Recently Shanna asked me why I am so grumpy. This was at a time when she had asked me fifteen times in five minutes if she could have a cookie with her snack. I laughed. I told her that I was far less grumpy than I used to be. I asked her why I sound grumpy. She told me that my tone of voice made her think I don't love her. I stooped down to her level and grabbed her up in my arms. We sat on the floor and I said, "I have never been happy in my life the way I am happy now. Before you were born I was far more grumpy. I sound grumpy because I have a sharp tone of voice and it has nothing to do with how much I love you. I love you more than I love breathing. More than I love ice cream. I love you bigger than the whole sky. It's annoying to be asked the same thing over and over and I do sound sharp when you do it. Please know that never for one second do I stop loving you."
She smiled and then buried her face in my neck while she hugged me.
You know how I ranted about nursing Calli? I was going to wean early this time! She's almost nineteen months and still nursing. I can't cut her off. It's just too mean. We nurse once most days but she sometimes pitifully asks for a second time and I can't tell her no. Pretty much every nursing ends with deep teeth marks on my nipples and me saying ouch. She always gives me a kiss when I say ouch. She never did learn how to nurse very well. When people talk about how wonderfully bonding nursing is they don't explain that it is bonding because it is horrible and you do it anyway. Horrible experiences that are shared are the most bonding kinds of experiences I know of. You have gone through something together. Yes, there is sweetness in cuddling up to your wonderful baby and having them lie still for a few minutes. Mostly nursing is bonding, for me, because there are these two people on the planet who are alive because I went through the discomfort and awful to keep them that way. I did that. I made you from scratch. Every piece of you started out inside my body. It was uncomfortable and crappy. Then you came out and caused me way the heck more pain. Then you latched on to one of the most sensitive parts of my body and hurt me more. For years. I let you because I love you so much. I let you because keeping you alive is far more important to me than any momentary discomfort. All of this pain is temporary. My relationship with them isn't temporary.
I think they are worth suffering for. I think their needs are important enough to let my nipples be gnawed on daily for almost four years straight (so far) and counting. Because this precious time won't last forever. Some day I won't be able to actually satisfy their needs. Some day the things they need will be outside of this house and outside of me and there will be nothing I can do. I can do this. I can do this thing over and over even though it really isn't my favorite. I can. I choose to partially just so that I can look back with absolute certainty for the rest of my life and know that for at least a short time in their lives I really and truly did meet all of their needs. I am good enough. I am enough. Maybe just for now and not for always, but I have done this thing.
Nursing is one of the hardest things I have done. It has been a daily invasion of my body for year upon year. I'm not good at that kind of thing. I did it anyway because the most important thing in the whole world to me is that I be a good mother. Is nursing "full term" really what defines a good mother versus a bad mother? Of course not. That's silly.
I am going to walk a harder road than many other mothers. I am going to be insufficient in ways that other mothers will not be. Life is a balancing act. I will not be able to meet needs that other mothers meet with little or no effort. I will simply be unable to. But I can meet this need, even though it is hard for me. I can. I do.