I put him down in his jumper making sure his chubby little feet pop through the leg holes and rest on the floor beneath. He’s surrounded by toys that rattle, that sing, that blink their LED lights at him. It’s a baby’s fantasy come true…so many objects to delight the senses. He doesn’t press his toes to the floor and launch himself upwards in delight. He doesn’t fixate on knocking two objects together creating a percussive cacophony; a new skill he’s very proud of.
He doesn’t play.
Instead he looks at me. He looks at me and his eyes fill with tears and he stiffens his body in protest of this joyful prison. I know what’s about to happen but I focus on moving through the kitchen and out towards the dining table. The lunch dishes sit there and it’s my goal to collect them and place them in the dishwasher. He realizes that I have no intention of rescuing him and he cries.
He’s usually a happy baby. He prefers to fuss or grunt or ramble “da da blah da da da” for communication. He rarely cries. But he’s crying now and I know I need to pick him up and soothe him. The dishes will need to wait.
I coo at him and wrap my arms around his body. I dance him around the kitchen while I wonder how on earth I’ll manage to get it clean. If I can’t get it clean I wonder how I’ll make dinner around the mess. I know my husband will come home from a 12 hour work day and clean it up without complaint but I wish he didn’t have to. I wish he could grab his plate and eat and relax instead.
The baby does not cry any longer yet he’s far from content. He’s grabbing at my shirt with his pudgy fingers and I know what he wants. It hasn’t been an hour since I fed him last but I comply with his wishes and sit down to nurse again.
He eats but it’s not a calm and satisfying experience for either of us. I wonder about sore gums; are his teeth coming in? He arches his body and writhes in my arms. I wonder if he needs to burp or if his reflux is acting up. I had two cups of coffee today instead of one. He finally relaxes a tad and then he’s done.
I try again to go for the dishes on the dining table.
Again, he cries and this time he’s very upset. I don’t know what to do to help him. I don’t know why my plump and pleasant baby is so distressed. He did have his six month vaccinations but that was two days ago. Any discomfort from the needle should be gone by now.
As a last ditch effort I fix a bottle of formula.
We sink into the recliner where we’d sat moments ago and I place the rubber device in his mouth. He suckles and begins to make the sweet little ‘num num’ noises that he usually makes with me. Me, his comfort in the darkness of night. Me, his nourishment since the day he was born more than six months ago. Me, his mother.
I realize it was at the six month mark when I began having supply deficits with his sister as well. I now know that the cramp I feel in my side and the pimple that sprouted on my chin are resulting from changes in hormones. I know that for me, this is the beginning of the end for my milk supply.
It will be nice to wear ‘regular’ clothing again and to not worry about springing a leak in public but he is my last. He is my last nursling. Once he weans I won’t ever nourish, bond with or hear those special ‘num num’ noises from another baby again. He is my last and I don’t know that I’m ready for us to move on from this point in his babyhood so soon.
He guzzles the bottle’s contents and burps. He smiles at me as I put him down on his play mat. He focuses on his colored rings and begins shaking them happily. I walk out of his view to fetch the dishes and don’t hear any sounds of protests.
The dishes get loaded in the dishwasher, and the spent bottle too. The kitchen becomes clean and he smiles still.