July 27, 2010

Nothing Easy is Ever Easy

When I was pregnant, it was my intention to nurse my babies.  I wanted all sorts of crunchy mama things for my babies- cloth diapers, breast feeding, co-sleeping, a natural delivery...  But breastfeeding seemed (for obvious reasons) the most important.  And the most daunting.  I knew my mother had a very difficult time nursing, her let down was excruciating, and while most women seem to experience some pain with nursing that gets better over time, hers never did.  I knew that most women in the U.S. give up nursing early, that it's too difficult, that it's too inconvenient, and that it's a ball and chain that keeps you tied to your home, completely disrupting your social life.  And here in the U.S., we're all about our social lives.

I set myself a goal.  I was going to try to nurse for six months.

Six months came and went, and the time came to reassess my goals.  The pediatric recommendation is at least one year, and the first six months had been HARD.  So, I wasn't just going to give up.  If getting nursing "well established" had taken me four months, a two month return just seemed a little weak.  So my new goal was set- I wanted to nurse until my children self weaned.  Or until I decided they were "too old" to keep going.

According to my reading, most babies self wean between eight and twenty four months.  That's a big window, and I always assumed that I would be holding out until the farther end of it.

Last week, my girls weaned.  In one day.  Before their morning nap, they nursed like champs.  When it came time for their afternoon nap. DD wouldn't have anything to do with it.  She fussed and cried until I stopped trying to nurse her, and then she went right to sleep.  SI decided that if it wasn't good enough to DD, it wasn't good enough for her either.  I kept at it another two days, trying and trying to get the girls to latch on and have themselves a meal.

Nothing.  They were done.

I know I should have felt proud of myself.   I had accomplished a fairly heady goal- I had nursed twins until they self weaned.  That's not exactly easy.  I had nursed two babies for just shy of ten months.  Damned close to a year.

That's a lot of breastfeedings.

Still, I didn't feel proud.  I didn't feel accomplished.  I felt rejected.  When DD refused to latch on and get happy and cozy with me, I felt so sad I nearly burst into tears.  It wasn't those nursing hormones (which are all touchy-feely and remarkably addictive), it wasn't that I knew she was giving up a perfect food source- a FREE food source to boot.  She was giving up ME.  She was done with Mommy.

That SI was so willing to go along with DD and be done with Mommy as well... that was just icing on the abandonment cake.  I was miserable.  I was old news.

It took a few days to get my head straight.  First of all, they eat SO MUCH solid food that I doubt it's really hurting them at all to stop nursing.  Secondly, nursing had become much more a sedative than a nutritive activity.  Last of all, weaning meant all sorts of good things for me.  I could return to taking medications I had given up, and therefore improve my quality of life somewhat.  I could start planning days not around their eating/napping schedule, but around my own needs.

I remembered my resolution- I could find other ways to have special me/baby time.  It's much harder now to have special time with both girls at once, but that doesn't mean we can't feel snuggly and happy and close one at a time.  Now I sing the girls to sleep, rocking them and giving them kisses.  I take advantage more of times when one girl is asleep to spend a little more time with whoever is awake.

I'm back on a birth control that doesn't make me crazy.  I'm back to taking painkillers for my migraines that can do me any good.  I can use dandruff shampoo and acne cream.  I'm taking whole afternoons at the gym.  These are things that I couldn't do while I was nursing.

So weaning was easy.  Weaning involved me doing absolutely nothing, and letting the girls do exactly what they wanted.  They won't even take a bottle anymore- if it's not coming from a cup, it's not good enough.  I didn't even have any engorgement issues.

So by just about any reasonable standard, weaning these children was a breeze.  There were no tantrums, there was no pain, there were no repercussions.  For the girls.  I, on the other hand, found myself completely wrong footed and confused.

It was a pain in the ass to get good at nursing.  It took four long months of pain and tears and sleeplessness and angst.  And now it's over.  If I ever have another baby it won't just be picking up where I left off, it will be starting all over again.  It was hard, and it was worth it, but the idea that it's just... over?  That it's going to be instantly forgotten by two of the three most important people in my life?

I am profoundly saddened, even as each day gives me more perspective and pride.  I've done something that one year ago I was terrified would be impossible.  Something that during the first month of their lives occasionally seemed like torture.

It's a chapter in my life, in the story of my motherhood, that is over.  Every ending is a little death, a little sadness.  But every step forward for my girls' development, for their becoming children and adults and human beings... each change is a rebirth, them becoming who they are.

I am proud of myself, and I am proud of them.  But I already long for their early days, when they were so small and helpless, and they needed me.  They need me still, but less.  And one day I'll wake up, and they won't seem to need me at all.


  1. that may be the fact Lea, but it's a long way off. Let's be honest here... by the time it happens you might want it. <3

  2. boo hoo and yeah! I am both looking forward to and dreading that day!

  3. My aunt-in-law warned me that weaning would be emotionally hard. Having him come out of my tummy, so I no longer looked like a padded tank, was hard.
    But my baby needed to be born, needed to learn to crawl. I'm proud that my baby is growing; it's evidence that you've been a good mother.

  4. You nursed twins until they self weaned.
    It just hit me how impressive that it.

  5. "And one day I'll wake up, and they won't seem to need me at all."


  6. How honest and beautiful! I dread the day that my son self weans because I will probably cry, but you made me see that yes, I can survive. He'll just need me a little differently. Thank you so much for sharing. :)



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