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!

 

 



76 comments

  1. Joanna Goddard of A Cup of Jo also experienced weaning-related depression. She had an especially rough time of it and wrote about her experiences on her blog.

    So just know you’re not alone! Hang in there.

  2. I remember the sadness of weaning and simultaneous relief of my body being ‘mine again’ too (admittedly, the latter is one of the reasons I’m not so excited to try for baby number two). Good job and good luck :)

  3. Yes, Yes and Yes!

    No one talks about the hormone drop. It’s really hard. Maybe this post will help put it out there!

  4. Your timing is impeccable. I have been moody, ready to cry at the drop of a hat and/or rage (which isn’t conducive to my working environment – I’m afraid I may have scared some people :)). I too am in the midst of weening. Holy hell! This is my second and I don’t recall going through this with my first. So thank you for sharing this – you have opened my eyes big time to what is probably causing my weirdness as of late.

  5. What an amazing post! I’m 7 months in and pumping is literally THE WORST. I have to talk myself into continuing this journey every single day bc I loathe pumping so much. As you said, though, the nursing sessions are awesome. Would you mind sharing how you started the weaning process?

    1. I started pumping more than nursing and got him very comfortable with the bottle. I started replacing one feeding a day with formula and gradually increased it to two bottles while cutting out my mid-day pump. Then slowly cut out my bedtime pump and only gave him bottles and just this week stopped pumping all together. Super slow, too over a month I’d say but I was never uncomfortable and he doesn’t miss the boob at all!

  6. I don’t think a lot of people, in general, warn other mothers about breast feeding and about how hard every aspect of it can be. I just had twins two weeks a go and I feel like ALL I DO is pump. I completely understand feeling like your body is yours again after you wean. It’s this big mix of emotions but man, I always felt like it was such a relief.

    I think all your posts are great. You’ve done such an excellent job at keeping your readers up on your life and still showcasing your amazing talent and taste as a designer. Thanks for sharing your life with us. :)

  7. Joanna Goddard from Cup of Jo wrote a WONDERFUl blog post about her weaning experience. I’m a psychiatrist and I specialize in women’s mental health and especially regarding pregnancy and the time before and after and weaning depression IS A THING. A REAL THING. I also just had it.

    Also, LOVE breastfeeding, HATE pumping.

    FInally, my little boy just weaned before I was ready 6mos and I feel so sad that I didn’t memorize our last nursing session.

  8. I nursed my son longer than what was socially acceptable, but I kept it quiet because it was just between us. He is grown and gone now, and the most incredible man child I could have ever prayed for. Our adult relationship is full of great conversation and mutual respect. But I still love to tease him about how long he loved the boob and what a mama’s boy he was.

  9. I had decided to wean both my kids, then they weaned themselves before I was ready. No respect.

    Seriously, my kids, 14 and almost 17, have been VERY healthy. They did have to have their tonsils out, but I think their susceptibility to strep throat was more physiological than anything else. Breastfeeding is the best gift you can give your child.

  10. I am confused! I had my first child in 1978 and breastfed her for a year. I subsequently had three more children, one more girl and two boys. I breastfed them all for approximately a year. They all weaned themselves. I have never pumped breastmilk. What is the purpose of this? It seems a great inconvenience and much dreaded experience from most of your comments!

    1. 1. Some mothers have to work outside of the home & be away from their babies for hours. Pumping & storing milk ensures the baby is fed when it needs to, even if her mommy is away.
      2. Other babies struggle to suck from a breast & pumping ensures the baby will still get mother’s milk instead of formula.
      3. Some mothers have a – painfully – large supply, pumping helps empty the breasts a bit.
      There are more reasons but I hope these 3 can explain why a lot of breast feeding moms also pump. :)

  11. The struggle is real. I am so glad you figured out what was going on with you. i am amazed at how much information there is out there now. Back in the day there really wasn’t any . We all just had to suck it up and deal. LOL The pumping at work thing always embarrassed me. I remember going to a work lunch meeting where a baby at the next table was crying. Boom my milk released through the pads and bloomed all over my shirt. MORTIFIED. Can’t say i miss any of it.

  12. Here comes Debbie Downer… as you get older you have menopause symptoms to deal with! From the mood swings to the hot flashes/night sweats, life is almost unbearable at times. The worst part, though, is the length of time one has to endure it. I have had some of the symptoms for more than 2 years!!

  13. Thanks for doing us the service of talking about all this!

    I actually always felt I would not be happy breastfeeding if I ever chose to have kids, but your second last paragraph made me do a double take. Guess I will have to figure it out if/when the time comes, but nice to see the other side of how it can really all be worth the extreme difficulty (which I knew about but boy did you describe it well!).

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