Archive for January, 2010

Seven and a half months

January 3, 2010

Dear Maggie:

I’m writing you this letter partly for you and partly for me.

Last Monday, I hit the wall on pumping.  It just wasn’t working anymore.  The pump was literally wearing out; I felt guilty over zoning out over the laptop for at least 30 minutes every 3 hours; I was tired of having to time our outings to the minute in order to make it home in time to pump again.  I was tired of the frantic feel of our days – always conscious of the clock.

So, I decided to stop pumping and to stop feeding you bottles, so that you would HAVE to nurse.

Mind you, this is not something I decided to do lightly.  In fact, I was freaking terrified of making this decision.  I spent the first four months of your life worried about how little you were and how slowly you were gaining weight; I was scared that you might start losing weight again if forced to nurse.  For whatever reason, you have thrived since getting bottles and climbed back up the growth charts, and I didn’t want to lose that progress.

I was terrified of engaging in a battle of wills with you.  I hate that term, “battle of wills” — I remember hearing it so often from my Mom in reference to our constant sparring.  She would tell me, “You’re hard headed, just like me,” and use that concept to justify trying to break my will.  The result of that attitude is that, to this day, Mom cannot say that something’s black without me insisting that it’s white.  I am hard-hearted now, not hard-headed.  I don’t want to hear anything she has to say, because I don’t believe in her good intentions.  This is NEVER what I wanted for you and me.  I love that you are spirited.  I never want to try to “break” you, like one would break a horse.

But after talking to your Aunt Abbey, I realized that I could approach it a different way.  I would be your guide, and gently work with you to come down the path with me.  I wouldn’t try to force you into anything; I would, with love and tenderness, help you to return to the breast.  I wouldn’t let anger or frustration factor in to my actions.

So, on Monday, I made the leap.  And oh!  It was SO HARD.  You sobbed in my arms for hours, inconsolable without your bottle and your binkie.  I felt like I was with someone in detox, and I ached for you.  I stripped from the waist up, and stripped you down to your diaper, and spent hours nestled with you in the rocking chair and in the bed, our skin together.  I offered my breast all the time.  I let the laundry, the groceries, the housework slide — being with you, loving you, and working with you were paramount.  I told you all the time how proud I was of you for working with me, and how hard I knew it was for you to make the change.  Slowly, my approach started to work — you began to nurse again (protesting all the way, but you nursed).  And sure, you didn’t nurse much during the day, but you made up for it at night (or so I thought).  And even though it meant me waking up to feed you every 90 minutes or 2 hours overnight, I was willing to do that just so you could keep getting my milk.

I felt SO.  GOOD.  for those few days when nursing worked!  Because, see?  I could do it!  I could make a decision that required you to change your behavior, and I could do it without force, without anger, without breaking you.  I had WON at motherhood!  I was so proud!

But then, you started backsliding.  Hours and hours would go by where you would refuse to nurse, and hours would go by without a wet diaper.  My anxiety increased.  When I would hold you near my breast, you would scream and try to squirm away.   You cried with hunger, but still refused to nurse.  I cried with sorrow — WHY did you not want to nurse, supposedly the most natural thing in the world for you?  Why did you hate nursing so much?

Finally, last night, I snapped.  You hadn’t nursed well all day.  And despite my belief that you were making up for your lack of daytime nursing by nursing overnight, you had visibly started to lose weight.  When I tried to nurse you at bedtime (one of the few times that you actually ate well), you refused.  And so, I walked downstairs, my breasts still full, and cried.

It wasn’t working.  It wasn’t working, and all that pride and joy I felt in making nursing work again?  Yeah.  It felt like so much hubris, so much false rejoicing.  My heart broke.

Maggie, I have worked SO HARD to nurse you.  When you went on strike at 3 1/2 months old, I kept confidence that you would come back someday.  I pumped every 3 hours to keep my supply up; I woke up at midnight and 3 a.m. to pump, just to have enough for you; I took fenugreek and drank gallons of Mother’s Milk tea and tried every trick in the book to increase supply; I attended La Leche League faithfully, hoping that one day, someone would have an AHA! moment and tell me what I needed to do for you to nurse again.  I tried so very, very hard.  So it breaks my heart – more than you will ever know – to realize that my experiment has failed, and that I won’t be nursing you anymore.

I know that if you ever read this, you’ll probably wonder what the big fat deal is.  You may not ever understand, unless and until you have a baby yourself.  But I wanted you to know exactly what I have done for you because I love you so incredibly, awesomely much.

You have my heart, always, even when you break it.