Wednesday, April 2, 2014
By the title alone it is hard to put into words all that I would like to say. A breastfeeding and nursing relationship is such a small part of the overall picture of motherhood and raising a child. But at the same time, it can feel like everything. When Blanche was first born it was all we did. Even now with Rosemary there is a lot of diaper changing, baby wearing, little coos and smiles, but what I would say I feel like I do the most is nurse. That milk is her source of life for the first several months. I can already tell though that Rosemary is not as intense about nursing as Blanche. A lot of the time, being use to Blanche, I try and overfeed Rosemary. And then Rosemary tells me very clearly that is not what she wants. She cries like she is saying, "I am not hungry! Put me to sleep I am tired!" I feel like she looks at me like I am little crazy, and I try and tell her that it was her older sister Blanche that paved the way for my thinking that milk will solve any problem. It sure did with Blanche.
Things were actually made pretty easy by Blanche's desire to sooth almost any pain by nursing. I could feed her, comfort her, and many times put her right to sleep every time I nursed her for the first year of life. By a year old I could not have imagined weaning Blanche. She still seemed so little. She also disliked baby food, so I knew she would need more than just solid foods. I figured human milk would be a better fit than trying to get her to drink any other type of milk. I have my ideas on why Blanche was so intense on nursing. It actually makes me a little sad. When Blanche was only a few hours old and was so sick with ABO incompatibility, she had to remain under the bill lights unless she was being fed. Sometimes the nurses didn't even pick her up to feed her because they hoped the lights could continue to push down her bilirubin so she could go home. I was recovering from pre eclampsia and suffering from high blood pressure and toxemia. I was getting up in the night to pump, rushing to the hospital at six am with milk. I could hear Blanche's little cries as she waited in the nursery. I would come around the corner flustered, the nurse saying happily, "Oh we are snacking mom. This one is hungry." As the nurse would be giving Blanche bits of formula to stretch her until I could come. It was awful. I think I had decided in those days that I would lay in bed and hold my baby and nurse her as much as she wanted for as long as she wanted. I wanted to make up for all those hours at the beginning of her life that I didn't get to.
So, this is much more than a weaning story. This is the story of Blanche and me. An element to our relationship that has been there from day one. Until this week. Blanche will be two and half this month. I nursed her through my entire pregnancy with extreme agitation. I had hoped the agitation would leave once I had a full supply of milk again. But it didn't. I had hoped Blanche would feel welcomed being able to still nurse occasionally with Rosemary, but at times it seemed to be a competition. There are so many elements to this messy extended nursing story. The main point was that I was so exhausted and over touched that I was not being the mother I wanted to be to Blanche. I was yelling at her at bed time because she was driving me nuts. Blanche seemed confused at boundaries and was starting to reverse back in the ways she had already begun to wean. Our family was waking up at five am to complete meltdowns and requests to nurse. Andrew and I were becoming short with each other during those times. All of the sudden I realized the good I was trying to do was no longer good, and it had to end.
So thats what we did. Now knowing Blanche as well as I do, I knew I just had to stop all together. I let her nurse one last time on Sunday morning. She was born on a Sunday morning. It was not some elaborate and sentimental plan. I didn't have a special speech or weaning book. We were just done. And I couldn't think about it too much. We just were. Maybe my last post was the start of what was to come. Blanche was growing up.
It has actually went much better this week than I could of ever have imagined. I was so tired and frustrated though that I was willing to walk through a full week or two of meltdowns to be finished. Blanche has really only had a few rough times though. I am learning that there are certain things that must be done to help this transition. For example, I have to be the one getting up with her in the morning. She misses me and needs me. I have also learned these last few months when putting Blanche to bed if she hadn't nursed to sleep that Blanche needs to be completely relaxed to fall asleep. I learned this from myself. If I have any type of elevated emotion whether its excitement, frustration, anger, fear... it takes me so long to fall asleep. I finally saw that Blanche is the exact same way. That is why Blanche was never able to fuss or cry and fall asleep on her own. She would just work herself into a complete meltdown to the point of throwing up. So, bedtime requires a lot of patience and calm and loving gestures. Blanche fell asleep in around twenty minutes last night for bed and is taking her first nap at home (not in the car) without nursing to sleep. We are working on things. Blanche and I are growing in our relationship. We are both learning new ways to love.
The first picture above is one of several shots Andrew took one day while I was nursing Blanche. You can see the rest of them here. I stopped nursing Blanche because I wanted to remember back to our nursing relationship like this. It is hard to hear a little voice in the early hours saying, "nurse me" and to say no. But I am realizing that so much of this request is "I miss you mama." Getting up with Blanche in the earlier hours while my newborn is still sleeping is not easy, but I know it is best.
The second picture is Blanche riding the train at the mall with her daddy after her first night without milk. Gigi offered to buy her a ticket if she could make it through the night. I love this picture.