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.