My son Finnegan and I finished our nursing journey this week after sixteen months. Like his brother before him, he nursed full time for a year, then we slowly weaned for the next four months. Though I intentionally weaned them, I didn’t force either of my boys to stop. I knew that I would know when it was time, and this week, it was time for Finny. Though it was time to turn the page, I’m so sad that we closed this chapter. Babies and mamas belong to each other at every stage but this was the last stage that would be ours alone. When Liam was fully weaned I was sad because our time was done but I knew another baby was on the horizon. This time, I know that our family is complete and my baby is growing more independent of me every day. That’s a hard realization at every stage of motherhood and for me, this one is particularly poignant.
I was rocking Finny to sleep earlier this week, fully aware that our nursing time was coming to a close. As I rocked my baby, sang lullabies, and stared into his deep brown eyes, I thought about the connection that mamas have with their babies. I thought about the power in a mama’s voice.
O ye’ll tak’ the high road, and I’ll tak’ the low road,
And I’ll be in Scotland a’fore ye,
But me and my true love will never meet again,
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond.
I sing three songs to my boys when I want them to relax or go to sleep: “The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond,” “In the Bleak Midwinter” and “The Skye Boat Song”. (My heritage is showing, I know!) These three songs are chosen by design – they are the songs turned lullabies that my mom sang to my sister and me. Liam now knows them too and we sing them together. Listening to Liam sing the songs that Nanny Pammy sang to me fills me up in a way that I can’t describe.
In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
They’re most powerful though, maybe even magical, when I sing them at night, in the dark, when it’s just me, my baby, and the songs. The words pull us together into the deep mother and child bond that cannot be described, yet can be felt in such a deep way. For me, the beauty is that I feel them as both a mother and a child. The power of the songs makes me five years old again, asking my own mom to sing me to sleep, being pulled into the lyrics and melody. I watch my sons do the same. Their mouths, bodies, and minds quiet as they relax and sink into my arms and as the power of the mother’s voice takes over us both. It isn’t that my singing voice is so great, or that I myself have a special way with words. It’s that, in that very special moment, the power of the mother’s voice overtakes us both and comforts us both. It comforts our hearts and minds, and brings the heaviest of peace.
Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing,
Onward! the sailors cry;
Carry the lad that’s born to be king
Over the sea to Skye.
I save “The Skye Boat Song” for last each night because I feel my own mom the deepest with these words. From the very first word of the song, I’m back in my mother’s arms and I can feel her in my soul. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that it’s also the song that Liam connects with and sings the most (though, admittedly, until I looked up the actual lyrics, we definitely sing it incorrectly as “Happy the lamb that’s born to be free!” instead of “Carry the lad..” – Ah well.) I haven’t actually heard my mother’s voice in nearly twenty-two years, but in these quiet moments, it doesn’t matter. I sing the song and I hear her words, feel her voice, and radiate her love to myself, and to her grandsons.
Mothers are magic.
I wish I had the words to explain how this magic happens, but I’m lucky I have the words to identify it at all. What I know is that the calm and quiet, both literal and figurative, that are created by a mama’s voice transcend logic and time and, thankfully, stay with us forever.