I cried the whole way home from the doctor yesterday. I raged, I wept, I mourned. I had intended to pump my “good” remaining breast and dump the poisonous milk throughout the chemo treatments or whatever, and when it was all done, many months from now, if Daniel wanted to he could return to nursing. Somehow the thought that I could offer him that, that this wasn’t Mama taking it away forever and ever, somehow that made the thought of all that comes next a little more bearable. He may by then be completely uninterested. But in the end it would be his choice and knowing I gave that back to him just would make me feel…well, it’s just hard to explain without weeping so hard I can’t type.
Anyway, if this doctor is right about the milk-making hormones and some effect on breast cancer, then my hopes are out of the question. I will double and triple check his opinion, as my gut tells me something is off about that.
It may seem strange to many of you, in the scheme of everything I am facing, to worry so much about nursing a toddler of 2.5, something clearly many women who are devoted breast-feeders don’t even do. He is certainly old enough to be weaned by most Western standards. I just don’t happen to subscribe to those standards (or very many other ones, actually, lol). Btw, did you know the average age of weaning worldwide is over five years old?
Besides, right now it’s about alot more than that.
To my son, I am a world…a world of suckling warmth, loving eye contact, stroking each other’s hair (“Mama, your hair so booful” as he pets mine, also soon to be gone)…I am the one that holds him on my chest while he rests, when he hurts he wants to nurse, when he’s tired he wants my breast to drift off to sleep. I cuddle with him in other ways, yes, but it is not the same, not physically, not emotionally, for him or me.
While I undergo all of this and am ill, deformed, bald, and weak, I can still be there for my Megan in many of the same ways I am today. I can talk to her about violin lessons and bugs, especially caterpillars (she’s crazy for tent worms, most people mistake them for Gypsy moths but Meggie knows the difference) she loves Meebas and her Petz5 computer game and certain TV shows and dogs -- any creatures really, she’s a true nature lover and very earth science-minded. I can still share all that with her while hairless, breastless and in between bouts of puking into a bowl if I have to. She’ll suffer some losses and I grieve for all of that too, oh so deeply. But it won’t compare to her baby brother.
To Daniel, to a toddler, Mama is different. Daniel is very bright, he’s very verbal for a child his age, but he is still only two. I am soft breasts and long hair and carrying him on my hip or crawling on the floor playing Thomas the Train. I will be able to offer none of that, perhaps for a long time, perhaps some of it gone forever. I am about to take myself away from him, piece by piece, bit by bit. To him it matters not why. Yes, someday he will understand how much I went through, how my heart broke, my very soul ached beyond a describable pain. But today, now, a huge part of who I am is leaving him. His world as he knows it is about to crumble and to him in some primal way, it will be me doing it.
Knowing this is tearing me apart more than I can stand. I look at him and weep. He keeps asking me, “Wass a matta Mama, you okay?” I am trying to prepare him, telling him that now Mama’s other ta-ta (his name for my breasts) is sick and that soon I can’t give him any more. I keep avoiding the circumstances when he used to like to nurse. Our morning routine has changed, afternoons when he's cranky I hide away...but bed times…that’s the one that I’ve yet to let go of. He says to me with the sweetest smile, “Now we ready ta-ta poh?” (poh is what he calls the pillow he lays on astride me)…he’s so happy to finally get what he wants, finally get that blissful bonding that just can’t be duplicated or replaced. I’m sorry I don’t mean to suggest non-breastfeeding moms don’t have that…I think if you never did nurse than you developed that bliss, that bond, in another way, I know that. But I have nursed, and this is our way and I’m so damn sad and angry and grief stricken that this is happening to my beautiful baby boy I can’t cry hard enough, scream loud enough, mourn deeply enough. It is beyond unfair.
I’m sorry. I have to stop.