Today I tackled a project that’s been building and creeping ever since we moved in almost three years ago: my closet.  Cold weather clothes, office professional clothes, clothes that are now two sizes too big…everything had been lumped and piled together.  Going through some of it was easy: above a certain size, it automatically went into the donation pile.

Then I got to a box of well-used, well-worn, enormous clothes that for practical reasons I absolutely cannot part with: the maternity clothes.

I had a relatively nice maternity wardrobe, mostly because I took advantage of summer clearance sales and bargain prices to stock up for a Hawaiian pregnancy.  It’s casual, and if my next pregnancy is during the winter I’m definitely going to have to get a few cold-weather pieces (even layered, a dozen tanks and tees can only provide so much warmth).  I carefully folded everything with a stretchy midsection and put it in a separate box that I labeled “baby-mama clothes.”

And after a brief hesitation, I gathered the six nursing tank tops and a few nursing shirts and put them in the box too.

We had a good run, Maggie and I.  The CDC tells me that nationwide, only 14% of moms are still breastfeeding exclusively at six months. (Link opens PDF file, FYI.)  I wouldn’t even venture to guess how many breastfeed at all at 21 months.  We haven’t quite finished yet; Maggie nurses first thing in the morning and most days, that’s all she wants.  It’s been many weeks since she’s asked to nurse at night before bed.  While traveling in new environments and on airplanes she nurses two or three times for comfort and security.  Same goes if she’s feeling sick.  On these occasions, I’m happy to provide.  But in the normal course of our at-home routine, it’s just once in the morning and I usually offer before she asks.

I’ve always taken the attitude that Maggie knows when she needs to nurse better than I do.  It’s always been given freely and on demand. The demands were always fairly adorable, too, since Maggie has a little trouble with her Rs: “Nuss?” But the demand isn’t there anymore. She’s stopped asking, or if she asks around snack or mealtimes and I remind her she has solid food around, her little legs start pumping to run for her chair at the table before I have a chance to put her down.  The mornings aren’t very extensive, either–maybe five minutes, tops, before she starts her morning list of questions: “Pancakes? Yogurt? Stwawbewwies? Oh-KAY! Playground? Weeda book? Oh-KAY!”

Who wants to nurse when you can eat $4 organic whole-fat yogurt?  I cringe at the smell and the price tag, but Maggie eats it like it’s being outlawed tomorrow. With such tasty treats (In the afternoons: “A speshiul tweat? Speshiul tweat? Cookie?” “No. Fruit.” “…Speshiul cookie tweat?” “Fruit.”) about, who has time to cuddle with Mama?

We had a hard go of it with biting when her top teeth came in; it was harder still when we went to DC last March and she had to face her first major illness in a new place.  Every 45 minutes we nursed through that fever, her mouth like a burning coal and her little forehead wet with my exhausted tears.  But we stuck it out.  I won’t miss those times a bit, but as part of the whole I will never regret it.  It was all worth it.  From beginning to end, it was hard…but worth it.

She’s not done yet, my former milk fiend.  I suspect we’ll make it to and probably a bit past the two-year mark.  But I feel in my heart that this particular journey is almost over–a river that will terminate in a dry desert bed before we move on to the next steps.  Those shirts will come out of the box again for another baby, of that I have no doubt.  But not for Maggie; not ever again.  It’s a good thing, done on her terms and no one else’s, and in time I’ll appreciate “having my body back” (whatever that means when you have a toddler using you as a jungle gym).

But tonight I’m going to give myself permission to be a little sad before I put a final tape seal on that box.