Today you are 18 months old.
You woke up giggling. I felt you move beside me and knew you had positioned your face inches from mine, before I opened my eyes. I let go of the last remnants of sleep and slowly stretched as I peeled my eyelids back. Peekaboo. Your mouth, full of 16 little teeth, grinning.
You flopped back down next to me and signed for milk. As I pulled back the covers, to draw you close, Daddy sighed. You popped back up again, peering over my side. “Dada”.
You always seem to be surprised he’s here in bed too.
Every morning of your 18 months you have woken up beside me. You know nothing else. We share our sleep as we share our days.
We didn’t set out to bed-share. I didn’t even know what natural parenting was before you were born. We fully expected to parent like everyone else did – you had a cot, a bedroom, bottles and a dummy all lined up. But that wasn’t our reality. Everything modern day parenting told us to expect and do was not what you were telling us you needed. It wasn’t what my instinct was telling me you needed. Either the expectations around us were wrong, or you and I were. Tentatively we trusted our gut feeling and followed your lead.
Throughout the day your little hands sign for milk as and when you want or need it. Somedays you ask for it more than others. You ask when you’re hungry and you ask when you’re thirsty. You also ask for solid food and water in your cup depending on your fancy.
Often you ask for milk to connect with me, to reassure you in uncertain situations, or remind me to pay you a little more attention. The other day you asked me for milk because I was holding another baby. You nurse when you’re upset or hurt and you nurse when you’re sleepy. Breastmilk is so many things to you.
I never imagined I’d breastfeed for this long. Before you were born, I was completely unaware that anyone did. But our beginning was difficult. You’re entrance earthside a little hurried and overwhelming. I stubbornly clung to breastfeeding. I felt like I was failing in every other way as a mother, and this was all I had to give you. It was a struggle, but we succeeded together. Six months came and went. You breastfed alongside baby-led weaning, soothing my anxieties about you eating enough. You breastfed through illness when you could keep no solid food down. You breastfed on holiday, when all around you was different and new. One year arrived and by then I knew the benefits. There were no good reasons to stop.
Everyday you amaze me by doing something new. I can’t keep up with how fast you are growing, changing before my very eyes. Words tumble out of you like a waterfall, strange little insights into the way we live our lives. I’m learning how you see the world, the connections you make, the things you experience and decide are important. Tea, shoes, balloons and bears. Ducks, stairs and spoons. You are everywhere and you are right beside me.
We are barely ever apart. Sometimes its hard, sometimes I forget to look after myself properly because my heart is so full of you. Sometimes I lose my patience and have to take a step away. But not for very long.
You are confident, sociable and secure. You have no reason to think I wouldn’t be there for you. No reason to worry, or to cling. You trust me so openly, and so absolutely.
You are my baby Bee.