This week, my “baby” officially started preschool.
Since we’re a Montessori family, Zara had the benefit of a long transition period as she moved from the toddler to the preschool class over the summer. She’s been spending parts of days and whole days in the preschool class since early June, but September 1st marked the first day that she was officially part of the preschool class only, and also the beginning of her going to her school five full days per week. It feels like the time has flown by since her birth – I can hardly believe that she’s already as big as she is, and the start of preschool was bittersweet as it brought with it the close of her toddler-hood: Zara weaned.
I may not have been as vocal about it with Zara as I was when nursing Nora, but, yes, Zara also was an extended nurser (by American consideration). With her super independent personality, I always assumed that Zara would wean herself, but as it turned out, independent or not, her pace toward weaning did not quite align with mine and I ended up weaning her last month. This is our weaning story:
While the early days of nursing Zara were much easier than early days nursing Nora, the middle was much more challenging. Following Zara’s first birthday (when my cycle returned), I struggled a lot with low estrogen and all the not-so-joyful side effects that come with it. More than one doctor advised me that there wasn’t a lot that could be done to improve my hormones, short of weaning. With her just barely a year old, I wasn’t ready to do that, and even through last summer’s health scare and following surgery, we still hung on.
Following Zara’s second birthday, last January, things started to change. At two, Zara was going to her Montessori school two days per week for six hours. On school days, she nursed just once or twice, but on days when she was home with me she was happy to nurse six or more times. Neither of my children have been pacifier babies, which means as toddlers, they want to nurse when they are hungry, thirsty, tired, scared, board, or hurt…or for one hundred other reasons. By late spring, I started to feel myself getting exhausted with nursing, and I could tell my body was nearing the point of being truly worn out after nearly seven years spent either pregnant or nursing or both, with no break in between. In May, my logical brain was telling me to wean Zara, but my emotional brain was struggling with it. I debated endlessly the merits of just choosing a date and cutting her off, versus my feelings that it wasn’t fair to her and the fact that nursing was the only way I could get her to nap. My emotions won out, largely because we had scheduled her four days per week in a summer program with Nora so I really only had to deal with three full-days of nursing each week. Then, I decided that I would wean her on her half birthday in July, but that date came and went.
Finally, I reached the point I had gotten to with Nora, when I only wanted to nurse when and where I wanted to on my terms, not hers. Once I realized I was at the point when I was refusing more than saying yes, but not in any way Zara could predict or understand, I knew it was time to actually stop nursing Zara. We had already been talking with her about weaning for months, and talking about how big girls don’t nurse, so I picked a Saturday in August and told myself I would just stick with it. In order to ensure that happened and also to try and make cold-turkey weaning a little less awful for her, we planned a special day for the two of us, which included a nursing session with my friend Chantry (Chantry Lee Photography).
On Saturday, August 1st, we hiked up the hills near Horsetooth reservoir for one last nursing session. Zara and I had talked a lot about how she would be starting preschool and September and that August 1st would be her last day nursing in preparation for her becoming a preschooler. We hung out in the grasses, just the two of us, and Chantry caught some really amazing photos.
After the photo session, we came home and we all shared a mini cake Zara had chosen from Whole Foods with a butterfly on the top of it, after singing “Happy Weaning Day to You.” Zara had been bedtime weaned for quite a while so she went to sleep without a problem, but she did end up asking to nurse in the morning the next day. Mostly I stuck with it and we all suffered through some very early mornings when Bee woke up as early as 3 or 4 am saying she was hungry. She’s only nursed three times since her official weaning day, and each of those times were early in the morning, when I had worked late the night before and didn’t have energy to say no. The first thing in the morning nursing is always the last one to go because I like my sleep so much. There were a few other times when she asked throughout the day (she would come up to me and say, “I’m still a toddler.”), but I was always able to distract.
Zara hasn’t asked to nurse for at least a week now, so I feel it is safe to say that she is truly weaned. It’s so funny how ready I was to be done, and yet, now that I actually am done, I have moments of sadness about it. It probably doesn’t help that I’m still producing enough milk that I can feel uncomfortable at times, which is markedly different from when I weaned Nora and never felt uncomfortable even once. I miss the snuggle time with my littlest girl, who is often too busy to slow down for a cuddle and has a little bit of a wild streak in her.
I think if Zara were asked, she would tell you she still wants to nurse, but not in a sad way. Toward the end of our nursing relationship, she would tell me with words how much she loves nursing and why. If asked about it, she would only have good things to say. She might say that she misses nursing, but I don’t think she would say she feels loss. She’s more nostalgic in her own goofy way. She started this “joke” where she comes up and pretends to nurse, but she doesn’t just do it to me – she also does it to Chris and then laughs hysterically because she knows how absurd it is. I love that her weaning was such a positive thing for her and I’m grateful that we were able to keep going as long as we did despite everything that happened along the way since her birth. Now, with weaning behind us, we are just looking forward to the fun of preschool and exploring the world with another growing girl.