“Just look at my baby, all grown up.” I’ve probably heard this line hundreds of times…from teary moms watching their children wave from school bus windows on the first day of kindergarten or from fathers beaming over their sons’ or daughters’ graduations. I’ve even heard it from my own parents through the years, when my brother moved out of state, when my sister was accepted to a graduate program, and when I was pregnant. These are words that one can’t fully understand until he or she has a child of his or her own. These are the words of proud parents, reflecting on how time passes so swiftly by, and how although it all happens before their eyes, they still cannot fathom how their children go from helpless infants to curious toddlers to rambunctious grade schoolers to argumentative teenagers to adults, who are looking at their own children and repeating the same line.
My baby is hardly a year old, and already, I find myself asking where the time as gone. On vacation this week, and then with my husband and stepson gone again this weekend, Jacob and I have spent much more time together lately. And, it’s been priceless! But, it’s made me all too aware of how much he has changed and is changing with each passing day.
Ma’s milk in the morning
I’ve written many times about my journeys in breastfeeding. I’ve explained how it may have been one of the most challenging and also the most cherished parts of my first year as a mother. And, I’ve talked about how difficult it was for me around that first-year mark when I was contemplating whether or not to wean him.
At fourteen months old, I see the end of breastfeeding in plain sight. For the past couple months, Jacob’s taken little interest in nursing during the day or even before bed. By the light of day, he’s been too busy exploring, and before bed, he’s far too impatient to wait on the slow release of ma’s milk. Still, each morning when he awakes, nursing has been the first thing on his mind. Although from the beginning my milk supply always has been the greatest in the morning, I still find it simply amazing how my body has adjusted to his new schedule. As I stopped pumping months ago and his breast milk breakfast doesn’t really affect any of my eating habits—drinking coffee during the day, or having a glass or two of beer or wine at night–I’ve been perfectly satisfied with his choice.
The past few mornings, however, have been different. Jacob’s had a pretty bad cold and has been very congested. Though bottles or cups seem to adapt well to these changes, my breasts haven’t been quite so compliant. Even after I’ve suctioned his snot with a nasal aspirator (way better than a bulb syringe– check out the link if you haven’t tried one), he has a hard time suckling. Each morning, within minutes of waking, he’s come to my breast and attempted to nurse, but then through significant sniffles, has rolled away, crying in frustration. I think my morning milk supply has dwindled a bit each day since this pattern began. And, that makes me a little sad. My emotions are nothing like the hormonal swings I experienced when he reduced from eight feedings to just one over the course of two days. However, I am grieving a little over the loss of the closeness that nursing has provided to us since his birth.
Then, there are all the new things he picks up every day. He watches my husband and me as we get dressed and then grabs clothes and tries to put them over his own head. He waves his hand to push away food and says “ah duh” (all done) when he’s had enough of something. Just this morning, he was reaching for the spoon so much when I was feeding him that I figured I would see what he would do with it. Without thinking, I put the spoon in his left hand. Immediately, he shook his head back and forth, put the spoon in his right hand, scooped up some yogurt, aimed the spoon at his mouth, and even got a bit in there (as well as all over himself and the highchair.)
I mentioned a couple weeks back that’s he’s been pointing at all sorts of things and saying “uhzzhat?” (what’s that?). His vocabulary is growing all the time. He loves to say the names of animals and their noises. His two favorites are “daw” (dog) which he follows with “ruff ruff” and heavy panting, and “dow” (cow) followed by “mmmmmmmmmmm.” And, he tells us what he wants, whether it’s “muh” (more), “buh” (up), “ah-tzha” (outside), a “dottle” (bottle), or his beloved, “zsha-zsha” (his brother, Jackson), or “dada”. (I’m still not convinced he ever has said “mama” to refer to me…although of course, my loving husband insists he says it all the time.)
And, Jacob spends his days learning and exploring. He pushes buttons, flips switches, turns knobs, and pulls objects in and out of containers. (The trash can in our kitchen is the center of his world. He has placed—or attempted to place—toys, hats, shoes, magnets, picture frames, and all sorts of other things in there.) He also reaches for anything he can get his hands on—which is an ever-expanding repertoire of items as he grows. We’ve had to move dishes and kitchen appliances to the back of our countertops, and we officially have stopped using the two front burners of our stove. Though he’s still a bit of a wobbly walker, he hasn’t given up on learning to run, though he has moved on from Yoda and yoga.
And, to think, this bright and active little boy was the tiny creature kicking and squirming inside my belly just over a year ago…the fragile little doll that fit perfectly in the crook of my elbow…and only months ago, the one whose only movements were rocks and head bobs and whose only ways to communicate were to grunt and cry.
It’s all going way too fast. Before I know it, he’ll be walking up the steps of a school bus or pulling away in the driver’s seat of a car headed halfway across the country to start a life of his own. These are the thoughts that fend off the stresses and frustrations of motherhood…