I have finally reached the point where I had to wean Thor. He would not stop nursing on his own and he only liked to nurse in the middle of the night. I was the human binky, sticky and abused. I curl around his body, breast exposed to the night creatures. He paws and grabs and bites and sometimes screams at me for not being right where he wants me just when he wants me to be. In daylight hours, he looks so small to me, so very little. Something to protect. At night, when he stumbles into our room, the digits on the clock all vertical, 1:11, he imposes on our bed, stretches across the vast ocean of mattress that separates the continents of Sam and Angie. He is the ruler. Where his legs want to be, no one will lie in his way. King Thor, Tyrant of the Ta-Tas.
I haven't slept in five years.
It's not an excuse. I have had a random night here or there, but mostly I just haven't slept. Pregnancy. Grief. Writing. Art. Death. Insomnia. Nursing on-demand. I cobble seven hours together some nights, maybe in three hour increments, but mostly, I am just so tired. So last week, I just said, "No mas, mijo. Basta ya." I am ready to come into my body again. I am ready for my body back.
I am a woman who once had a form besides boob holder. I had cleavage without snaps, and shirts without inside secret holes. I wore dresses and heels and long yellow earrings made of gold. I had a stud through that nipple, and one through my tongue. And another that sat in the cleft on my nose. Last night, I fell into a half-sleep and dreamed that all the places of me that once touched jewelry puffed into a purple, angry welts. Soothing them with aloe, I looked like a shiny grotesque caricature of me. The beauty is wrong here, it screamed. I am built wrong. I reject the beauty.
There is the muscle memory of grief in me. It resides in my breast. Just one. I could only ever feed from one side, and she weeps. Last night, in the shower, the other breast wept too. The sympathetic boob. The week after Lucia died, the sheer pain and ache in my breasts would make me want to crawl out of my body, unzip my skin, walk out. My inner core is flat-chested and asexual. It wears no adornment. I would stare at the skin of me, lumped on the floor, breasts hard and stiff against the rug. I am not the shell of me, and neither is she.
I swirl in a kind of grief, hormone panic. She is dead. He is alive. He is growing. She is not. That is why my breasts weep. That is why I am not feeding, because he is 20 months now and he eats two sausages for dinner. I want my body back. I have to remind myself that I chose this path, because everything is exactly as it should be. But all this engorgement reminds me that there was once a baby who did not feed.
I cut a cabbage in half, place it in the freezer. I brew sage tea. These are the ritual of early grief for me. And yet it is almost three years later, she didn't just die, but the ache reminds me of her death, like a thousand things throughout my day. I try to unzip myself from my body and lounge in front of the fire, soothe the welts of beauty, drain the breast. But this body made those babies, it is inextricably part of the core, even if it is the shell of me.