Another good-bye

Recently I told you about saying good-bye to a part of me.  It was a bittersweet parting with my uterus.  But this phase has also caused an ending to another part of my life: breastfeeding.  I’ve talked about my breastfeeding journey in my blog a few times, including how I had to pump exclusively for my daughter.  It wasn’t ideal, but it worked.  It left me with a slew of emotions. I carried some baggage with me into my breastfeeding relationship with my son.  However, he took to nursing from the very beginning.  He was a trooper and we had a great nursing relationship from the very start of it.

When I was preparing for my surgery, I talked with both my gynecologist and my son’s pediatrician about how my milk supply could be affected.  I called the lactation consultant at the hospital.  Nobody thought my milk supply would suffer.  We were going to be almost 8 months into our nursing relationship when I had my surgery.  I had some milk stockpiled in the freezer for when I would be on strong pain medication.  They all agreed it would be fine and I was prepared.  Our pediatrician gave us a can of sensitive stomach formula just in case I needed to do some supplementing.

And then I had my surgery.  I had some issues with excessive bleeding.  It wasn’t life threatening, but it weakened my body even more.  Quite simply I just couldn’t produce milk.  I went about a week and got very little milk.  I told myself I’d be OK if my milk supply didn’t come back. I just didn’t feel that was true in my heart.  But, I also was in such a rough place physically that there was only such much I could do.  We decided to try some formula to see if Drake would even drink the formula.  My mom was helping us the day of the first formula bottle.  I had her give it to him.  I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

I know.  That sounds very dramatic.  I have long said that I am not anti-formula.  Until this point, both of my kids had had formula. My daughter needed some to supplement with in the beginning while I used the pump to create a milk supply.  My son had formula in his first hour of life in the NICU and a few ounces later on while my milk was coming in.  I’m a big fan of babies being fed.  I’m thankful that formula exists to give me and other moms something to feed our babies.

But, breastfeeding is emotional for me.  I have known from the beginning that one day my breastfeeding relationship with my son would end.  My goal was to nurse him for 12 months.  I wasn’t looking for a longer term nursing relationship.  But, I wanted our nursing relationship to end on our terms when he was ready.  These are the things I was thinking of when my mom gave him that bottle of formula.

He took it.  We figured out a few things he liked and some he didn’t, but he didn’t seem to mind whether he was nursing, drinking breast milk from a bottle or drinking formula from a bottle.  I was relieved that if the work I was doing to rebuild my supply didn’t work then he would take formula.

Within a couple of weeks, my milk supply seemed to have returned and I was thrilled.  I figured we’d just get right back on track with where we were and it would stay that way.  But it didn’t.  My milk supply started dropping again.  And I got sick with a virus.  And I was still flaring horribly with my IC and I still hadn’t recovered fully from my surgery.  I knew I was at my limit.  I knew there were ways to rebuild my milk supply involving extra feedings and pumping and supplements and prescriptions.  And I knew that I didn’t have it in me physically to handle any of that.  I also knew my bladder wasn’t settling down and I was going to have to restart my medication for it in order to function.  What I need to take for my bladder doesn’t work well with nursing.  So, we slowly began our weaning process.

My little dude eating his first bites of a grilled cheese sandwich earlier this week. He is really interested in solid food and hasn't minded at all making the switch to formula. It's like he knew what was best for his mama.

A couple of weeks ago, I nursed my son for the final time.  I expected I’d cry.  It seemed like I should.  But I didn’t.  I knew that after a couple of weeks of combined nursing and supplementing with formula that he was doing fine and I was doing what was best for both of us.  My son needs me more than he needs my breast milk.  He needs a mom who can lift him and not wince in pain.  He needs a mom who had a chance to rest and heal from surgery and not be too exhausted and drained to move.  He needs a mom who can get up and down off the floor and move around without feeling bladder pain.  My daughter needs me just as much in different ways.  My husband needs a wife who is a partner not someone to constantly take care of.  I knew I was making the best decision for our family.

I had my husband take a couple of discreet photos to commemorate the last nursing session, just as he took a photo of me giving our daughter her last bottle of breast milk just past her first birthday.  When it was over, my son squirmed out of my arms and crawled around playing on his bedroom floor.  He didn’t understand the momentous occasion we’d just shared and that’s OK.  He has continued to get my milk as I’ve slowly weaned with my pump until last weekend when I pumped for the final time.

It’s another end of an era around here.  I’m sad to see this phase come to an end, but I’m also very much looking forward to the future.  I won’t nurse another baby at my breast, but I will roll around on the floor and play with my children.  I have a bit more freedom now in some ways of being able to not worry if I’m not physically present for all feedings.  I also have less freedom in some ways.  I’m back to having to make sure I keep bottle parts washed and have a bottle and formula with me when we’re going to be gone for long.  Previously I didn’t worry too much about food because I knew I could always find a quiet spot or go to the car and nurse Drake.  It’s just different.  If he wakes up in the middle of the night, I have to be up longer and make him wait for me to make a bottle when that wasn’t an issue before.  But, conversely, I can also let my husband take some middle of the night feedings when they arise.  There are pros and cons.

I can tell you that I forgot how much I enjoy giving a baby a bottle.  Before this, Drake had his fair share of bottles but usually only had them from grandparents or my husband.  Now I’ve given him lots of bottles, just like I did his big sister.  I love being able to look into his eyes as he eats.  We still snuggle close.  His fingers still reach out for mine and for anything he can grab onto.  I love the gulpy noises he makes when he is hungry and attacks the bottle.  It’s the same as he did with nursing.  Those things are still there.  We are still bonded and bonding.  And, most importantly, he’s getting what he needs.

I don’t feel as emotional as I did that day he had his first bottle of formula.  I’ve gotten used to the idea.  I’ve tried to shift my way of thinking.  Instead of thinking about how I didn’t make it the full 12 months with nursing, I’m working to celebrate that I gave my son breast milk for 9-1/2 months.  I did a good thing for him in giving him my milk.  And I did a good thing for him in weaning.  I’ve since started on my bladder medicine again and am able to actually live my life somewhere besides the couch.  I’m able to play with him more.  I’m able to do things with my daughter.  I’m able to get out of the house with my whole family.  It’s better.

I’m sad to see this relationship come to an end, but it’s OK.  I’m going to be OK.  My son is going to be OK.  We are moving ever forward.

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