August 8, 2016

The Motherhood Challenge No One Warned Me About

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“Ma! Bibs are for BABIES. I’m a big boy now!”

For the past week or two I’ve felt off.  Occasionally more than off. Gleefully at peace one moment and then at the drop of a hat I turn into someone possibly emulating Ron Burgundy in his “glass case of emotion”.   And weighted down with a source less  sensation of sadness and anxiety. I also have been so bone tired, even though Henry is sleeping through the night (finally).  Perhaps it’s because I am having vivid, psychotic dreams (like, hallucinatory-style weirdness in which I’m typically about to die) every night.  For a few days I was petrified that I had gotten pregnant again already (which, while it would be a miracle, NOT the timing I’m hoping for!)  And then at dinner this weekend I was talking about how I was feeling to Andrew and a revelation hit me– I’ve been finishing up weaning Henry this week, maybe THAT has something to do with it!

I consulted with the all-knowing oracle (Google) who backed up my suspicions- weaning absolutely causes mega hormone shifts which result in tiredness, depression and mood swings. BINGO.  So why have I not heard much about this dynamic and rather uncomfortable/ can-I-just-go-cry-in-my-car stage?  I’ve heard SO much about post-partum emotional struggles and every other aspect of breastfeeding, but this important end-stage seems to be left out of the discussion. Ladies, this sucks! Way worse than pregnancy hormones for me (and I was pumped up with boatload of IVF drugs too!)  So I guess I’ll be the one to bring it up!

A couple of you have asked me to discuss my experience breastfeeding as a whole, and until now it’s felt like a slightly “too personal” topic for me for some reason (coming from someone who isn’t afraid to discuss pretty much anything, I found this to be quite a perplexing feeling).  Breastfeeding has been the most surprising, difficult, empowering, unnerving, wonderful and annoying thing for me.  Since my mother had challenges with it, I fully expected to as well and kept my expectations low (as far as if I’d even be able to and if so, how long.)  Henry came out and latched on immediately and perfectly and we were off before I could even worry about it or think too much.  It felt odd, but not painful as many had warned me.  We kind of just worked well together.   Until three weeks into motherhood and I came down with a raging case of mastitis, which I am confident I would not wish on my worst enemy.  I cried and cried, in horrible pain for a week because the antibiotics didn’t work the first time and Henry was losing weight despite trying to get him to drink formula to make up for the lost milk.  I was told I could stop, it was okay to stop- and I knew it was and would not have been upset with myself if I had, but I just didn’t want to.  But also because at that point my boobs felt like overfilled water balloons about to pop and I couldn’t imagine NOT nursing or pumping to get SOME relief.

Ahh, and speaking pumping. Pumping was THE worst part of breastfeeding for me, other than mastitis (which I got a second time too).  I hated lugging that thing to and from work and  on business trips and panicking when my schedule blew up in my face because I had timed my pumping precisely and “oh my God, Penn Station has no private space with an outlet to pump and my train was just delayed two hours!”  I mean, I had the supply of a fire hydrant, so things could get really sketchy if I went too long without pumping or nursingThis resulted in some doozies like having to use a squeaky hand pump under a blanket while sitting next to an unsuspecting (or possibly creeped out) businessman on a plane, frantic pumping in the rickety bathroom on a moving Acela, oh, and the time that 30 ounces of breastmilk burst inside my suitcase and completely ruined my new Macbook Air.  You should have seen the faces at the Genius Bar when I rolled in with that one!  The pump was my ball and chain, and it made me crazy. I was glad to be supplying Henry with milk, but MAN was it cumbersome and time consuming. I went away with some fellow moms for a weekend when Henry was six months old and they all looked at me after the first night together and said “Hearing you get up to pump in the middle of the night may have cured any desire I had for a another child”.  The pump really does bum lots of us moms out, even those who enjoy breastfeeding.

But the really amazing thing was not only that I managed to last nine months (my goal was three), but that I enjoyed it as much as I did.  It was such a special time for Henry and I to bond, and I loved that I could (with the drop of a heinous nursing bra flap) soothe him unlike anyone else. I have been amazed that my body could nourish this miraculous being all on it’s own.  I mean, how freaking cool is that?  For someone who has, in the past, harbored such ill feeling towards her body, it was great to think of it on such positive terms.  And even through the challenges of mastitis, weight loss and then a suspected milk protein allergy (which meant no dairy for me for a couple months) we succeeded. But a couple weeks ago Henry sprouted some serious chompers and my nursing sessions started resembling scenes from Jaws.  So we amicably called it quits. He actually seemed very uninterested in nursing from the breast too, way more into his bottles, so I’ve been pumping and using formula and now we are in the final countdown as the ounces drop. I don’t even remember the last nursing session we had because I didn’t KNOW it was the last one. It feels good to not have to plan my every move around pumping, but it also signifies that my little baby is quickly becoming a little boy and that is both joyous and heartbreaking.

So I am a little sad it’s over, but also feel huge relief in the freedom it brings.  I feel like my body is mine again.  From the multiple IVF cycles, to pregnancy and nine months of nursing it’s been about two years since I felt real ownership over it.  And once I get through this weaning haze/rage (sorry Andrew! Hopefully this only lasts a few weeks!) I’m thrilled to enter a whole new phase of motherhood- a baby on the MOVE (RIP my coffee table) and who has magical new abilities to communicate and learn.  Oh and all the cheese, wine and non-button down shirts my little heart desires!



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