Fancy, our currently lactating goat, still, still, nurses Sally, her daughter. Sally is over a year old and is bigger than Fancy, but she still gets down on her knees to get to the Golden Udder of Mama-Goat Goodness, several times a day. Fancy is about the sweetest goat ever. I’m starting to think she will never wean Ms. Sally. Maybe when she has more kids (which we wouldn’t keep this time) she’ll finally put her hoof down and say no to Sally. Because, you know, I want Fancy’s milk all for myself.
Of course, when I had a second kid, I didn’t stop nursing the first one, so maybe I’m wrong. Sophie was only eleven months old when I came up—surprise!—preggo with Luc. Not even a year old, she was way too tiny a little girl to tell her she couldn’t mim anymore (her word). So, despite SHOOTING PAIN, ahem, I nursed Sophie all the way through pregnancy. And just when she was starting to wean (because really, that pregnancy milk was probably salty and thin) the new baby milk came in, thick and rich, and she latched onto that stuff like drunk to a bottle of bourbon, growing round and chubby on the fat of it.
Too much information? How about this—I tandem nursed (that’s what nursing two babies is called these days, like tandem sky diving, only scarier) the two of them for years. O. M. G. I look back on this with equal parts wonder and horror. Here’s the thing. Hormonally—and I’m convinced it’s hormonal because the feeling was so alien, sudden, and bizarre—when a new baby comes along, nursing the old baby starts to make your skin crawl with this, this profound revulsion. I’m not exaggerating. (And it isn’t true for every mama, of course, but it’s totally common, I learned.) Wtf, right? Here was my beloved daughter, still tiny, but when she latched on, my body wanted to kick her off with violence and disgust.
Isn’t that weird? I thought it was weird. I mean, I also felt sweetness and connection and togetherness, all those lovely nursing emotions, and at the same time I wanted to run screaming from the room.
What’s weirder, perhaps, is that I hung in there and nursed them both, for years. This is like the Navy Seals of breastfeeding. But they just loved it so much! When you have something so there, and free, and accessible, that makes your kiddo feel all happy, and safe, and connected, and loved…well, I wanted to give it to them. So I did.
And this: an acquaintance of mine lost her eight year old daughter to leukemia around that time. It was terrible. Shocking and horrible and it changed my life. And I remember her saying, of the many amazing things she said afterwards, that she had thought about weaning her daughter around two, but her daughter really hadn’t wanted to wean yet, and so they had continued on until her daughter weaned herself at four. So at eight, burying that same daughter, my friend said she was so glad she had nursed her girl for as long as she had because instead of adversarial interactions over nursing to remember, she had another two whole years of sweet memories of the two of them together. And when her daughter weaned herself, it was effortless and friendly, another positive memory. My friend only had eight years with her daughter. But having generously given to her, my friend had the opposite of a regret. What is that, a gratefulness?
Live with your children so you don’t have any regrets! I want to shout this like a call to revolution. Because, jesus, what if I lose my children young? I can’t even begin to let myself imagine it—the rejection of that thought is more profound than the tandem nursing revulsion thing, by a factor of 100. But it could happen. Which makes me want to be as generous as I possibly can, while I can. ( I fail way too often.)
Why do we wait until our children are dying to given them what their heart’s desire? I’m thinking of that whole “make a wish foundation” thing. Not that wishes are bad, but why wait for death? Why not be generous now?
When Luc nursed for the last time, he patted my breast, said, “Thank you, Mommy,” and ran off. That was it. He was done.
It’s probably absurdly anthropomorphic to project all of this onto Fancy, who will not wean her daughter. Goats are goats, not humans. They think nothing of trampling the bottom-goat, have no compassion for weakness amongst their peers, and regularly ram each other for fun. But Sally, being bottom-goat in our herd, always has to wait to eat, standing at a distance until Lucy, top-goat, deigns to let her in to get some hay. Being human, I sneak Sally treats on the side. Maybe Fancy feels the same?
Fancy and Sally sleep with their necks intertwined. And when Sally gets whammed by Emmie, who is one goat up in the herd from Sally, Sally sidles over to Fancy, kneels her great big goatie self down beside her mama, and gets a drink of milk. It seems an act of generosity from Fancy, who will also still stand between rampaging Lucy and little Sally, and bleat Lucy off, butting heads with Lucy to protect Sally who is bigger than Fancy is.
But it’s my milk that Sally is getting! I want to make yogurt with that milk!
Maybe I’m the kid who, to Fancy, will not wean?