Monday night I barely slept at all. I slept maybe an hour or two as it was starting to get light and then woke up in tears, so sore that I could barely lift OZL from the co-sleeper to nurse him. Totally exhausted, in a huge amount of pain, and crying, I finally made the decision that I've been trying to avoid for the past six weeks: it's time.
It's time to stop breastfeeding so that I can go back on my meds and get my RA under control. It's time to start feeling better so I can take care of my son.
It really wasn't an easy thing to admit. I've been fighting this decision tooth and nail for the past few weeks as I have been feeling worse and worse. OZL takes a bottle happily - even from me when my boobies are right there - so I don't think he will have any difficulty weaning. He's hungry, so as long as he gets fed he's perfectly happy! But I know that I will have difficulty weaning him. I know that it is going to be not only physically painful, but also mentally and emotionally painful for me.
On the advice of Amalah (and a bunch of the comments on this post) I am going to try to wean a bit more slowly. Apparently stopping cold turkey isn't the greatest, both because it hurts your boobs the most and because your hormones help you go a bit crazy (one of the comments uses the description "hot mess" to describe her emotional state after weaning cold turkey. If possible, I'd like to avoid being a hot mess.)
On the other hand, now that I have finally made this extremely difficult decision, I really do need to just get the weaning done. If I draw it out too long I know I will have too many opportunities to change my mind, to go "just a little bit longer," to convince myself that the detriment to my own body is for some reason worth it, to be my own stubborn self (how do you think I got those fancy law/graduate degrees after getting diagnosed with RA in the middle of my dual degree program?) But I already know that I can't be my own stubborn self in this situation, because it's not just about me anymore. I can't dig myself into a hole that I'll later have trouble getting out of because I then I won't be able to be a good mom to my son. So: it's time. It's time to find a middle ground and wean OZL slowly enough that it won't be too painful, but quickly enough that I don't second guess myself for weeks and weeks.
We've already started skipping nursing sessions and substituting them with a bottle. And I'm not going to lie - it has been very painful for me; for my over-full boobs, but mostly for my heart. It just isn't what I want. At all. I know it's the right decision and I know it's really for the best, but I just really, really wish it didn't have to be this way. When I first got diagnosed with RA, I feel like I had to go through a grieving process over the things I had lost - my active lifestyle, my career aspirations, the ability to hop out of bed in the morning feeling great. It took a long, long while to accept that all of those things were gone. Or, at least, that I would need to fight through a lot of pain to keep them. Eventually I reached a point where I feel like I accepted my new reality, embraced my life with RA, and it didn't hurt quite so much to think about how RA had forced me to change my life. Or, at least, I thought I had accepted my new reality with RA. But now, after OZL's birth, I am realizing that there are pieces of motherhood that will also be affected by my RA. There are parenting decisions, like whether or not to breastfeed, that I really won't have any choice about because of my health. So I feel like I have to start that grieving process over again, grieving for some things that I never actually had. I feel really sad about the impact RA is having on my life in a way that I haven't felt in a long time. Years, maybe.
But, from this point we have to go forward, right? I have to push forward to feel better, move on, and experience all the other wonderful parts of motherhood that I know are on the way. So I'm working on it. The first thing I did after I made the decision (after, obviously, crying about it for a while) was to contact our "mommy/daddy friends" - two couples that we know that have babies - and invite them over for dinner. I knew that I would need help and support and love and a reason to laugh on this horrible day. They did not disappoint. We had a pot luck dinner, they were super understanding and supportive of my decision, and I laughed harder than I have in a long time (even though I cried when I fed OZL his bedtime bottle.) I'm so, so, so grateful to have such amazing and supportive friends. And I'm also glad that I told them about my decision right away, so that they can help hold me accountable and encourage me to keep going with the weaning when I feel like changing my mind.
I also bought some formula, though it took me two tries to do it. The first time I stood in the formula aisle, got overwhelmed and slightly disgusted with the whole thing, and left without buying anything (even though I already knew what brand I wanted to try first. It was right there on the shelf. But I just couldn't seem to pick it up). This morning I successfully bought the formula (though I totally cried in the car afterwards). But I stubbornly have not given OZL any formula yet - and I don't plan to until after his three month birthday tomorrow. I like being able to say that he was exclusively breastfeed for the first three months. I know in reality a day or two doesn't make any difference whatsoever, and that formula is perfectly healthy and fine, but somehow it makes a difference in my head so I'm sticking with it.
For now OZL's bottle feedings are coming out of the stash that I've been diligently building up in the freezer like Scrooge McDuck (the picture on this post!) I actually have more than three gallons of breastmilk in my freezer - approximately 70 more feedings where OZL will get the benefits of breastmilk. Maybe even more than that, since I think we will mix formula and breastmilk to get him adjusted to the new taste before we run out of breastmilk.
I know I've done absolutely everything I can to maintain our breastfeeding relationship as long as possible and to provide my son with the benefits of as much breastmilk as possible. I know I've done a good job. And now it's time to move forward. So here we go.
I love you and your heart for your family, your health, and your sweet sweet boy (I know he's family, but he's worth mentioning twice!). Three months is an amazing accomplishment. I hope that this time of transition will be quick enough, whatever that means. Cry! We are here! You are loved! And, as someone else so astutely said, you're so much more to your son than a food source. Here's hoping you're feeling less creaky soon, in time to learn to crawl with him on the floor. :)
Love you so!
3 months is great. It was very tough for me as well. I was lucky enough to make it to five. However after I got my little girl to formula and got on meds I was able to do all of the other mommy stuff that I was missing. It is so much fun to dress up a little baby but every diaper change and outfit change was painful. I could go for walks. Go to Target and not count my steps to the baby section. Wiggle & Jiggle & Giggle more. Breastfeeding is only one part of being a mommy.. I mixed my frozen breast milk with formula for over a month and felt great about that. My little one just had her 1st birthday and she is happy and healthy and I am so happy I can enjoy all of her new mobility and be thankful for mine! Once you get there you will be proud of how long you made it & happy to move to the more mobile part of mommyhood!
I have so much I want to say, Mariah. But I sort of know that none of it will be golden... or really help in any way.
As a mommy, I can so relate to the struggles you have had - and the desire to continue nursing as long as possible. As a first time mom, I made it to five months exclusively breast with Caitlin... and continued with formula supplement for two more months. It was about the same with my middle son. But with my youngest - I just was not the prodgious milk machine I had once been. Just getting older I guess. It was a struggle from the very beginning.... And after three months of fenugreek, accupuncture, and breastfeeding books and every safe alternative support - I just had to face the fact that I could not keep up with my little guy's needs. I do remember realizing I just needed to enjoy the moments... and be glad for the successes. And even though I was sad, there was a part that was relieved that every day would not be such a struggle. So, reading what you have endured, I can only be amazed at all you have accomplished!!!! And my heart aches for your aches... but I'm filled with happiness that you made it so far (And I am super impressed with your milk stockpile!!!)
Now... As a mom of a child with arthritis, I just have to thank you. Not sure if you saw my last post, but I linked to your blog..... because a good friend of mine recently shared the story that she was not able to have children because of her RA. She was diagnosed at 26 (about a deacde ago, I think) - and she was not able to endure being off of her meds long enough to be a biological mom. Naturally - it's a fear struggled with regularly by parents of kids with JA...
When I do manage to have the courage to think of whether or not Caitlin might ever have kids, I think of you Mariah. Because you have done it with such courage and grace... and resilience and humor. You give me such hope and I am learning from everything you write. I know you have mentioned many times how frustrating it has been to go through this journey without a lot of direction or support - but you are chartering the way for my kid :)
I can't wait to meet you, AZL and OZL at the CCC finish line!!!! Until then, know that I am a big fan of you... and very grateful for the hope, happiness and promise your story provides.
“It's time to stop breastfeeding so that I can go back on my meds and get my RA under control.” Those words bought tears to my eyes. I know the impact of those words because I, too, had to choose between breastfeeding and taking RA meds. I also remember thinking as you have that it was time to feel better so that I could take care of my son. RA will always have an impact on your life and your family’s. All you can do is the best that you can. I take said this many times and I will say it again. Motherhood teaches you that you are stronger than you ever thought possible and nothing, not even RA can get in the way of that. Making decisions about your mothering, no matter how hard, proves how important your role in your son’s life is. Okay so you cannot give 110% everyday but you are giving more than most. As far as grieving, I know. Like you, there is a lot I have lost and a lot I can no longer have because of RA. For example, I wanted another child, perhaps a daughter, but it didn’t happen because of RA and sometimes, I am sad about that but I am also grateful that God blessed me with my boys. Embrace today because tomorrow is not promised. You have so many people who care about you and in the grand scheme of things - that is really all that matters. You should be very proud of yourself for all you have accomplished thus far despite RA, and all you have accomplished thus far in your motherhood journey. -Lana
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