Monday, August 12, 2013

A Tattoo

"I'm gonna get a tattoo when I turn 18", she said, "since mom won't let me get one now". "Oh, yeah?", I asked flippantly, "What are you gonna get?". "I'm gonna get my name tattooed on me." "Really, your name? Why?" "That way when I turn up dead, they'll know who I am and how to get my body back to my mom."

I laughed awkwardly at her and tried to make light of what she'd said. "No, really. I mean, what other kind of end could I meet?". It wasn't a question she expected me to answer. She already knew the answer.

I stared at her for a minute. A very long minute. Her eyes, normally flashing - with laughter, anger, love, intelligence - looked dead. This beautiful 17 year old girl. Smart. So damn smart. Funny. Compassionate. Quick to defend those she loved. So loyal to those who were loyal to her. Amazing mother, not even with the qualifier "for a teenager". Just amazing, regardless of her age. Perhaps, though, even more so because of her age. Champion breastfeeder. Somehow practicing attachment parenting, before I even knew what it was.

I couldn't imagine why she would even think something so macabre. I shook my head and didn't know what to say. So I didn't say anything. I asked how the baby was. Her face lit back up. She told me all the new things he'd learned in the past week. I tried to forget what she'd said. But 11 years later, I still hear her. I still see her eyes.

And I wonder.

I wonder if she ever got that tattoo. I wonder if that's how they knew who she was when they found her in the car this morning. I wonder if the police already knew her on sight and didn't need that tattoo.

And I wonder if they know who she was. Before the drugs took hold. Before the men beat her. Before she had so many babies. Before she forgot how to dream. Before she forgot the possibilities. Before she forgot her own worth.

When she was just a girl. The girl I sat with. The girl I was supposed to be teaching how to parent. The girl who taught me so much about parenting. The girl who taught me about ignoring obstacles. The girl who taught me how naïve I was. The girl I've thought about often. The girl who was stronger than anyone I've ever met.

Or if all they saw was the girl with the dead eyes.

Today's Lesson: There are some people in our lives who attach a piece of themselves to our hearts. And when those people leave us, we want an explanation. And sometimes there is none. We must still find a way to find peace. And hope that they have as well.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

We Continue, at Least for Now

This post is part of Mothering's "Blog about Breastfeeding" event to celebrate International Breastfeeding Week, Aug 1st-7th.

There has been little about my and baby E's nursing relationship that anyone would consider traditional. My journey to nurse him started nearly 2 years before he was born. No, it started even earlier than that, when I nursed my oldest son. But with baby E, I was determined to be more successful. There was reading, and research, and appointments with doctors, and meds, and pumping and more pumping), and the ever-present SNS. And all of that before I even knew of his existence. After birth, there was all of that in addition to driving all over the state to pick up breast milk from other mamas to feed my baby.

Nursing baby E has been a blessing and been healing in many ways. But it has also been a challenge. There was baby E's biological father finding out, and demanding that I stop (even though E's birth mama was happy I was nursing him). There have been many times I simply knew that weaning was just around the corner. Or the many times we were nearly out of milk. And then, thanks to the miraculous intervention of one (or more) of our amazing donors, we've been blessed to continue. There have been judgements (both blatantly expressed to me and not) by others about whether we should be nursing at all, or when we should stop. Not that I've ever been particularly interested in the judgements of others', mind you. And heaven knows there have been frustrations with my reliance on the SNS.

Today, I somehow find myself a mama of an almost 3yo nursling. I don't know how it happened, because, in truth, even 3 years ago I never imagined myself here. I never saw myself nursing a child who stops to talk to me between suckles at my breast. I never saw myself nursing a child who requests "mulp-mease" with a joyful - if sometimes demanding - dance before bedtime. All I wanted was to be able to nurture my baby at my breast for longer than what I'd been able to do with his brother. I never dreamed we would still be nursing just shy of his 3rd birthday.

I know we are in the twilight of our nursing relationship. And I find myself (not surprisingly) emotional about it. But I also find myself okay with it. Baby E has lead our nursing relationship the whole way through. I will continue to let him lead us through its end.

Regardless of what nursing baby E looks like from the outside, on the inside, between baby E and me, our nursing relationship is just what it is supposed to be. It's not what I expected. It's not what I saw in my head when I pictured it for all that time I was preparing. It may not be "normal". But its ours. And it is exactly what we each need it to be at this very moment.

Today's Lesson: In many ways I'm not a traditional kind of girl. So I've no idea why I thought nursing would be the thing that was. Life has a funny way of teaching us who we are. And a funny way of making us accept it.