When I was about eleven-years-old I remember there being a really impressive storm. Sea water came blocks up from the beach, the wind was phenomenal and the driving rain was like pins on the skin, beating into you with its instance. On one of the nights of this storm (which in my mind went on for weeks) my Aunt and Uncle brought my cousin and me down to the cliffs so we could watch the sea try to pull itself apart. We stood on the bluffs for a while and then noticed an object flying straight up the cliff side, sweeping over our heads in the wind. I tentatively stuck my hand out and was shocked as the wind pushed it back, snapping it backwards with such force. My cousin and I stepped out to the edge and recklessly leaned out, our bodies at a 45 degree angle, held afloat by the cold channel of air screaming off the ocean, hitting the cliffs and pushing upward with tremendous force. It was exhilarating and terrifying and not the least bit stupid; as a parent, I’m shocked my Aunt and Uncle allowed us to do it at all.
Last night I put Anya to bed and then went upstairs to spend some time with Mark and out visiting guest. I checked emails, ran downstairs to comfort Anya back to sleep, then back up to grab a popsicle out of the freezer and curl up on the couch. Not fifteen minutes later and with an unfinished popsicle abandoned on the coffee table, I had to run down to tend to Anya again. I was getting frustrated. I got her back to sleep, went upstairs to finish the popsicle and then brushed my teeth and got ready for bed. It was only 9:15 but I was annoyed at all the traveling and so figured I’d read a book in bed, ready if she woke again. She did, we nursed. For two freaking hours we nursed. I finally got her down, away from my skin and was just about to fall asleep when she woke and demanded more milk. “No Baby.” I murmured, “Mama’s tired. No more milk.” She answered with screaming, angry and raw, signing over and over for “more.” Somehow I found myself responding with anger, telling her NO and that it was enough, I was tired I couldn’t nurse her all night, every night. She screamed so loud and for so long that Mark made his way downstairs to find me trying to hold her, she pushing me away in anger, demanding the breast or nothing, me pleading with her to just go back to sleep. He climbed into bed beside me and stroked my back, whispering words of support, “it’s OK. You’re not hurting her, you’re just tired and frustrated.”
“I won’t do it!” I angrily whispered, “I can’t keep doing this. I need her to stop, dammit. I need to sleep!”
“I’m not telling you that you have to. You can do whatever you feel is right. In fact, if you want to go sleep with Lily I’ll stay here.”
“I don’t want her to feel I’m abandoning her! But she won’t even let me hold her.”
“I know. She has a strong will, just like her mother.”
I started to cry right along with Anya, my hand resting on her chest, Mark’s hand on my back. “I just can’t do this anymore.”
“I know.” He whispered, running his hands through my hair.
“How can I be planning a trip out of town without her? I can’t stand the thought of her screaming all night for three nights in a row.”
“We’ll work through it together. You just have to let us figure it out. And hon, you need to get away.”
“I’m going crazy.”
“A little bit,” he agreed. “It’s OK to be a little selfish sometimes.”
I felt myself on the edge of that cliff, Anya’s need like gravity, ever present and demanding. My own resentment, anger and sorrow pushing me back, away from that need like the gale force I remembered, keeping me afloat when I really should fall. My foundation of parenting with respect and instinct crumbled slightly beneath me, the sandstone slipping away slightly. Only this time the feeling wasn’t one of exhilaration. This time the emotional chaos had me fractured. How do I make the right decision with all this swirling around me?
Anya quieted down and for a moment I thought it was over, my will over hers. Then she started up again, louder, this time with an ultimate sadness, her voice torn through with loss. I couldn’t handle it and latched her on, her face pressing urgently to the breast as she nursed. I abandoned myself to the sobs that I’d kept caught in my throat, Mark holding me in my own conflicted sorrow, no longer caring if I was quiet or not. How can I ask her to night wean when nursing clearly means so much to her? How can I not when I am so exhausted and becoming resentful? Lily allowed Mark to comfort her during this stage but Anya demands nothing but me. All the time.
We lay in the dark together, her finally asleep and pushed slightly away from me on the bed. She made a little questioning sound in her sleep, one hand roaming out to find me, settling on my arm with a sigh. She kept making these tiny noises in her sleep, like unspoken questions: Are you there? Do you love me? Is it all ok?
Before long the questions turned to statements and I finally fell asleep, exhausted. I could hear the ocean in my half dream state, the little noises she was making mingling with the crash of waves to form their own song:
You love me.
I am yours.
I need you.