Today. Today was the last time I nursed my fourth-and-final child. I’m sitting in my kitchen alone — all the “big” kids at school, my baby drifting off to sleep in her nursery — with quiet tears falling down my cheeks. I feel like I need to mark this occasion somehow — commemorate it, celebrate it, mourn it, cherish it — and so I sit down to write. I’ve nursed and nursed and nursed this last child of ours until she’s now no longer a baby, postponing the inevitable moment when I forever close this chapter of our life. But even as I teeter on the edge of a gigantic well of emotion — no more babies, ever….the end of a gorgeous era — I know to be happy for the gift that I have been able to share with each of my children as they’ve come up the ranks. I’m watching the rain out of the window as I type; I think sometimes the universe mirrors what we’re feeling inside. And just as I know the sun will come out soon, brilliant and warm, I also know a world of joy lies ahead as my last “baby” grows up and continues to blossom and thrive.

But right now, I’m sad. I didn’t know today would be the day. Truthfully, it could have been any day for the last year and a half, considering I only intended to nurse for a year. Funny how that year has stretched longer and longer with each subsequent child as I hang on to the sweetness of a phase that I know is so short-lived. Starting a year ago, I only nursed Bitsy before nap and at bedtime. There’s never been a pressing need to change that — always a transatlantic flight on the horizon, jet lag to weather, a cold that made sleep difficult. So we’ve carried on far longer than I “planned.” But in actuality, I loved it and I just didn’t want it to end. As long as I was nursing, there was a still a baby in the house.

I know not everyone loves it like I do. And that. is. okay. For me, in our noisy, chaotic, busy, ever-moving, forever-changing life with so many little people under one roof, the time I’ve spent in a quiet, still space, holding my child close, feeling her soft fingers on my back, listening to her even breathing….it’s (sorry, cheese-alert) beautiful. It’s peaceful. It’s meditative. I take deep breaths to calm the 100-mile-an-hour thoughts that are always pulsing and pushing, demanding attention and action. Sometimes I pray.

The world stops. It’s just she and I. And I’ve had that sweet time with each of my babes, who are, at this very moment, learning fractions, playing soccer at recess and practicing vowels. And soon, my little two-year-old Bitsy will be having her own playdates, signing up for ballet, learning to swim, growing up. Every day, each phase, every moment is a blessing.

At today’s naptime, I read Bitsy Sandra Boynton’s Barnyard Dance, cradled her and rocked her, looking into her enormous brown eyes and sang You Are My Sunshine. Then I explained what was going to happen next — that I would turn off the light, sing to her again and then it would be time to put her head on her pillow and close her eyes. I sang to her in the dark — “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy, when skies are gray…,” still feeling her close, hearing her breathing. I lied her down, kissing her forehead.

And gently, gently closed the door.

(Photos by Biz Brent Photography).

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