Monday, July 20, 2009

Boobs Are Back to Work

As noted in my most recent letter to Harry, the nursing strike appears to be over, at least for now. It ended as quickly and as inexplicably as it began. One day, ten/eleven/twelve/thirteen days in (I wasn't counting in the beginning, not realizing it would last so damn long), I offered before his first nap, and he nursed rather than biting.

The night before, at the suggestion of a lactation consultant, we did a dream feed, and he gladly took a boob in his sleep. That was the only real change that occurred right then. But, for the sake of anyone who may stumble upon this, here is a list of what we tried, none of which seemed to make much of a difference:
  • Cutting back on solids, especially at dinner-time
  • Cutting back on daycare bottles, in the hope that he'd be hungrier at home
  • Switch back to slow flow bottle nipples to reduce the likelihood of bottle preference continuing
  • Paced bottle feeding (at home -- I didn't ask his daycare provider to do it)
  • Not having me give a bottle (i.e. bottle only comes from Daddy or Miss M; if you want Mommy and milk, you have to nurse -- we had only just switched to this, so this might have helped too)
  • Offering the bottle first to satiate some of his hunger, then switch to the breast (this resulted in a lot of biting, except one time when he nursed)
  • Trying every imaginable position
  • Changing up the times of his nursing sessions, including while sleepy and while just waking (from naps -- the one nursing session he had kept was when he woke in the morning)
  • Fenugreek to increase supply
  • Breast compressions to speed up flow
  • Increased skin to skin time
  • Only nursing with the window open (this may have helped, as he still is more apt to bite if the window is closed -- at some point I realized that his morning nursing was always with the window open but the rest of the day/evening it was often closed)

We had long ago eliminated nursing anywhere other than his room, in the glider, with no distractions. The only recommendations we didn't try were nursing in the bath (I probably eventually would have gone there too) and co-sleeping.

I have no idea how to express how much this experience sucked. To quote the email I wrote on one of the last days of the strike: "I'm honestly just feeling completely worn out, exhausted and rejected. Since I went back to work after being home with him for 6 months, I was able to get over some of the guilt of being away from him all day by coming home and having this time that was just for us. But now instead of finding me comforting he bites me and today has begun to cry when I hold him. It's just painful, physically (from the biting) and emotionally. Here I am, an overeducated lawyer at a big law firm, and I cry myself to sleep at night because I feel (irrationally, I know) like my son doesn't need or love me any more. I just want there to be a solution, a way to get back to where we used to be, but I'm starting to realize there just may not be one, and I just feel so sad."

I'm glad this chapter appears to be over, at least for now. Inevitably, of course, he will now decide he wants to nurse longer than I want to, like, say, until college, bringing on a different set of guilt and stress issues entirely. But we'll deal with that when/if we get there.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ten Months

My dear sweetpea,

I'll admit it. This month was tough. I think all the not-crawling finally got to you, and you made sure daddy and I knew it any way you could. There was a lot of biting, and a nursing strike that I was sure was early weaning, and yelling. Lots and lots of yelling.

I found myself very frustrated a lot of the time, frazzled in a way I hadn't really felt since you were born. But every time I wanted to get angry with you, I remembered that you were probably more frustrated than I was. There are just so many things that you want to be able to do and seem convinced that you should be able to do, but you can't quite master them. And you don't even have words to explain how frustrating that is. I kept thinking back to when I spent the summer in France and all of a sudden found myself overwhelmed with homesickness in a way I totally didn't expect. My host sister thought I'd feel better if we went to an American movie with French subtitles, so we went to see Mrs. Doubtfire. But when we got there, it turned out to be Mme. Doubtfire, and the jokes just didn't translate properly into poorly-dubbed French and were delivered by someone other than Robin Williams. It wasn't funny at all, and I didn't feel less alone. And I cried, because that moment so perfectly captured everything I had been feeling. And I HAD words, in two languages, but just couldn't find any in either language that could really express my sense of disjuncture. So I'm impressed that you don't cry, that you only yell in frustration. It must be so hard to feel so much and be so unable to do anything about it.

Thankfully, after ten days the nursing strike now appears to be over (though I'm afraid to put it in writing for fear of jinxing it), and "gentle" seems to be working in conjunction with holding your hand tightly to deal with the hitting, but there's still no crawling, so there's still a lot of yelling and some biting for good measure. I am hoping this is not a brief window into what you will be like at 2, as you seem to be very strong-willed.

Good thing for you that you are also very cute.

This month also marked a few other firsts, including your first trip to the zoo. Daddy and I took you there with Papa. We saw some cool animals, but a lot of exhibits were closed. I'm sure we'll go back soon, though.

At your last doctor's appointment, we discovered that you actually had grown a lot, moving from the 18th to the 62nd percentile in weight and from the 75th to the 85th in length. I guess it wasn't our imagination. Also, Dr E gave you the okay to start on new foods (i.e. foods that are not fruits, vegetables and cereal). You now eat black beans and kidney beans, yogurt, cheese, bread, bagels, waffles, pancakes, scrambled egg yolks, tofu and many other tasty treats, including a couple of new vegetables. The best? Cheese. Followed by black beans and yogurt. The worst? Tofu, broccoli and cauliflower. You are pretty positive that none of these is food -- if you eat it by accident, you pull it back out and make a lovely face. This from the same boy that will eat wood chips. You have a strange palate. Also, you have decided that you are completely done with being fed and insist on self-feeding. This is messy. But it's nice that you have an area in which to assert your independence.

Speaking of you and feeding, you also learned how to give the dog a treat, though you did think it was for you at first:

I must admit, I worry a little about your lack of crawling, even though Dr E said not to and even though I always swore I would not be that type of mom. I know some babies aren't into it and go straight to walking. That would be fine with me. I worry mainly, though, because you are into it, you just can't figure it out. For three months now (maybe more?), you have been so desperate to crawl, pushing on hands and knees, rocking and . . . scooting backwards. You have become more desperate but don't seem any closer to forward movement. I hope you master it soon, for everyone's sake, even though Daddy and I really don't want to childproof. I can't wait to see the look of accomplishment on your face when you finally put it together.

Through it all, sweetpea, through the yelling and the biting and the nursing strike and the hitting, I love you with all my heart. I always will.



Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Long Goodbye

Shifting gears entirely to another subject that leaves me feeling a little stressed and lacking in control, it looks like my father will not be selling the house I lived in during the latter part of my childhood and moving to another state afterall. As much as this is the way I would have preferred things to end up, the circumstances under which this change in plans has arisen are fully suck-tastic.

I always thought his now-wife was a tiny bit flaky, which struck me as a bit odd for a fairly high-powered professional, but I figured it was just a quirk of her personality. Apparently, this "quirk" grew increasingly worrisome and had been a subject of many unpleasant discussions between her and my dad over the past year-plus. He insisted she seemed flakier; she insisted he was being an ass. Possibly to placate him or possibly because she could no longer deny what he was insisting was a problem, she went to a neurologist. After much testing, multiple opinions, etc., she has been told that there is a 95% chance that she has early-onset Alzheimers. And there's really nothing good about that.

Let me begin by saying that the situation for her and for her (adult) kids is a nightmare. I can't imagine having to face it and am a bit ashamed of how glad I am that it's not my dad facing this horrendous diagnosis at such a (relatively) young age.

But it's not exactly awesome for my dad either, and I doubt anyone else is thinking about him and what this means for him right now. I feel like no matter what my dad does, it's the wrong thing to do. If he moves, he gives up the life he has where he lives now for, what, a couple of years, maybe more if they're lucky, with his wife before she no longer remembers who he is and goes to live in a nursing home? And then he's stuck there. She promised to help him ease the transition, introducing him to people and helping him establish himself socially, but is that realistic now? Or he stays where he is and rips a woman whose mind is already losing touch out of the one familiar setting it has. Or they stay where they are, living apart.

The current plan seems to be to continue to try to sell her house but not his, spending three weeks a month there, and one week in an apartment they'll rent near where she lives now so she can remain in contact with the people and places she knows. Is that really for better or for worse? It seems so incredibly selfish for him to do anything but move, but that sacrifice just seems astronomical now, with no real upside. He's was in his 60s when they met -- this isn't exactly the Notebook.

The reality is that he sensed something amiss months before they got married and talked to her about it numerous times, but she just kept saying that it was who she was. (He has since learned that she spoke to at least one of her oldest and dearest friends and voiced her own concerns during that same period, which I think really upsets my dad. I'd feel better saying he is upset because he feels sad that she didn't trust him but really he feels betrayed, feeling like she lied to him.) Part of me wonders if all his heel-dragging over the move (because, seriously, they got married 11 months ago and still don't live in the same state) was subconsciously related to his gut sense that something was wrong (ignoring the fact that the state of the economy hasn't exactly made it easy to contemplate selling either, much less both, of their houses, as they planned to move to a new shared place). There would be much less guilt and indecision if the move had already been made.

This may be the first time in my life when something bad was happening in my dad's life that didn't really affect me. I don't even know what to say to him. I can't even figure out how to think about the situation. I keep trying to step outside myself for a bit and think about what I'd want my dad to do if I were one of her kids, or if I were her, and I honestly don't know and I'm secretly and shamefully glad I don't have to.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Down with PWD

I was about to ask whether there was such a thing as post-weaning depression, as I suspect I am en route to suffering it if not already there, when I decided to google first. Without quotes, I got 136,000 hits. Even with, 889 (though a not-insignificant percentage seemed to be about animals). Apparently, though not as oft-discussed or as common as PPD, PWD is in fact a real thing, or at least a thing that women other than myself feel like they might have, might be, or might soon experience. See here, and here, and here, and here (though that one is about toddlers, and Harry is clearly not a toddler). Apparently, it is worst when the weaning is abrupt and not initiated by mom. (CHECK) It is often characterized by mood swings, fight-picking, incessant and uncontrollable crying, and a desire not to get out of bed. (CHECK) It has both a physiological/hormonal component and an emotional one. (CHECK) As I read, it was hard not to feel like I was reading about myself.

While what I really would like is someone to fix it, to find a way to get Harry back to the breast (do you hear me, universe? I AM NOT READY FOR MY SON TO ABRUPTLY WEAN -- FIX THIS. DO YOU HEAR ME? NOT. READY.), knowing I'm not alone helps. Or at least it doesn't hurt. So thanks to those who came before me who put something out there on this -- PWD, early weaning, prolonged nursing strikes that resulted ultimately in weaning -- (including you, Nicky). Seriously, thanks.

*ETC(larify) that the thanks is for talking not only about PWD but also about nursing strikes and pre-mature weaning and the conomitant feelings that don't quite rise to the level of PWD too.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Yet Another Breastfeeding Post

I feel like I keep proclaiming the end of breastfeeding, turning myself into the girl who cried wean, but I think this really is it. Now that he has top teeth, the biting has become unbearable. He bites all the time, yanking on the breast with his teeth as he pulls away, and the pain is excruciating. Some of the time he won't latch on at all -- as the breast approaches his mouth, he clamps down, biting before even thinking of doing anything else. And it breaks me heart. And the pain. I love him more than I could ever express, but sometimes it's hard to like him. If he isn't biting, he is scratching or punching me in the face or pulling my hair. I don't want to end up resenting my son, who I love with all my heart.

Truth be told, I'm often scared he is eventually going to rip the nipple right off, even though various sources claim that isn't possible, or just isn't going to happen. Most of those same sources also claim that any number of techniques will keep the baby from biting more than once and/or that babies outgrow the biting after a few das or at most a few weeks. Many techniques and many months later, I have lost all faith in such words of wisdom. And I'm out of ideas.

I am also eventually going to run out of tears. I spend far too large a percentage of my day crying over this. I feel very rejected. When I was encountering schedule problems at work, P made a comment about how it's important that I get enough time with Harry "because he's nursing." Not because I'm his mom and babies need time with their moms, but because he's nursing. And what about now? Does he not need me anymore? I fear that in Ps eyes, he doesn't. At least no more than he needs anyone else.

Plus, I already feel like I don't get enough time with him, being at work during the week. Nursing was always our time, time that was just for us. Now we will be giving up this time too, either giving up the time spent feeding to pump or the time I could otherwise play with him to pumping. And I hate pumping. But I am also not willing to switch to formula when I'm still perfectly capable of giving him breastmilk (please know that I am not judging anyone else who does so -- it's just not where I'm at).

I guess that last note is part of the issue for me. I was prepared to accept that I might not be able to breastfeed. That I might not produce enough milk. That he might not be able to figure it all out. That we could have encountered issues from day one. I was also prepared to accept that he would one day be a big boy and be ready to stop nursing. I just didn't expect that it would happen so soon, before he hit ten months. Before he has even figured out crawling, or called me mama. I'm just not ready, but I'm learning that it's not up to me.