Monday, October 19, 2009

ch-ch-ch-changes

I quit breastfeeding over the weekend. I thought I'd want to share more during my process of reaching this point. I composed a couple of posts in my head last week as I tried to understand and make peace with the coming change, but it ended up being something I wanted to do quietly and on my own. The preparing to quit was much harder than the quitting. I felt some pangs during my final pumping session and again during our final feeding, but overall, the transition has been relatively easy. Perhaps I didn't need to go through so much angst getting here, or maybe it was the experiencing of the angst beforehand that allowed me to pass over the threshold itself without much fanfare.

I felt really sad last week, knowing the end was near. I was (and always have been) pumping multiple times a day and taking herbal supplements but my supply was (and always has been) slowly declining despite my efforts. I think with the c-section and being separated from Elliot for the first week, and then with all of the latch/pain difficulties we had in the early weeks, my supply never really got that initial jump start it needed to get off the ground. Then, when I couldn't keep up with his growing appetite, we needed more and more supplementation which caused my supply to dwindle all the more. For the last two weeks, I was pumping 2-3 times per day and yielding less than four ounces total. It became apparent that I'd fallen into the zone where the ends no longer justified the means. My only decision was whether I was going to wait for it to zero out completely or determine that I was close enough to call it. Pumping was a time-consuming activity that significantly disrupted my work day. It was worth it when I was generating a tangible amount of breast milk, but four ounces isn't even enough to provide Elliot with one full bottle the next day, and I wasn't even getting that some days. The exercise had become an assault on my self-esteem, as well. Watching my body defy my wishes on a daily basis was so depleting. The last thing my infertile soul needs is one more reminder that I can't make my body do anything it doesn't want to. Our evening feeds weren't going well either. Elliot had become so impatient with my low supply that he simply refused to nurse once the initial surge passed and we were resorting to bottles at night for the first time.

I wasn't sure when or how I would stop - only that I didn't want to rush the process. Then at the end of last week, it finally felt like the right time, and Elliot and I quietly segued into a new phase in our relationship.

I have been terribly sad to feel that I failed at something I wanted to do (breastfeeding him for the first year) and embarrassed that my body wasn't able to perform such a basic, innate task. I am still sad now to think that I no longer have any lingering physical connection to Elliot. Breastfeeding was the last biological echo of my having carried him for nine months. I am happy that this change puts M and I on more equal ground, but selfishly, I'm sad to close the door on the special connection he and I have had since his conception. It's like the final severing of the umbilical cord or something.

All of that said, I'm actually enjoying NOT nursing him more than I expected. I love not wearing nursing bras every day; I love choosing outfits based upon criteria other than ease of breast access. I have completely overloaded myself with dairy over the last couple of days (no really, overloaded) and I'm loving eating cheese and milk and yogurt and yes, ice cream again. I'm enjoying not battling Elliot to nurse. It's a relief to spare both of us his frustration and disappointment with what I had to offer. In short, I think stopping was a very good decision. I'm trying to embrace that and take pride in the fact that I persevered through seven challenging months. I gave him the best start I could and I stopped when it made sense for us. I wish we could have kept it up longer but I'm learning to be flexible. :-)

Things are going really well in all other areas. Over the last couple of months, it feels as though the balance has shifted to less work and more pleasure. I suspect this is a combination of several factors including Elliot's temperament mellowing as he matures, our parenting skills sharpening with time and practice, and all of us getting to know each other and finding our new normal as a family of three. We're in a neat stage, sandwiched between the unrelenting demands of the newborn period and the awe-inspiring defiance of the toddler era. Right now we have a sweet, easy-going, inquisitive little boy on our hands and life is pretty darn good.

Elliot had his first tooth break through over the weekend. He also took his first few crawling "steps" with several instances of coordinated hand and knee movement, each one followed by a dramatic collapse, of course. Honest-to-goodness crawling can't be far off (Lord help us). We lowered his crib mattress to the lowest setting after he started using the bars to pull himself upward. We also experienced our first diaper rash this weekend. Poor little guy had some wicked red welts and had to spend several days in ointment and disposables. You could say it was kind of a big weekend. ;-)

Also this weekend, we had more professional pictures taken. And to leave it on that note...

Hope everyone is enjoying their Fall!

8 comments:

Two Moms, Two Monkeys said...

Wow he is adorable!..and getting so big. Happy to hear that you have found a reslution to your breastfeeding issues. Sounds like it all worked out for the best. I have to admit though, reading the part where you feel like you lost some of that connection to Elliot made me a little teary-eyed at the thought of no longer bfeeding our boys and also losing that personal (nobody else can substitute) connection. I think it is also just another reminder at how quickly they grow up... a feeling we will have to face over and over again as they reach new milestones...always bittersweet.

Laurie said...

Oooh look at him!! Precious!!

Denise said...

Adorable!

It sounds like you made the perfect decision for your family, and that you and Elliot are both very happy you did! And I love the fact that you turned it into a choice you made and less of a situation you submitted to.

motherwilling said...

Thanks for sharing your story of transition. I'm glad to hear that things are going well for you and finding your new normal and relishing in the small moments are the most important things. He is so adorable!

anofferingoflove said...

well, for what its worth, i think hanging in there for seven months is awesome & so admirable. you got your sweet boy off to a super healthy start in life! sounds like you made a great decision for your family and elliot is doing well with the transition.

the picture is beyond adorable - i could eat those cheeks right up! :)

tireegal68 said...

He looks like a really happy chappie!
You did really great and persevered so hard. I know it must be a difficult loss and hard transition, but you really have my admiration for getting this far.
Enjoy this new stage with him getting ready to be really mobile. He sounds very adorable and looks it too!

Lizzie said...

Well, I cried reading your story, as the sense of body failure/failing oneself is still omnipresent for me, but truly you did all you could for him, got him more than six months there, and let go when it was right. Glad that your choice to stop has been validated and you're so clear now that it was right. Plus, he's just beautiful! Thanks for photo.

nutella said...

I'm 2 weeks behind you on the stopping with bfeeding. I admire your honesty. While I will assurdly not miss pumping, or washing pump parts, or stressing about supply, I will miss those quiet peaceful nursing sessions in the morning and the last true physical connection to my baby.

He's beautiful and healthy and you've done a wonderful job.