A few weeks ago, Fable latched on to nurse for what I knew would be the last time.
I’m not sure why I was so confident this was the final time we’d be together this way. Maybe it was the slow decrease in my already meager supply over the last few months, or the readily chomping teeth conspiring on her angry swollen gums, or the way her distracted eyes would roll and search and grow more and more impatient with a tragically slow flow of milk in her rapidly expanding world of bright lights, tasty snacks, and instant gratification. Whatever the reason, I knew this moment was the last of its kind.
I took pictures. Awkward, not-enough-light-selfie pictures that are no good for internet bragging or framing or anything but saving to a file somewhere, tucked into our folder of memories, labeled with five proud little letters: Proof.
Because, we are warriors, my beautiful girl and I, and this is our victory.
This bittersweet ending of our 11-month breastfeeding adventure is heart-breaking and grounding and in no small way miraculous. We will be awarded no medals—no one will be standing at the one-year or two-year or whatever-the-goal-is-now finish line with balloons and banners to applaud our commitment to attachment parenting, or our brave shunning of Gerber, or the way I pumped a freezer full of magic milk to cure her sickness and send her to college, because we did none of those things.
We could have done everything differently.
I could have scavenged milk from donors to keep her pure, I could have married myself to the pump every waking minute in hopes that my eight ounces a day would eventually increase to the 20-something needed just to sustain her.
I could have kept any bottle nipple or pacifier miles away from her untainted lips, but I did not. We did not. We have made a thousand choices this year, and these fierce and mighty, wonderful ones were not among them.
Ah, but we are victorious, my girl and I.
Because the little girl who starved is alive and growing and gorgeous and wild.
Because the mother who wept and bled and cracked and prayed is healing, is healed, and unapologetic and solid and sure.
Because we sat in a chair, just us two, only weeks ago and nursed for the very last time like champions, like professionals, like rockstars.
Because for 11 whole months my daughter was fed, from a bottle, from my breast, from a box, by her father, by her grandparents and aunts and uncles and friends and even a stranger or two.
Because for 11 whole months my daughter found comfort in my arms and at my breast and in her father’s bouncing and in our cozy bed and in the laps of a hundred village-dwellers who are so desperately perfectly part of her story.
Because we took the path that was right for us, and we didn’t give up, and in the hundreds of times we failed along the way we never failed for even a moment, because there is no right or wrong way in the face of so darn much love.
There will be a dozen moments when I watch an ample-bossomed mother nursing her toddler and wonder what if, if only, could I or should I or did we? In these moments, I will hold tightly the scared and wounded second-guesser who lives in me, I will comfort her, I will allow her a moment of pause, and then we will move forward to a lifetime of other beautiful things.
A few weeks ago, Fable latched on for what I knew was the last time.
Little love, we are champions. We are rockstars.
We are victory.