While pregnant with my son, I bought a watch. It’s a cheap, fake leather strap watch with one cool feature — the hands light up when I press the small metal button that hits the bend in my wrist.
The watch has no alarm, and the way I wake up in the morning — and, many times during the night — is by my bedside companion: my son, Evan. Yes, Evan is by my side. All of my children have, in fact, have shared my bed with my husband and me. And contrary to all of the panic-inducing books and advice, my children are all just fine. I know that co-sleeping doesn’t last forever, and so I’ve embraced it as a brief moment in the lives of my children when I can have them right next to me.
First, I hear muttering. Next, a soft cry. Then, the feeling of tiny toes of an outstretched foot push against my soft belly. Soon enough, I feel the weight of the bed shift every so slightly as my son sits up to get his bearings — to the left is Daddy; to the right is Mama. My son rolls closer to my body, looking for comfort, attachment, reassurance that I am still there. He begins to nurse.
I barely open my eyes to see the V-shaped, greenish-yellow glow of the hands on my watch. This is it. This is our last nursing session. This is the last time these breasts will nourish my child.
I am awake. Crying from sadness and anxiety. With my other two children, I couldn’t wait to finish nursing, even after I passed 12 months, then 13 months, then 14, 15, 16 months of nightly connection. I wanted my body back. Now, I was afraid. I let tears fall silently, so as not to distract my son and have him stop. I slowed my breathing, fought the rising and falling of my chest, and closed my eyes. I made it to 14 months; he’s had enough.
Twelve hours later, I was on an airplane, heading to a conference for 5-days. And, unlike quick overnight trips when I would return with breasts full of unreleased milk, I knew I would arrive back home in the same condition as I left. My breasts would be flat, lacking the pressure and engorgement of milk. I would have no access to a pump. I would no longer need to express milk just to gain a level of comfort. No. I was done.
Thankfully, this trip has allowed me to focus on me. I am immersed in my work, have found time to exercise — at will — every day, and have had time to reflect. I do not feel the pressure of taking care of everyone’s needs on this trip. No diapers to change, no “family friendly” restaurants to seek out, no bed times, nap times, play times. It’s about me. For the first time in years, I’ve slept for more than 6 hours at night. I’m rested, recharged, and ready.
Each morning, I’ve felt my breasts. While they have grown a little heavier, I know that the remaining milk will be reabsorbed back into my body in the next few days. And, by the time I return home, they will be without milk.
So, this is it. This is the end of my journey as a breastfeeding mother. By the time I return home, this chapter of my identity will be closed. Next week, the 1/2 marathon. Within the next few months, my mastectomy.
I would be lying if I said I was excited.
I am not.
I am fearful. I am anxious. I am terrified. I am sad, emotional, scared, tense, and unsure. I want to run, hide, erase the knowledge of BRCA, decide to have more children, and pretend like it’s not happening. I want to be mad that it’s a part of my life, part of my reality, and a decision that others do not have to make.
I am angry.
And, I am thankful. I am thankful that I have this time to reflect. Life gets so busy at home, at work, and much of my time is taking care of business, taking care of others, and taking care of the to-do list. I know that the anger and pain are part of the process, and I am glad I’m able to go through it here. Now.
Time is moving so quickly. I’m one step closer, but closer isn’t necessarily where I want to be.
Peace, love and finding time to embrace the process,