Saturday, January 23, 2010

The End of An Era

The funny thing about wishes is that they may actually come true. Even if you speak of them out loud. I learned that lesson the hard way over the past two weeks.

It seems that Nate must have been peering over my shoulder when I wrote my last post, which if you'll recall, concluded with my quandary of weaning. Because he made the decision for me.

Our last nursing session was at naptime on January 8th. My little booby monster weaned himself almost overnight.

It happened rather abruptly. He never resisted the breast, but he would toss and turn, constantly pulling off, uninterested. He seemingly lost his focus - or will - until he stopped asking to breastfeed altogether. Where he used to lift my shirt, claw at my bra and "assume the position", he was now content to cuddle in the nook of my arm with a story. I figured it was a fluke and at any time, he would come to realize what he was missing. But that time never came. Just like that, the bond we shared for nearly 18 months was over.

Many would assume that I could now exhale. No more fearing how the process would go, or questioning whether I would damage Nate's psyche. No more wondering how long it would take for my cycles to return to "normal" so we could try to conceive a sibling. You'd think I would be shouting from the rooftops with a daiquiri in hand - and not a virgin one. After all, he basically ripped the band-aid off for me. But I guess I underestimated the pain of the aftermath.

I've found myself more sorrowful than celebratory at this sequence of events. Perhaps it is because it happened so quickly that I didn't have time to say a fond farewell. Perhaps I feel a smidge of guilt that our last nursing session was short and sweet and part of a routine, instead of an extra special consummation. Maybe I feel angry at myself for any of the times I thought nursing was an inconvenience or nuisance. Or maybe I always assumed I'd be the one in control of the cessation and the self-weaning caught me off-guard. Or it could be that it's just one more shred of evidence that my son, my baby, is growing up and becoming more independent. Honestly, it's probably a bit of all of the above.

But I miss it. With all my heart. I long for that unabated closeness. Sure, we cuddle and hug more these days, which is comforting. I am forced to find creative ways to fill the void. And I should note I am beyond proud that we made it for as long as we did. My initial goal was 12 months and we far surpassed that. But I am also mournful. Each day that passes, the feeling of his suckling and his tiny fingers wrapped around my breast become more and more fuzzy. I cry almost everyday, thinking how I'll never again look down to see him smiling as he feeds from me. I have beautiful memories that I will cherish forever, and I know I must close this chapter to open another. But I am struggling. Sometimes, I wonder if I've developed some sort of post-weaning depression. If that exists. I also wonder if my past with infertility has anything to do with why I am taking this particularly hard. But I've read that weaning can put your hormones in flux so I'm hoping my equilibrium will be rediscovered soon.

So, emotionally I'm a wreck and physically, it's not much better. Despite stuffing cold cabbage leaves in my bra for days a la Ariel, I've somehow managed to form plugged ducts on both sides. I have painful, firm lumps underneath the surface that are very sensitive if touched (or headbutted or rolled on, as my son loves to do). I've been taking hot showers and massaging regularly but they are still present. A sick, irrational part of me is kind of glad that my breasts haven't yet completely deflated into saggy pancakes. I guess I'm just trying to hold onto the last remaining proof of our breastfeeding journey. It's so hard to say goodbye to such a positive experience. I thought I was ready. I thought I wanted this. And I know all good things come to an end. But would I ever really be ready?

My son has saved me in so many ways. And he continues to rescue me from myself. It's bittersweet situations like this that really make me see how challenging parenting really is.

It's the end of an era.


Jessie Kaitlin said...

First off- Congratulations on making it so far with nursing! Yay!

I'm crying after reading your post! Nursing is such a special moment that you get with your child, you bond, and it just you and your child.

My daughter just turned one, and while we don't have an end in sight, I know that day will come and it makes me sad to think about it.

E. Phantzi said...

Oh Kristen, I feel like I could have written this post. V weaned herself suddenly at 17.5 months too, and I was deeply depressed and in physical pain for weeks after. It will get better but it's also worthwhile to let yourself grieve and feel sad too. Hugs!!!

Meghan said...

There most definitely is post-weaning depression. Pretty sure I had it as well...suddenly I had no idea how to even interact with her. She too self-weaned before I was ready. Looking back though, I am glad she did it on her own terms and not for any other reason

good luck!

Katie said...

I am also in tears.

Yes, there is such a thing as post-weaning depression, as the last of the pregnancy hormones leave your body after weaning. I would give yourself a couple more weeks to mourn the passing of this (because it IS something to celebrate and mourn all at once) and if you are still feeling this way, I would talk to your doctor about it. I had a very similar nursing/weaning experience (Will was "done" at 16 months) and had some similar feelings about it. I found that the worst was over in about two weeks.

Hugs, my friend.

K77 said...

Hugs and yay for 18 months of breastfeeding!

Jo said...

A woman recently posted to a doula listserv I am a part of with much the same situation as yours. She was dealing with pretty severe depression in the weeks following her daughter's weaning -- and apparently it is very common. Some women on the list had really great suggestions for coping and coming through to the other side and she just posted to the list again yesterday to say they decided to throw a weaning party to celebrate the end of an era. Even if it's just your immediately family, you might want to consider doing the same. Celebrate the time you had together as a breastfeeding pair and look forward to your little one's independence going forward. It sounds like a great way to help turn a mournful situation into a happy one. And also to mark the significance of the event.

Congrats on 18 months of happy nusing! That's a huge accomplishment :)

Fiddle1 said...

I'm sorry for the pain you are going through. I have read that a sudden end to breastfeeding can really send your emotions loopy. In fact, I know that women who are being treated for PPD (not you, obviously..but the topic is related) have to be careful around this time b/c they could have a recurrence. Best wishes to you. I hope peace and adjustment come swiftly for you. Of course, I also hope you'll be able to do it again, though I know it won't be with Nate (and that doesn't make up for the pain you are feeling now).

docgrumbles said...

Sorry about the end of something so beautiful. I only made it 7 months, so you should be very proud for going so long.