I often feel that we celebrate the wrong things. Birthdays are great and everything, but really, what do they represent other than “time has passed and you’re still alive?” (No small feat, to be sure, especially when you spend your waking hours climbing bookshelves, falling into toy boxes and ingesting Lego heads. But still. More a “lack of screwing up” than an actual accomplishment.)
Instead of a first birthday party, we should throw a “You’re Walking!” party or maybe “You’re Talking! (Actual Words that Adults Can Understand)” party Or “You’re Sleeping Through the Effing Night!” party.
Instead of 3rd birthdays, I would have a “You’re Toilet Trained!” party. Which may or may not be after the 3rd birthday, not going to mention any names of any specific children I may know or have birthed.
I would throw parties for “You Brushed Your Own Teeth!” “You Arranged a Playdate by Yourself!” “You Made Your Lunch!” “You Walked to and from School on Your Own!” “You Know How to Take the Bus!” “You Stayed Home by Yourself When I Went to Pick up Your Sibling!”
These are the true parenting milestones, but we tend not to throw parties. (Come on kids, gather round for a fun game of “Pin the Colgate on the Toothbrush!” “Aim Your Pee for the Toilet!” and “Don’t Open the Door for Strangers!”), and often they go unnoticed, with maybe a mention over dinner. “So he woke up dry last night.” “Cool. Hey are you getting up? Could you get me some water?” (Sometimes Donny and I play water chicken, because we’re each too lazy to get up. Whoever stands first has to get the other one a glass of water.)
We had one of the big milestones last Thursday night, when Donny and I went to a wedding - as in, leaving Modiin - and Ariella babysat for the troops. With help from her lovely assistant Yaakov, of course. She even re-pacifiered Shoham when she (Shoham) started crying. Donny and I were a little in disbelief that we now have a live-in babysitter. We grew and fed her for 12.5 years, and now she’s ours. If we could have arranged a hall and a DJ for the Friday morning after, you all would have been invited to the “real” bat mitzvah. (“Today, dear daughter, you are our babysitter. Mazel tov!”)
Another recent milestone, one that went quietly into that good night (literally) was weaning the babies. I totally get why they made a weaning party for Isaac our forefather back in the day. It’s a big deal. [Warning: I am going to use the word breast, like, so many times now. If that offends you, keep reading so you can yell and tirade after.]
After a year + of breastfeeding, we ended it. Though the sore lump in my breast is protesting a bit. Damn it, milk ducts, did you not get the memo???
It happened kind of suddenly. At 12 months, it was going strong. I knew I was getting ready to end, but I wasn’t sure how it would happen. Then, one Shabbat, I just did not have time for the pre-nap and pre-bedtime nursing (the only daytime feedings left). So they made do without. Shoham was fine; she was basically only nursing to indulge me. Sivan protested with deep, sad, guilt-inducing cries. Oy.
The next day, I wavered whether to bring back those feedings or not. But I decided to push through and continue the weaning process. The time, it seemed, had come. I figured I would keep nursing Sivan at night for a few more nights. Donny was away that week, scheduled to get back on Thursday. I told myself that Wednesday night would be the last hurrah for Sivan and me. Once he was back, he would do the middle of the night wakings, eventually getting her used to the fact that the breast was just not happening.
I was all prepared as I went to sleep Wednesday night. I planned a small reception in the room after the final nursing. Nothing big. A little diploma, some tea and mini sandwiches, a platter of cookies. Tasteful, you know? I would speak, of course, and ask Sivan if she wanted to say a few words. It was all ready to go.
And then, for the first time in her young life, Sivan did not wake up at night. You heard that correctly. She slept through the #$#% night. And for the first time, I was a little upset! Our final nursing! The reception! My speech!!!!! So our last feeding had been Tuesday night? But there was no to-do! I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye!!
But I suppose it’s fitting, because it seems the most important milestones just happen like that, without fanfare.
And so ends my breastfeeding career, which started 12.5 years ago. I have always been an amalgam of BF and bottle feeding (and when I say bottle, I mean “formula” for as much as I love breastfeeding, that’s how much I hate pumping). I’ve breastfed exclusively, I’ve breast and bottle fed at the same time (I mean, not at the same feeding, their mouths are only so big, but you get it.) I’ve done breast and then switched to bottle. I’ve breastfed single babies and I've breastfed twins. Sometimes I've breastfed twins at the same time. I’ve breastfed for a few months and I’ve breastfed for more than a year.
(The nice thing about my amalgam-ness is that everyone can roll their eyes at me. The pro-formula people can say, “Geeze, what a lactivist. My kids have formula and they’re the bestest smartest kids ever so why does she think she’s so great because she breastfeeds her kids?” Probably they use the words “whip it out” also. And the pro-BFers can say, “Formula????? What kind of monster mother is she???? She might as well just give them sugar water!!!” So everybody wins!)
I have enjoyed breastfeeding my children, holding them, watching their little eyes close as they nurse, having them reach out and grab some part of me to hold onto, enjoying the satisfied milk face when they’re done, bringing them for weight checks and knowing “Hey I did that!”, the sheer contentment of being able to just sit and be like, “Sorry, can’t wipe your butt now, I’m feeding the baby!” (In our house, there is always one child at the butt-wiping stage when we have a newborn around. Also: This is what they mean when they say “breastfeeding is also beneficial for the mother.”)
So it’s over, and while I’m a little sad (and astounded when I realized that probably by now, the babies have completely forgotten about it), I’m glad I had the chance to do it. Now, onward to the next milestone. (“Stay here till Mommy gets back from getting the kids. If the phone rings, don’t answer it. Also, don’t eat it.” Yeah, we’re ready.)