I hate you, weaning. I never meant to meet you. Yet here you are. Making my child scream like he’s dying. Making my heart cringe like it’s dying too.
He wants his mama. But that’s not all, he wants mama’s milk. Just the way he always has. I have to teach him that mama can’t offer milk anymore. Mama is starting a new treatment next month and it just wouldn’t be safe.
I prepare him for sleep using key words and gentle movements. We read a book. He is content with that. Soon, the fighting begins. I tell him: “It’s okay.” I know it will be, but it doesn’t feel okay right now.
I try to hold him; he squirms out of my grip. On the floor, he melts into a puddle of agony. He quickly stands, climbing up my lap: eyes glued shut; arms flailing; cry increasing.
He signs: “Milk?” I say: “No.”
He swats; pinches; punches; and kicks. I can only hold him back for so long. Defeated, I let him sink his nails into my face. What’s a bruised lip or bleeding cheek compared to those wails? Why can’t I make it end? Why doesn’t he trust me? Does he know how much I love him?
Back and forth we go like this: me holding him tight, him wrestling out. Him falling to the floor, then coming back for me. Then, in my arms, him realizing that it’s not the me he thought it was. He wants out.
Again and again, he comes back to my arms. I’m a sobbing, guilt-ridden mess. I hug him close. Setting him on my lap facing out, I pull a blanket around him and tuck it around his shoulders. Finally, he allows me to do this. Resting my chin on his head, I sing. “Lavenders blue, dilly dilly, lavenders green…” The verses come out on autopilot. My voice quivers; my lip trembles. All I can think about is getting him the sleep he needs.
Slowly, his sobs turn into whimpers. He’s quiet enough to hear my song. Another minute, and he’s quiet enough to hear my heart beat.
Time passes. I almost fall asleep. Awkwardly, and artfully, I stand from the squeaky chair, carrying all 33 pounds of my babe over to his bed on the floor. I move at snail’s pace, not wanting him to wake.
His head is almost on the mattress when: Oh no. He wakes. Little hands swat in the darkness. I act fast, and reverse my moves. I lay down with him, rocking and shushing. He gives in to his exhaustion. I slowly try to transition him again. This time, he complies.
I remove my hand from his head and stare down at his perfect face, watching as he breathes deeply – in, out; in, out. Asleep at last. I hope the sleep lasts.
I walk out of the room, but not with relief. My hands shake, my head spins, my guts twists, and my heart aches. What a tormenting experience. What a hard hour to endure. Where I become the enemy, for doing what I simply must.
I’m doing the best I can. Lord, help me.