry up. So my husband and I planned a weekend getaway to San Francisco. Our babysitter would have to handle Hank's disappointment and anger during my absence.

Making a clean break sounded like a good idea, but once we were on the plane, I worried whether it would be harmful to Hank. What if he cried all night, or sobbed so much that he got sick? What if he suffered permanent psychic damage? I felt better that evening, when I saw how my body was responding. My breasts didn't become engorged or leak milk, as I'd anticipated. My body knew it was time to stop nursing. The sitter stoically reported that the first night we were gone, Hank threw himself on the floor and cried to exhaustion. He also woke up in the night crying, but settled down after crawling into bed with her and burrowing into her side.

When we returned home, my husband put Hank to bed (his, not ours), while I hid. Hank sobbed for half an hour in Daddy's arms, yelling "I want Mommy!" He woke up once or twice in the night, but fell back asleep when my husband comforted him. Daddy also went to him the next morning. We repeated the pattern for two more nights.

On the fourth night, I put Hank to bed. I explained that Mommy didn't have milk in her breasts anymore. "Besides, you're a big boy now," I said. "You drink cow's milk and juice  -- you don't need Mommy's milk." He gave me a forlorn look, as if to say, "But I thought things would stay this way forever. You betrayed me!" Then he went limp, moaning "mee-mee, mee-mee, mee-mee."

He looked so pitiful and small lying there. All I could do was rub his back and say, "I'm sorry, sweetie." I'd come this far, and I didn't want to start all over again in a few weeks or months. Hank finally conked out till the morning, when I lured him away from my chest by offering to make pancakes. And so, Hank was officially weaned.

Well, sort of. The following night, around 3 a.m., a little creature came tiptoeing into our room and nestled into bed with us. A small, warm hand wiggled its way under my pajama top and rested on my left breast. There it stayed until morning, and there it remains, starting at the same time every night. When it gets too annoying  -- and it does  -- I pull the hand off. But like a boomerang, it comes back.

So in the end, we didn't get our bed back. And I didn't get my breasts back completely, either. But for now, I'm going with the flow. Weaning Hank seems like a big enough accomplishment for the moment. And I swear I'll tackle The Hand  -- and getting Hank out of our bed  -- later. After all, this stage can't last that long... can it?