I can think of no gesture more lovely than that of a woman giving to her child of her own body.
As Scarlett gets older… sleeps for longer stretches from dusk to dawn, eats more solid foods, she is gradually weaning herself. At first my breasts stopped leaking in the night, then at all. They stopped becoming engorged when she became hungry, and then even when she skipped a feeding altogether. Today my breasts are officially back to their pre-pregnancy size. A painfully normal 32B; their magic slipping away as my daughter becomes more and more independent of my body to grow. Even though I’ve always been reasonably fond of my body exactly the way it was given to me, and even though I’m enjoying the shift of having my weight and my shape fall back into the places they rightfully belong… when I look at myself in the mirror now, I can’t help but realize that the last traces of physical evidence that I was ever pregnant are leaving me. And it feels a little bit tragic, a little bit empty, even though I can’t decide exactly why.
When I started inking this drawing for Illustration Friday: a portrait of one of my favorite bloggers with her new son Arlo (isn’t that the coolest name?), I found myself riding a surge of unexpected emotions while I drew, sorting through my thoughts. Even though I’m still breastfeeding Scarlett, and doing it often, I’m already preparing for how much it will be missed once it’s gone. I’m slowing down, I’m drinking her in to the very last drop, I’m trying hard to gather everything about the experience now, so that I can hide it away later, lock it up and throw away the key. And in my rush to do these very sensible, perfectly understandable things, I’m succeeding only in turning this one, small, ordinary step into a total doomsday event, so that it looms over me like a threat.
I’m the one who didn’t want to breastfeed her past 12 months. I’m the one who wanted control of my body back. I’m the one who decided Scarlett would be the last of our children. I’m the one who is still perfectly satisfied with every one of those decisions. So what’s the big deal, anyway? It’s not even over yet…
I ran the brush along the curve of Arlo’s ear this morning and I remembered what it was like to share the experience with my own son; to touch his tiny ear and marvel at his magnificence while he grew without a sound in my arms, like a precious secret. I remembered what it felt like to be in equal parts astounded and overwhelmed by the very idea of what lay ahead. Of the infinite unknown. And how intimidating that could have been if I’d have let myself feel that way.
Matthew met me at the dining room table where I sat with a spread of art supplies, breakfast and coffee. He grabbed a paintbrush I laid out earlier so that it’d be ready for him when he woke up, he slid a sheet of clean, thick watercolor paper in front of him and he swirled the brush in a dish of water to the left, so that it clinked and splashed a little on the table. He said good morning, and that his belly was starving, and that he didn’t have any bad dreams last night. He told me he loved me too, and we painted before breakfast -- just like we always do -- at least, for now.
I thought of how nice this will be to look back on when someday he’s got more exciting, and then more important things to do with his time than paint with me before breakfast. Then suddenly, without meaning to, I found myself rummaging through a hundred phenomenal memories sandwiched between the days he fed from my breast and this morning at the table. And wouldn’t you know, of all of my favorites, not a one of those precious, everlasting moments in my mind had anything at all to do with breastfeeding. Not a single one.
I guess in hindsight the infinite unknown has been pretty good to us in the past.
So loom away, Threat of Change, my infinite unknown awaits, and I cannot wait to meet her.
And to drink her in to the very last drop.