It wasn’t supposed to end like this, sweet boy. This incredible baby manna supplying journey that began with your sister and continued almost seamlessly with your arrival wasn’t supposed to end with my tears converging with yours—with you being the stronger one, hugging me close. It wasn’t supposed to conclude with a tear-jerking finale that left me sobbing in your daddy’s arms as you finally drifted off to sleep for the first time as a weaned child. But so it ends, and there’s no going back.

My heart breaks every time your brown eyes look hopefully into mine as you so politely request, “Milk, please!” It breaks at your look of disappointment when I hand you a bottle instead. It breaks as I realize how much I will miss—already miss—the softness of your cheek against my breast. It breaks, knowing that there will be no more babies after you.

My body feels broken, too. Even after gradually reducing the number of feedings over the course of several months, my mammary glands ache, seemingly clueless to the milk production wrap-up memo. The factory’s closing. It’s time to move on to bigger and better things, like getting you completely potty-trained; but I don’t even feel like moving. I’m weepy, spacey, crampy, and floundering in a sea of jumbled emotions and hormones gone haywire. No wonder the tears and fluctuating body temperature.

I understood that these things might happen, and am even aware that weaning depression is a thing. But I feel ashamed of myself. I should be raising all the praise hands for the blessings of healthy children and years of steady lactation. Instead I’m grieving over lost milk while there are countless mamas grieving over lost babies.

I thought the weaning process would be all about you, but really it’s been more about me. Me, weaning my arms from cradling you at my breast. Me, weaning my breasts from their systematic replenishing. Me, weaning my mind from thinking of you as a milk-dependent babe, when, in reality, you are embracing your independence more each day. Me, me, me. Even as I try to extend more patience and affection during this transition, I know that loving on you is helping me cope more than it’s helping you.

Because you’re OK. You are OK. You’re sad, but not grief- and guilt-stricken. While you’d rather have the “real deal”, you’re getting used to your special cup. You’re healthy. You love food. Even though you don’t understand it all yet, you’re fully aware that I love you as much as ever. You’re ready to move on to another season—so why am I dragging my heels?

Maybe because despite the fact that you sucked the life out of me at times, regular feedings became a beautiful ritual for both of us. Maybe because after a combined 36 months of nursing (between you and your sister), it’s hard to kick the habit. Maybe because I’ve grown to enjoy being your number one supplier of nourishment. Maybe because I’ve gotten used to being “all in”, body and soul, when it comes to soothing you.

In the months leading to this day, all I wanted was for you to be weaned. Now I’m fighting the temptation to return to our uber attached existence and sleepless nights—a ludicrous proposition, at best. I am like Jo March of Little Women, anguishing over the end an idyllic relationship that I both created and cut off. 

I know even the hardest moments of motherhood soon morph into memories. In just a few blinks, I’ll be struggling to envision you eating any other way than with fork and spoon. For now, how long it takes to adapt to our new normal, only time will tell. So until the telling, dear son, please bear with me as I scoop you up for more snuggles and hug you a little harder.

God’s got this and we’ve got each other.

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Leann Clarke

Leann Clarke is an outdoor-loving mama who enjoys riding horses, dancing, soaking in a good book, and hunting with her husband. She’s also mom to two active kiddos who excel at keeping her humble. She believes strongly in prayer, laughter, and eating chocolate for breakfast. Leann shares snippets of her life in Montana and more on her blog, The Hunting Mom.