Crying Over Milk, Part 2

Nikon photos 022Hi Everyone,

Yes, it’s been 2 months since I’ve written anything.  I can’t believe it!  The last time I wrote I mentioned I was just starting to wean little Ela.  I was certainly having mixed feelings about it, but I decided after she turned one in March that it was time.  Over the last few months I’ve been dropping feedings, going gradually, to see how we would do.  We were down to one last evening feed before bedtime, probably my favorite time to feed her b/c she is so tired and relaxed and peaceful. All seemed fine.

And then it wasn’t.  And it hasn’t been.

About four weeks ago I developed a clogged milk duct. A painful, sore to the max, awful lumpy clogged duct.  I was exhausted and stressed out, but this was a new kind of exhaustion.  Not to mention I couldn’t sleep b/c every time I was on my side it killed.  I knew this was a possible side-effect of weaning, but I’m not sure I was really expecting it (at least not that kind of pain). I knew dropping that last feeding at night had to be done, if only to set my body and boob back to some sort of normal.

Boy was I mistaken.  I finally got up the courage to stop nursing Ela and since then nothing has been “normal.”

Yes, the infection cleared up. But It’s been a horror of hormones, emotions, fatigue and everything else since then. When I say horror, that is exactly how it feels. I feel like I am grieving something, which sounds ridiculous, but I have feelings of grief that remind me of when I lost my mom ten years ago. I cry at EVERYTHING. I cry at bottles, at heating up milk that comes from a carton out of the refrigerator and not me (mind you, I’d been giving Ela a bottle in the daytime so it’s not like we went cold turkey or anything).  I cry at songs, TV commercials and in the shower. I am absolutely bereft and never in a million years did I expect to feel this way.

Physically it has been no picnic either.  I am exhausted, like first-trimester exhausted. I get chills at night where my teeth chatter, and no number of fluffy blankets can make it stop. I’ve had heart palpitations, weird food aversions, loss of appetite and just feel sort of blah in general.

I scoured my baby books for any information on weaning side effects. Understandably, there is a lot of literature on the effects it has on a baby, but I was actually surprised at the dearth of info out there for how it affects a woman’s body.  An internet search did lead me to lots of blog posts and some journal articles about this and thank God, because I was beginning to think I was crazy!

Why doesn’t anyone talk about this?! Weaning is HARD! I am finding there are TONS of women out there that have experienced what I’ve been feeling…heavy, low feelings, physical aches and pains, a basic withdrawal of some sort that is hard to just put into words.

I’ve been struggling with this so much, but I think I’m starting to piece things together.  It was important to write this blog post today because I truly do think there is not enough out there for women who are weaning and experiencing these side effects.  For me, I definitely think there is a physical component at work.  When you nurse, all those good endorphins and oxytocin are released into your bloodstream, basically giving you a high whenever you feed.  After a year, my body must be used to that natural pick-me-up.  It will take time for my body to go back to it’s pre-nursing, pre-pregnant chemistry (let’s hope this happens fast b/c this sucks. Er, well, it doesn’t suck, that’s the problem, ha. ).

Mentally, it’s more challenging I think.  Ela is our last baby.  She is the last baby I will ever nurse.  She is the last baby who I can cradle in my arms, who will play with my gold necklace and pull my hair when she snuggles next to me and nurses.  I will never give that kind of nourishment to a living creature again.  It’s the end, simply put, of that charming baby phase.  No one even calls her a baby anymore.  She’s a toddler.  Gasp!

For days I grappled with whether I was doing the right thing.  I even researched ways to go back to nursing (which apparently you can.  It’s called re-lactation).  But deep down I know I will have to wean someday.  I will have to confront these feelings of sadness, of loss.  I know this all might sound ridiculous.  Loss of what? Your baby is fine! She is. But I’m perhaps not.  Not yet anyway.  I think it’s not something that is not often discussed, but grief can come in so many forms, so many shades.  Particularly after losing your mom, or parent, or a loved one, any other kind of loss feels so amplified.  It’s like your mind doesn’t know how to keep things in perspective and it goes into extreme grieving mode…the memory of past grief sends your brain into a tizzy.

So how’s Ela been with all this? Just FINE. More than fine.  She eats, and eats and eats some more.  She’s a tiny little thing who just loves food, loves to be fed, loves to laugh and loves to smear yogurt all over her face (and mine).  I actually tried to nurse her a couple days ago to see what would happen.  She looked confused and then laughed at me.  Something she’d always wanted and within a matter of days she’s moved on.

But that’s a good thing.  It’s reassuring to know she’s ok and not dwelling.  She’s growing and moving onto the next phase of her life.  Walking. Talking. Growing some more teeth (she still only has two!).

I woke up this morning feeling a little better.  I am getting there in small baby steps and am excited I actually had the drive to write.  And some time to cook up some yummy food for her and Kirina.  Let’s hope for brighter days. 🙂

From Ela’s (yogurt-smeared) highchair to your little one’s, bon appetit!

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