Adventures in Night Weaning (Part 3)

E nursing himself back to sleep during a nap

A kind and gentle Grandma is the greatest gift on earth. For both mommies and babies. We are extremely lucky because we have two of them. Without their love and support through this entire mothering journey, I would have been lost. All of my love goes out to them, this and everyday. 

E nursing himself back to sleep during a nap
E nursing himself back to sleep during a nap

October is my hubby and I’s anniversary month. I will never forget the brisk, cool day of our wedding. Surrounded by our friends and family, we exchanged traditional vows, in a garden, in a ceremony led by our friend (and minister for a day) Jesse. We danced and partied all night, and woke up the next day to drive to New Hampshire, our favorite fall getaway. Since that night four years ago, we have always celebrated our anniversary in either New Hampshire, or Vermont. Except for last year, everything (especially night-time getaways) halted last year, when our son was born.

But this year we decided a getaway was possible! With a little help from night weaning, and grandma. E had been prepped for several days (see part 1 and part 2), night nursing had pretty much ceased (except for the faithful 5 am wake up), and it has been months since he has needed to nurse during the day (at least when I am not around). He doesn’t take bottles, or drink any other kind of milk, but he does eat lots of solid food. Grandma has been E’s second mother since the day he was born, watching him on days that I work, and even using practices such as babywearing and co-sleeping to help E nap and get to bed. We were totally confident in leaving E with Grandma for the weekend, and she was confident that all would be well.

Grandma usually watches E on Fridays, so the Friday we were leaving she was at our house in the afternoon. When hubby got home from work, we spent some time with E, eating a snack and making sure he had everything he needed for the weekend. Grandma loaded him into her car, and after many hugs and kisses they rode off into the sunset together. Hubby and I packed up our car, and hit the road. We drove about 10 minutes, when I realized I had forgotten one very important thing, my pump. UHHHHG, my pump. Yes, I would definitely need it on a weekend away.

We got to our destination in Smuggler’s Notch Vermont, our new favorite autumn getaway spot, late that night. We hadn’t heard from Grandma so we decided everything must be well, and we went to sleep. Correction: I pumped first, and then went to sleep, excited for a full night of rest, and maybe even some sleeping in!

I awoke at 5am. Totally engorged, and in pain. I wandered out of bed into the kitchen, and out came the pump, and I begrudgingly set up the pump next to the bed I was supposed to still be asleep in, sat up and emptied my full breasts, cursing my ever abundant milk supply. (which I am actually quite thankful for because is has allowed me to donate milk to several mamas and babies in need, but at 5am I was not happy)

At 9am I called to check in with Grandma. E had slept well, once she got him to sleep. He took quite a bit of rocking and soothing to settle down. Perhaps because he missed me, or maybe just because he was excited about a sleepover at Grandma’s but didn’t actually want to sleep during it. He woke only once or twice that night, and after a bit of cuddling and some pats on the back, easily drifted back to sleep. Grandma stayed with him, cosleeping in a big full-sized bed, just like we do at home. Relieved, we went about enjoying our vacation. My only complaint was the discomfort of my full breasts, and of my belly after I ate a half loaf of cinnamon raison bread with maple ganache, but in the end it was all worth it.

Hubby and I ready for a night out on the town!
Hubby and I ready for a night out on the town!

For night number 2 we decided to go out on the town (small town). We had dinner and even went to a bar for drinks and dancing (oh my!). Upon our arrival home (er… to our condo) I pumped and prayed that the session would last me through the night.

5am, breasts are full. Luckily the pump was set up right next to the bed, ready. I sat up, quickly emptied and then rolled over to keep sleeping. Just like being home, although this time I cuddled up to my sleeping husband, who required no “shhing” or pats on the back to stay asleep.

We didn’t bother checking in with Grandma just yet, figuring no news was good news, and realizing after yesterday’s call that E was doing better not thinking (or hearing from) mommy at all, as opposed to phone check ins. We gathered our belongings and went for a hike, then we started the long drive home, enjoying open road, and glimmering sunshine on the last of fall’s colored leaves. There was even a bit of snow on our hike. White crystals holding tight to deep evergreen branches. It was all quite magical.

Our drive finished, destination Grandma’s house to pick up E. As soon as he saw my he put up both of his little hands, and signed to nurse, with adamant expression. “Must nurse now!” We sat together in a rocker, mama and baby happy to be reunited. He snuggled in satisfied by mama’s milk, and my breasts final felt normal again. Thank goodness.

The second night had been even more of a success than the first. E fell to sleep easily, he stayed asleep all night except for one quick wake up. He did wake early, just after 5:30 am, and was a bit sad to have no nursies to wake up to, but Grandma distracted him quickly with food and Thomas the Train. Night weaning was deemed a success!

……

It’s been several weeks since this getaway. Several weeks of continued effort in night weaning. Most nights are good. My husband and I are alternating night duties. We take turns waking up, comforting, and cosleeping with E. He still reliably wakes up by 5am, sometimes a few minutes before of after, and at a few other instances (11, 1, 3am) but during these times he is easily comforted with back pats or gentle bouncing. We nurse at the 5am wake up, and generally sleep for a few more hours (until 6:30/7). Sometimes he nurses straight through from 5am-7am, and I have to deal with a toddler climbing all over my chest, kicking me in the side, or face, and clumsily grabbing and pulling my hair. But overall, I’m getting more sleep. My mood has improved. My body feels stronger. Night weaning has made me feel mostly human again.

I knew in my heart at 15 months, we were ready. Ready to move out of the infant phase of waking, nursing, and struggling for sleep. We were ready because we all needed better rest. We were ready physically (E was eating plenty of food, and drinking water) and emotionally (I was a crazy mess, and E was suffering from my lack of rest). But night weaning has left me with the feeling that E is no longer a baby. He is in full on toddlerhood, and growing more independent everyday. He still needs me, yes. I still need him, yes. We are still very much bonded and connected to each other, yes. But someday, nursing (even in the daylight) will be over for us. I’m not sure when that will be. I only think I’m ready some days. But it’s in the back of my mind, that this relationship is changing. E will always be my baby, my son, but he will not always be my nursling. For now, he is my nursling during the day, and at night the nursies are finally getting some sleep.

big boy bed

The Only Thing Constant

changes

I tied my little one to my back, as I have done so many times before, though now his legs dangled lower, and his weight sat heavier, and I set off. We walked down our crumbled street, turned a few corners, and quickly reached our entry point, to our wooded playground, our hidden treasure, our sanctuary. I chose the low path, in part because my tired body didn’t much want to climb the hill, and in part to search for a hidden treasure within the walls of this place. Within a few paces, my eyes turned toward the sky and my nose sniffing lightly for the trail of a scent, I found them. Grapes. Black, round, seedy, sweet, concord grapes. I gathered the few that I could reach into my hands, and continued down the path.

gathering grapes

E caught on to what I was doing, and started to kick his heels into my sides. He reached his little arm around my shoulder and held out an open hand. He wanted some of my treasure. I peeled off the thick dark skin, and handed him the white fleshy inside. He popped it into his mouth and grinned. We walked further, all eyes turned towards the branches, seeking out the distinctive broad-leafed vine, and its black clusters of goodness. We spotted more than we could ever eat, high up in the branches, I picked what I could, jumping up lightly to bring down a bunch. It was the end of a long day. The last heat of summer clung to our bodies, and we clung to each other.

concord grapes

Soon we came to the end of the grape tunnel. Continuing on, I held our stash safely in my palm. The trees glowed an effervescent green in the last golden light of day. My little one and I had walked this path many times together. I had walked this path for years before he came to be. The peace of this place is that the path is always there. The wonder of it is that it does what all things in nature do, it constantly changes.

wooded path

At this moment on a late summer evening, this path, my son and I, each held our thoughts in quiet contemplation. I pointed out the soft breeze, the dry trickle of brook indicating our long, hot summer, and the grapes, ripened and ready to eat. In the spring we had walked this path together collecting fiddle heads, the new yet to unspiral baby ferns make a tasty green snack perfect for end of winter cleansing. My baby was smaller then, and his legs didn’t yet yearn to be free and walking.

As I held my thoughts on seasons, abundant wild edibles, and growing babies, we came to a sign post that perfectly captured the essence of all that I was feeling.

changes

The tree had fallen years before. I remember when it’s roots still hung like outstretched arms, wanting for the warm embrace of deep earth. Now those roots were hardly visible, grass, and other greenery shrouded the open wound, collecting the fallen giant back into itself. This is what we all must go through, this what we all become. In my heart, I feel peace with that. Something about the sight of that tree reminds me that this is natures intention, and we must honor it.

bumble bee

 

We continued on, enjoying the sights and sounds of the forest. We came across wild turkeys, a stone wall, a grazing bumble bee. We bounced, and trotted, looked and laughed. I imagined our walk at this time next year. A little boy not only steady on his legs, but running. A mama with ever watchful eyes, and ever-growing memories. This place, is our place. This forest, our escape into a world where things are as they are meant to be. Ever evolving, growing, blooming, dying, wintering, weathering, and starting again. Ever changing, as all things do, inviting us to gracefully do the same.

hidden smile