There are five tiny dots of light reflecting in each of my baby’s eyes, the candle-like bulbs of the antique chandelier that hangs above us, as we sit in the black pleather recliner in her room. The chair has grown old and worn, as it has hugged my body through three periods of nursing babies. The older children often still gather on it, swinging wildly around and discreetly peeling off patches of its synthetic exterior, leaving gaping holes of white canvas peeking through. Mica pokes at these moments of stark contrast, while she is being burped.
At eleven months, I am beginning to wean Mica. We curl up together in the recliner, and as I pull up my shirt, Mica’s lips immediately discover comfort, and I know our shared moments are dwindling. I put up my feet on the detached ottoman, a free-standing structure in matching hideous fabric, and sway, slowly at first, then faster. Mica pats my bare chest, pulling at the top of my shirt, stretching upwards for my necklace, sparkling from the sun that streams through the lone window. She locks eyes with me, sucking, suckling, curling her tongue around me, and gulping the sweetness that was her first introduction to palatable delights.
“Sarah, I think we should throw away the chair,” Yoni says one day, staring at its bulkiness as I am changing Mica’s diaper. “It’s so ugly. I’ll get a real leather one,” because when we purchased it, he had been a resident, and $99 was all we could afford on furniture. But I refuse. It is my hiding place, my comfort zone, my scrapbook of all things baby. It is my nursing chair, and it has held me while I held my babies, rocked me and three infants to sleep over the years, soothing us into a silent stupor.
“But I like it,” I say, and run my fingers over its worn skin, its crumb-filled cracks, its smooth surface. “I don’t want to get rid of it.” But in the back of my mind, I think how much more spacious the nursery would be without it, how I could get a cute chair to match the pale pastel decor of the room and be rid of its discordant colors. And I envision it, perching alone, an orphan, at the end of the driveway, awaiting the garbage pickup, because I doubt any passersby would consider an adoption. It is too flawed.
As we continue to sway, Mica strokes a small lock of hair above her ear. It is short, pixie-like, one inch long, but she rolls the delicate strands between her thumb and forefinger, pinching and twisting it lovingly. For a moment, I am wistful, as I realize that soon she will not recognize this, will not yearn for my scent and burrow inside my shirt, searching for satisfaction, comfort, and a warm drink. Soon she will view my breasts as she views my hands. She will outgrow her urge to suck, and will drink from a cup, and we will no longer be lulled into a delicate coma from the relaxing it once induced.
I hear the stampede just beyond Mica’s door. “Mama!” Jakey cries, “Where are you?” The door bursts open, and he comes rushing in, Emmanuelle in tow. I don’t even need to answer. They always know that when I am not in close vicinity to them, I am either in the bathroom or nursing, and they always manage to find me.
“Awchhh, I hate it when you nurse!” Emmanuelle says, her frustration evident on her face. “Then you can’t help us with things.” Her point is valid. It does tie me up, but the baby has needs to, and the older kids, at three and four, should understand that.
“Why don’t you guys go on my monkey bars?” I offer, referring to the way my legs are stretched from the recliner to the ottoman. They like to hang on me, pretending I am a playground, doing acrobatic flips and swinging around. This is a good compromise for us- they are busy while the baby nurses, and I can still relax and close my eyes, while all of me is being used, effortlessly.
And it is with a mix of nostalgia and remorse, that I bid goodbye to this pristine phase of our lives. Slightly repulsed by witnessing older toddlers who can speak in full sentences with their heads under their mothers’ shirts, I always vowed to wean my own babies around age one. Mica is a month shy of reaching her first birthday, but because I am about to start a long-term medication for my chronic health problems, I do not want to expose her to unnecessary toxins, and have decided to cease nursing beforehand. But I will miss the convenience, the ease, the mutual enjoyment, and will trade it in for hours of bottle washing, a kitchen dusted by a thin film of Similac powder that always manages to escape the narrow-necked bottles, and showing Mica how to self-feed, possibly alone, on a floor.
I have spent hours with this baby in the same position, nestled together, skin to skin, over the past year. I have watched her grow, and she has watched me watching her. When I look into her eyes, it is as if I can see myself, mirrored and reflective, un-aged. We are of the same blood, mother and daughter, and she, for a few more hours, will continue to be nourished by me, as God intended. Until I take it all away.
It is nighttime, and with the other kids tucked under their blankets, a thickened haze descends over the house. With a final sigh, we settle into the chair together, the two of us, Mica and I, hugging and holding, the rocking swift and silent, then tapering off as we slip into one last milk-induced sleep.