My body is my own again. Hurray?

It’s nearly three weeks since myself and Pip finished breastfeeding. It’s been an odd few weeks I must say. I suppose I’ve been taken aback by the level of change because it’s something I never thought to plan for.  I didn’t really consider what the implications of no longer breastfeeding would be or how I would feel about it.

The biggest surprise has been to my poor boobs who didn’t know whether they were coming or going.  Even though we had slowly cut down the feeds in the preceding weeks to ease Pip in to the idea of stopping and to manage my milk supply, my boobs panicked at the end and went all comicbook superhero on me. I spent two whole weeks in a medium level of discomfort with my trusty breast pads making a reappearance in my daily wardrobe.  I can only imagine the patchy horrors my colleagues were saved from without their steely protection.  There were a few tricky days there where I would watch my cleavage grow as the day went on and seriously wondered if I might take someone’s eye out in a meeting.  I also had to perform a number of very sexy manual expressions in the disabled toilets which isn’t the best for morale.

Every day I was massaging in the shower to try and alleviate the fullness.  This was way more uncomfortable and very much less salacious than it sounds because they were quite lumpy and sensitive to the touch.  I really had to work out those little knots to avoid blocked ducts.  It felt like such a waste watching all that milk disappear!

The discomfort and engorgement went on long enough for me to get concerned until a timely post by Jill at Properfud suggested the lactation-reducing properties of sage and a lovely link through Kellymom which pointed out that it takes one to three weeks for breast discomfort to alleviate after weaning.  The Internet saves the day again.  Maybe it was a coincidence in the timing but two days of a few cups of sage tea seemed to do the trick nicely although I made many, many trips to the loo in that time!  It was almost as if my body was peeing away any excess fluid from my body.

Emotionally it has been tough but not as tough as I thought it would be.  I do have to admit a moment of desperate weakness where the best laid plans nearly came undone while I was staying with my sister for a few days.  Pip was having a very unsettled night and after being awake and upset for well over an hour no matter how I tried to comfort him, I was seconds away from offering to feed him when my sister knocked on the bedroom door to see if she could help.  If she hadn’t, I’m not sure what I’d be telling you now because I was this close…he wasn’t looking for it, mind but in my tiredness and helplessness it was my fall-back method of soothing him. He fell asleep about five minutes later.

Now that we’re not nursing any more, in one sense I feel like I have lost a superpower.  Breastfeeding was so much more than a way of nourishing my baby. It was his sleep aid, his comforter when he was upset or hurt himself, his medicine when he was sick and an emotional support when he needed it. To have that disappear takes some getting used to.  My husband even commented that he felt its loss.  He also feels that we have a level parenting playing field now, be that both a good and bad thing. Pip has been doing great though.  He’s in flying form and as I mentioned before we’ve been doing lots of cuddling. He’s also just grasped the concept of kissing which is great fun.  Lots of mwahs going on!

It’s been nearly two years since my body has been my own, where it’s been working just for me. I ask myself now if I feel liberated in some way, which I thought I would, but I think it’s probably too early to tell. I was never resentful of being pregnant or breastfeeding but some days it did get on top of me or I felt I was giving too much of my sense of self, if that makes sense?

I haven’t been out on the absolute batter yet although I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon! (Not worth it anymore I think, at least at the moment. Is this an Irish thing? Do other mothers think about getting terribly drunk when they stop breastfeeding?) I am enjoying wearing clothes that don’t button down at the front and the odd turtleneck. I’ve also had to root out my old pre-pregnancy bras because during the two days of sage tea, my boobs literally deflated and my nursing bras had swathes of access material flapping around.

It’s nice to be back in my perky, delicate bras but tell you what, boy did I have an overinflated idea of what my pre-pregnancy cleavage was.  What a MASSIVE disappointment.  My husband must be raging 🙂 No more boobs HD, just regular 34C boobs.  No biggy.

Watch this space for how my ass reacts. I need to keep reminding myself that I’m 500 calories down a day. By the way my hand keeps ramming the tasty snacks into my gob, my stomach clearly hasn’t realised. Some self-discipline is definitely on the cards…tomorrow maybe…

 

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The end of our breastfeeding journey

You may have noticed that I’ve made my old TMI post a permanent page up on the menu bar.  This detailed post on my lumpy breasts etc prompted me to stick it up there!  I thought I should forewarn new readers.  You love all the gory detail really, don’t you? That’s why you’re here 😉   

A baby no more – rocking on up to the tweenies

It’s a milestone week in our house this week.  The creche have decided that the baby is a baby no longer so he has started the five day process of graduating to the tweenies room.  When my husband told me last week about the big move I immediately panicked.

But he’s not ready.

They’ll eat him alive in there!

We’ll be back to square one with the morning tears and general freak outs.

But when I saw him through the baby room window running in circles around the little ones sitting but not moving and giving away kisses to his minders as they held sleeping babies in their arms, I knew it was time. And I was delighted that he was being cared for by lovely, experienced and empathetic women who correctly identified the sensitive little soul that is my first born and hung on to him for longer than they normally would until they knew he was emotionally ready for the big leagues.

A baby no more: rocking on up to the tweenies www.mindthebaby.ie Mind The Baby Blog
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I was doubly reassured when he arrived home yesterday with a little pack containing a letter of confirmation about the move, the new handbook for the tweenies room and a development observation sheet that his main minder in the baby room had prepared.  As I flicked through it – it was five pages long – I felt a huge rush of warmth and love for this woman who wrote the most detailed and careful observations of my son’s development: how he loves to play hide and seek and peekaboo by hiding behind chairs; how he can climb up and down stairs the safe way (I did NOT know he could climb down, the monkey); how he loves jigsaws (we have no jigsaws! They’re on my to do list for the weekend); how he can scribble at the easel with a paintbrush (seriously, the boy’s a genius); how he loves playing musical instruments and chats to everyone in the room; that he refuses to wear shoes and loves to pull off his socks; that can use a spoon but isn’t quite there in making sure the food is still on it before it gets to his mouth.  Bless!

It is such a relief to me that I know he’s in such good hands. When I was going back to work I really struggled with whether I was doing the right thing for him and I flip flop regularly between knowing that the creche is a great experience for him where he getting all kinds of good stimulation and social interaction and knowing that he would be better off if his mama was taking care of him at home.  But then sometimes I think if it was just the two of us all day he would miss out on mixing with the other children and adults and he wouldn’t have the range of experience and activity that he gets in childcare.  I also wonder if my natural inclination to get stuck in trying moments – like a nap that just won’t happen – and the self-torture and analysis I put myself through around something that  doesn’t need that level of philosophical evaluation would have a negative effect on him (What am I doing wrong here that this isn’t working? Why won’t he take a nap when he’s clearly exhausted? How can I still be trying to figure this out…ad nauseum). Then I flip completely the other way: he wouldn’t have to go through this separation anxiety if I was at home with him.  Clearly, he needs me and I’m doing him damage by putting him in childcare…

Of course all of this flipping and flopping is completely theoretical and moot because there really is no choice to be made here between one option or the other.  My bank manager requires that I continue to contribute to the household finances, end of.  In all honesty, the flip flopping thoughts are just fleeting but of course that doesn’t mean they don’t hurt like hell when I’m doubting myself!

I think coping with the separation anxiety has really been the hardest aspect of going back to work.  Being in work? – no bother at all, at all. A breeze in fact. But the saying goodbye each day hasn’t been nice.  It really did take a long time for him to settle into creche, to actually toddle in, humming to himself, to reach whatever toy had just caught his eye.  There were several weeks at the beginning where I couldn’t be out of his sight without hysterics and I’ve already accepted that it’s unlikely I’ll be able to sit on a loo without a small boy on my knee for quite some time. The separation anxiety has made a return since the breastfeeding stopped but it’s different this time, thank God.  Yes, I still have a toilet companion but instead of the tears and refusing to leave my arms, he is coming to me for many many cuddles.  He’ll be playing away and then suddenly remember he’ll need a hug and come flying over to climb into my arms for a quick squeeze or a cheek press.  He’s also really gotten into making sure there’s skin on skin touch between us.  He’ll wrap his arms right around my waist and get in under my t-shirt to stroke my back or he’ll lightly pat my chest.  He also likes to get a toy or a book and come over and sit on my knee and then play away.  I feel he’s reaching out to make a physical connection to replace the intimacy of breastfeeding and I’m only too delighted to facilitate extra cuddling.

So I’m really proud of him that he’s ready to move up. Apparently they have a kitchen corner which has kitchen units full of plastic containers and cutlery for him to play with which is music to my ears because he might get it all out of his system before he comes home to wreck my gaff.

In honour of the graduation from baby to tweenie, I’ve decided to rechristen him because he’s not Baby S any more, he’s a little boy now. Arise Baby S! For the purposes of this blog, I rechristen you Pip! 🙂

Project managing motherhood

A friend of mine lent me a copy of Naomi Stadlen’s book What Mothers Do – Especially When It Looks Like Nothing just at the right time. My baby was six weeks old, which felt like a lifetime at that stage, and I was starting to worry why I didn’t have my shit together yet when it felt like I should. In fact, I was a total mess but I know now that’s what mothers of six week old babies should be like.

The book was a breathe of fresh air and at times I gripped it in my hands as a source of comfort to remind myself that I was doing okay and my son had a good mother.

Project Managing Motherhood
photo credit: Sebastiano Pitruzzello (aka gorillaradio) via photopin cc

One really interesting idea that stuck with me was how a lot of modern women live in a project-based, short term goal orientated world. We’re aiming for targets all the time: finishing school, graduating from college, getting a promotion, completing a big project at work, losing x amount of pounds, training for a triathlon etc (this is not me 🙂 ). We set them in our sights, achieve them or don’t achieve them, and then move on to the next one. That’s why for many women becoming a mother is such a challenging time. We had the end goal of 40 weeks of pregnancy (tick), then the end goal of labour and birth (tick) but then there’s no more box ticking. Mothers just are. To comfort ourselves we can continue to create short term goals in motherhood but really I can see how those goals can just as easily become a source of stress and loss of confidence if they’re not met by our measurable perimeters. Sleeping through the night, first teeth, sitting up, crawling, weaning to solids, first steps, first words…these are things that are all going to happen anyway or in the baby’s own time and yet sometimes we think we’re in control or indeed failing. At the other end of the scale, when is the end of Project Baby? Is it turning out a well rounded, happy adult who ticks your boxes of child raising success?

Project managing motherhood www.mindthebaby.ie Mind The Baby blog I do remind myself from time to time when I get caught up in my own mind and lose the run of myself that this isn’t a project with milestones to be achieved. I remind myself that being a mother is an everyday way of being. Each mothering moment is exactly that – a happening right now for its own sake rather than a smaller part of a big project with an end date. I have to remind myself because it’s easy to forget. My life has been a series of one short term goal after another. Mothering is so far removed from this I’ve had to adjust my way of thinking. Not because I think I’m not any good at it but because I try to apply the same set of rules to two completely different things. And it just doesn’t work.

It’s a really wonderful book and very unlike any other parenting book you’ll come across. There’s no advice in there on which you can fall on your mothering sword when it doesn’t work for you. It reminds you of the incredible, unseen, unrecognised work that mothers do everyday and it makes you feel good. I recommend it.

The end of our breastfeeding journey

I’ve just put the baby down to bed for the night.  It’s the first time in fourteen months –  the first time in his life – that his mother has settled him to sleep without breastfeeding him.

And it was really hard.

Not physically hard – he actually went off to sleep with considerably less fuss than I was expecting – but my heart was aching. Aching because I can’t believe we have reached this stage.  Aching because I’ll never breastfeed this little boy again.  Aching because we’ve had this amazing breastfeeding relationship for the whole of his life that he’s never going to remember.  He’s obviously started to forget already because he didn’t even look for a feed tonight.

I won’t lie, I bawled my eyes out.

The end of our breastfeeding journey www.mindthebaby.ie Mind The Baby blog
photo credit: khrawlings via photo pin cc

I know in a month’s time I’m going to be looking back on this night with a clear head and know in my heart of hearts it was the right thing to do at the right time.  It’s something we’ve been planning as a family for some time. But just for now, indulge me a little time to mourn.

I’m sure my hormones are all over the place. My supply is.  I’ve been sporting some rock hard comic book heroine boobs since our last feed three nights ago even though we cut down to one feed before bedtime well over a week ago.  I’ve been doing some light expressing to ease the pressure and it’s only just this evening that they’re not ridiculously uncomfortable.

My husband has been playing an absolute blinder the last few weeks. Once we decided to set an end date for breastfeeding, he’s been taking the night shift to comfort and resettle the baby when (not if :)) he wakes.  The man is dead on his feet God help him. He’s amazing.

We had our very last breastfeed on Thursday night. I made sure to soak up the experience because even though it really didn’t feel like this would be the last time we’d be doing this, I knew it probably would be and I wanted to take it all in. I spent the next two days down in beautiful West Cork with some really good friends to celebrate a friend’s wedding.  It was my first ever overnight trip away from the baby and it was exactly the right way to spent it because I really enjoyed myself – catching up and spending really good quality time with people that I love.  I really missed him but I knew he was is the safe and tender care of his dada.  Although by the time day 2 rolled around and the very long road back to Dublin loomed before me, I was frantic to get home to see him.  He was ready for bed when I finally got in the door and I was greeted with a bite on the arm and a succession of emotional slaps to my face to teach me a lesson for leaving him!

My husband was working this evening so it fell to me to put the baby to bed.  I was quite anxious about it because now that I can’t comfort him by breastfeeding anymore, I had to figure out a whole new way to mother him to sleep.  So I sang to him…and it worked.

I enjoyed breastfeeding my son so much.  It was a privilege and a gift. Yes, we had our dark nights and bumps along the road but it was without doubt one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences of my life.  I’m really going to miss it.  I’m saying goodbye to this chapter in our mother/son relationship with a heavy heart but I also know the power of good it’s done us both.