Baby's breath

for Peggy, an early supporter of my baby to be.

When Beren was newborn, I met a friend at Boro Bean. She put her face to his head and inhaled. "Mmm. That newborn smell. I miss that smell."

"Uh huh," I replied and shrugged a bit. I had heard about "that newborn smell", but never noticed my own child's smell. I felt a little insecure, and wondered, yet again, what was wrong with me.

This was a trait I mentioned to a lactation consultant at a local hospital on an early mother-child fact-finding mission. "You should get over that right away," she said confidently. I'd typically be annoyed, but I relaxed and agreed.

While I noted my self-doubt again and again, I also recognized a bit of spiritedness in myself. "You have claws, Rachel. You do," an old friend once told me.

I would strut down Nassau Street in Princeton with Beren in the Baby Bjorn carrier, strapped to my chest. He'd whimper, and I'd drop the carrier down a bit. I'd unbutton my shirt a bit, and he'd nurse. No one knew, and if they did, fa. I was flying with joy.

I always noticed my baby's sweet milky breath. And then, a couple months ago baby's breath became child's breath. Juice, butter, pears, noodles, chicken drumstick... all outnumbering breast milk in total volume.

Up until recently, Beren slept poorly at night. Now, he typically wakes just once. I comfort him, offer water, which he gulps. Occasionally he nurses once at night. Always to get to sleep, and rarely to sometimes first thing in the morning.

I worked so hard for this moment. Extending time between nursing. Distractions. Offering food and water, which he often gulped greedily. "You're thirsty!" I'd say.

He's begun to tell me he's thirsty, thirsty for water. It used to be that nursing was the frustrating default. Hungry, thirsty...but he'd ask to nurse instead. "Listen to your body," I told him. I suppose his body was telling him he was uncomfortable, and nursing would fix it. It did, and then he'd eat or drink.

He was (and is) demanding, as children are. "I want nummies!" "How about water?" "I want nummies!!"

I was conflicted and frustrated, tired of demands. And now, the sweet milky breath is gone forever.

We recently made a move, and I figured he might begin nursing more. Yes and no. I also found myself saying "yes" more. I realize these are the waning days of nursing this child.

I touched based with The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, as I do every so often. Your child will wean even if you do nothing, the text tells me. OK, but no. I guess, but am I ready. I'm ready, I've grumpily told myself many times. And then, I smile when I hear Beren chatter, "Nums. Nums. Nums! Numps. Numpsk. Numps. Numpsk." Something so special, my breasts have a variety of nicknames. Even Jared and I call them The Nums.

"I got alot,," Beren tells me as he breaks his latch. "Oh yeah?" "Mm hmm." It's so sweet, just a couple seconds as we sit in the bathtub together. I'd say that actually my breasts are below pre-pregnancy weight, but they do still make a little milk.

Other times, we'll lounge together in the morning, and what the heck, we nurse. Beren will gently and rhythmically press my breast. "Trying to get more milk?" He nods. "That's called a breast compression. That's what mommas do for babies who need a little more milk." Jared glances over and we all laugh.

Remember this, my little boy, because I want to smell my grandchildren's sweet milky breath one day.