It's dawn. Outside the window the sky is breaking out into fiery magnificence. The birds are caroling and the sun is primed to burst above the horizon in golden splendour. How many mornings have I sat here, on my couch, waiting for the sunrise, a golden haired boy in my lap grinning cheekily as he finished his morning feed. His navy blue eyes crinkled at the corners as he patted my breasts and extracted every last drop of milk.
The sensation of waking in the early hours, breasts swollen and heavy, nipples erect and sensitive, waiting for the first snuffle against my skin. Waiting for his searching urgent mouth and the palpable sensation when he first suckled and the rush of hormone to my pituitary gland. Of feeling the tingle through my blood of oxytocin, the cuddle hormone, as my milk filled breasts swelled and he gulped in that first heavy letdown.
It's an intense emotion when there is oxytocin coursing through your blood. In those first milk filled months I floated on a euphoric, adrenaline filled high. It didn't matter that I was deathly tired. I still loved everyone and everything. From that first feed in the late hours of June the first, the sharpness of his powerful and violent birth was gone, the second that he latched on. With every feed I felt it, the rush of pure emotion. Of wanting to be touched and revelling in the way that he snuggled so close to me. Milk drunk and soft. Hands either side of the breast cradling and patting, sometimes kneading the flesh.
It has been such a powerful reinforcer to hold him, on the days when it's felt like I was messing everythign up, and to look at his luminescent skin, to smell his musty golden head and to know that I gave him that. I fed him, nourished him, provided for him. To know that he always smelled of me. And the milk I made especially for him. The antibodies that my body made for him every time he was sick. Liquid gold.
The connection is powerful and intense with breastfeeding. It can be hard for some to take. The rush of hormones can provoke anxiety or fear. But for me it swept it all away. Every time. The bonding I feel with breastfeeding can't be replicated, once it's gone I still love my babies, intensely, but it's not the physical craving for touch. I still love them and kiss them, but I don't have the need within my very skin to hold them close to me. But when I feed, without him in my arms, it sometimes hurts when he's not there.
Going to work has been so hard because of this. It's felt like I've ripped off an arm at times. Because I physically needed him and expressing doesn't replicate very much besides the soul searing need for my baby. But I have persisted, even when I was so tired I wanted to throw up, using what few if any breaks I've had to run upstairs, lock myself in a room and squeeze out the rich, creamy milk that I made just for my baby.
And every night I've come home, dead on my feet, but grateful for the time that I could slip out of my work clothes, put on my robe and curl up in the rocking chair with the Possum and feed and feed and feed. Stop caring about how much I was not enjoying work, stop caring about how horrible I've been feeling, and wash it away with the beautiful and intense connection that we have.
Until tonight. When I held him, heavy and warm and musty. He had slept through for the first time in months, instead of waking every 2 hours or so like he has ever since I went back to work. It was 4am and the gentle prowling light of dawn was beginning to creep through the curtains. I had slept for hours in a row, and was sleepily joyous. Yesterday at work was the first time I enjoyed myself, felt competent and like I might, finally, be doing the right thing. I came home happy, I loved everyone and everything, and I didn't cry in the shower with the bone aching, hormone stripped tiredness of it all.
And he refused to feed. Refused my breasts and yelled angrily. Arched his back and refused to open his mouth, looking at me as if I was insane. I fumbled, tried repositioning him, but he would have none of it. He pushed himself away from me and asked again, noisily for his bottle. And I had to find one, make it up for him, mix it together while my breasts tingled and waited, primed, for the release that won't come. Letdown as his hands clasped his bottle, his head using my breast only for a pillow.
I held him as the tears welled up and trickled down my cheeks. The desperate craving to hold him still there, still hormonally bound to my baby. But him not wanting me. And me knowing that this is it. That we've weaned. My last baby. My last physical connection to babyhood.
He doesn't need me any more. And it hurts so much.