It’s the middle of the night and I’m up. Again. We’re nearly a year in to parenting, twenty months since falling pregnant. Twenty months. Ninety one weeks. Six hundred and thirty six days. Six hundred and thirty six nights since I last had a full night’s sleep. As I lay there in the dark night after night, awake to feed my little boy, I ask myself ‘when should I stop breastfeeding?’ ‘How will I know when it’s time?’
Our breastfeeding journey has been one of highs and lows. It’s intended duration was always three months and we’d take it from there. We got there and suddenly stopping seemed like hard work, why would we stop when we’d only really just started? Four months passed. Five. The countdown was on for weaning, six months it was. But then weaning wasn’t a goer. Breastfeeding felt like the easier option as day after day he’d refuse to eat and out of a lack of other alternatives, we turned back to feeding.
Seven months passed. Eight. Nine. We got to ten and the teeth came out in force. Each feed filled me with dread and yet stopping had the same effect. I didn’t know how to. I wasn’t sure what to do. The thought of getting to grips with formula in the middle of the night made me persevere. It might hurt every now and then but it was easy. I am lazy. And I lay there in the dark. Counting the moments between my husband’s breaths, holding my son’s sleeping body against me and thinking, ‘when should I stop breastfeeding?’ ‘How will I know when it’s time?’
Eleven months is here with us and we’re on the downhill slope towards that magic year. The time when cow’s milk becomes a possibility far less terrifying and confusing than formula. The prospect of sharing the nighttime feeds with my husband becomes more and more of a reality and that thought that I’ve clung to, every night, starts to fill me with dread. A night when I’m not needed.
I don’t feel ready. Those disrupted nights, all six hundred and thirty six of them behind me are reflected in the bags under my eyes, the greyness under my skin, the ache in my joints and yet I am not ready. I’m not ready to stop. I’m not ready to lose that time. I’m not ready to sleep. I’m not ready to be replaced. I’m not ready.