Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Fifteen Months, Eight Days

Fifteen months, eight days marks the ending of my journey breastfeeding my firstborn baby. When Evalyn was born, it was my goal to breastfeed her for 12 months. When we got to her birthday, we were still going strong and neither of us was showing any desire to stop. So, we kept on keeping on. I started to think that it would be okay if we went to 18 months. Maybe even 2 years.

Then we decided to try to have another baby. And we succeeded. When I found out I was pregnant, I decided it was time to start weaning Evalyn. I knew I didn’t want to tandem nurse, although I know a number of women who do, and love it. I wanted to be sure to give Evalyn enough time to adjust to not being nursed before the baby arrived, to cut back on potential issues of regression, jealousy and so on. And, as I alluded to in my post on mama guilt, this decision was difficult. And caused me a lot of mama guilt.

I’m not sure why I felt so guilty. I know there was no reason to. I nursed her well past the initial goal I had set for us. I gave her what I felt was best for her for over a year of her life. But still, I had so many days where I felt like weaning was a selfish decision. Plus, I absolutely loved nursing that sweet girl, which meant the decision wasn’t just about taking something away from her. It was taking something away from me, too.

At the time we began weaning, Evalyn was nursing four times per day on a normal day. I started by gradually cutting out the two daytime feeds. When she woke from her naps, she would normally nurse, but instead I offered her a cup of milk. If she refused the cup and asked to nurse, I nursed her. For both day time feedings, however, it only took 3-5 days until she stopped asking. We then spent the next few months nursing right away in the morning and just before bed. It was amazing to me how quickly she completely forgot about nursing during the day, but still loved to at those two times. And, let me tell you, those two sessions were the hardest to fathom giving up. They were our still, quiet, peaceful moments together. Those moments don’t happen much with a busy toddler.

I told myself that I would start by cutting out the morning session first, at the beginning of December. It took me until about December 10th to actually take the leap and do it. When I did, it was the same, I offered her a cup instead of nursing and it only took two mornings until she stopped asking me to nurse when she got up.

The next few weeks, we enjoyed bedtime nursing. I knew by this point she wasn’t getting much milk from me but we were both still enjoying the few moments of quiet connectedness that we shared at the end of each day. Then, a few nights after we got home from our holidays, we were going through the bedtime routine, and it just happened. She had a bath. I put her PJs on. We sat down to read the bible. We prayed. I stood up to turn out the light. But, she didn’t ask for milk. And so I didn’t offer. I walked to her crib. Rocked her. Sang a few songs and laid her down as usual. Not a peep.

I came out of her room and immediately broke down and started to bawl. Honestly, I was doing the ugly face cry for about two hours. And I ate a lot of ice cream. This was the only time I hadn’t planned to cut out a session and it just happened on its own. I told Evan I felt like I hadn’t cherished the night before enough because I didn’t realize it would be my last. I wasn’t entirely sure why I was so emotional about it. It was my choice to wean and I had set January as my goal to be completely done. Yet, still, the ending of this journey was a difficult one to face.

Despite the fact we made it 15 months, despite the fact I will get to nurse another baby in a few months, despite the fact weaning was easy and she handled it like champ – the hurt was still there while I sat there and realized that I would never again nurse this child. She is growing up. It is natural. It is normal. It is part of life. But that doesn’t mean it has to be easy or without emotion. I felt like I needed to mourn the ending of this era. Yet, after my few hours of ugly crying, I felt like it was okay. I was okay with being done. I was ready to be done. The tears were behind me (until I sat down to write this post, of course).

I think the biggest difficulty lies in getting past the irrational thinking that because I’m done nursing, she no longer specifically needs me. I know how untrue this is. But after going through so many months of nursing, the only thing that was shared only between her and I, it’s sometimes hard to remember that the other ways I care for her are just as important, as well. She does still need me. She does still want me.

When she woke up that next morning, Evan got her from her crib and she immediately said “Mama”. He brought her into our room where I was still laying in bed. She saw me, laughed, clapped her hands and reached for me. When he handed her to me, she laid down on me, hugged me, kissed me and cuddled for (what felt like) longer than she ever had before. And that moment brought a lot of healing to my heart.

21 comments:

Crystal Seed said...

Congrats on making it that long! I tried to with Chloe, but we just couldn't do it. She wasn't interested, and the more uninterested she was, the more uninterested I was getting...and being at home the first few weeks with a screaming newborn, it's just easier to shove a bottle in their mouth. As bad as that sounds. I did pump soley for 6 months though. So no matter what she did get the breast milk for about 8 or so months with all that we had frozen. So that really made me feel good that I was doing something good for her. If we do ever have another baby though, I'm going to try again and give it a real honest effort though...But I commend you for 15 months!! That's awesome!

Laura said...

I completely understand. That special time just between Mama and Baby, the one thing that only you can provide. It's SO special. You should be so proud of yourself for nursing for over 15 months! That's amazing! I'm so glad your sweet little girl was able to wean easily for you. My daughter is also 15 months old... they grow up way too fast!

~Laura

Katie @ Loves of Life said...

Totally sobbed. You did so good. You are such a good momma and I'm thankful for you in my life during this time for us. It's hard but it's so weird how fast it transitions and becomes the past. Xoxo

Lindsey said...

You are amazing mama!! That is unconditional love at it's finest! I totally get what you mean by wanting to remember your "last" time and E and this little baby are so blessed that YOU are their mama! Xo

Rachel said...

Gah! This is the second time this week you've made me cry...and I don't even have preggo lady emotions to blame it on! Eva will always need you. I'm grown and I still need my Momma.

Gina said...

This was an amazing post. As you know full-well, I am teetering between whether or not to wean. I feel so much guilt about the fact that I really want to even though G is clearly not ready. You did so well with nursing, weaning, and dealing with it all. Love you!

Jillian said...

Okay I'm totally crying because I know I will be going through this soon with A. Since Em weaned herself it was hard but I know this will be harder:( and I want another but my hubs doesn't so this could be my last baby to nurse. That makes me cry all over again:( thank u so Mich for this post!

Jillian said...

*much

Gaby said...

oh man do i understand this post. and i did the biggest ugliest cry ever the first night no breasfeeding was involved. my husband thought i was crazy. but its something about not having that moment before bed.

lessonsinlifeandlight said...

Oh, this made me all teary. I'm nowhere near being done nursing Brynn, but I know that last day of our nursing relationship is out there...it WILL happen and it makes me so sad, especially because we're not sure we want more than one child. But I want to tell you how amazing you are for going as long as you did. I read that something like only 14% of new moms are still nursing at 3 months. You, my friend, kicked that statistic's a$$! And more importantly, you did something truly amazing for your daughter. You should be so proud.

Ashley @ Gratitude and Latitude said...

Congrats on making it so far, you are such a good mama. I so enjoy reading these stories, thanks for sharing :)

Erin said...

I sooooo wish I could have made it that long with Katherine! You did such an amazing job! I, too, didn't know my last time would be my last - and I know I enjoyed it so much because I wasn't sitting there the whole time thinking how sad it was...that was definitely a nice transition from a God who knew I needed His mercy :)

Pamela M said...

This post madey heart burst, and I don't even have a babe of my own yet. What a good Momma you are!!

Jackie said...

Lots of tears.....I totally understand.

Brittany Ann said...

I'm bawling! Because I know I'll feel just this way.

But the good news is, it was so peaceful for E. Which shows that she was ready. So you can rest in that.

And you did kick butt! I hope other mothers could see how beautiful the BF-ing relationship is through your post. It really is so much about the emotional attachment between you and your child and your emotional ability to meet their needs.

Good work, mama! You are so amazing and strong!

erin - mutterings of eringirl said...

can we hug now?

Erin said...

I wish I could say that I understand...but I only sort of understand. I never had a nursing relationship with my girls. My relationship was with a hospital grade breast pump for almost 7 months. Still, I felt guilt when I had to stop, and I do mourn the loss of a non-existent nursing relationship.

Kudos to you for making it this far!

Erica said...

Such a sweet and sad post. So glad you got those cuddles though, it was her way of saying she's just fine and still loves you TONS!

I only made it six months with Kirsten, and then quit unexpectedly, so I also never got that "last" moment. I can't imagine how much stronger and better the bond would have gotten if we'd made it as long as you and Eva.

Ashley said...

Beautiful post. All the feelings you shared are exactly how I felt. I was afraid he would no longer want or need me. But thank goodness that's not even close to being the truth! :) Congrats on making it so long!!

Lucky in Love said...

I've been waiting to get to the computer to comment on this post. Isn't it so wonderful how long you were able to do this with her? Remember when we were pregnant and just talking about it? Ha! We had no idea how hard it would be, huh? But so rewarding too.

We are in the same boat...currently cutting out sessions just like you did actually. We're down to just morning and evening now and I just cannot imagine cutting those out. Our girls are getting so big and it makes my mama heart so happy and yet so sad at the same time.

I'm sad about stopping the one thing that only I can give her. It's our little bond..and calms her when she's upset. But we're learning to do other things for her and I know it's time. I don't think she even notices not doing it during the day. Which also makes me sad. Ha! I can't win.

I'm glad your transition has been a smooth one and I hope you have as much success with your new little bundle than you did with Eva!

Perfectly Imperfect said...

Okay I know this is an older post but I'm just catching up. I just sobbed through this. It's crazy how fast these transitions happen. And while I didn't go through anything like this, I can imagine how hard it must have been. You're such a good Mom.