Monday, May 9, 2011

The Last Supper

(Disclaimer: So far, a lot of my posts have been about the juxtaposition of a law career and motherhood.  This one is pure, raw motherhood.  So to all the male, childless attorneys out there reading, my apologies in advance if this post just isn't your thing.) 

After 6 and a half months, my son, Casey, is officially weaned.  We have brought out the bottles, and a new era begins.  I am heartbroken.

I never thought I would be the type who would fall in love with breastfeeding.  I've always been a new age hippy wannabe, but I never quite get there.  When I was pregnant, I took a natural birthing class in the hopes of giving birth drug free.  I didn't labor long before I begged (okay, screamed)  for an epidural.  I will only buy organic fruits and vegetables, and I make my own baby food, yet I take my son to McDonalds once a week.  I go on yoga and meditation kicks, but I am probably one of the more high strung people you will meet.

So when it came to breastfeeding, before Braden (my first son) was born I had a similar half hearted dedication.  My goal was to make it to six weeks.  I felt good about this target, as it meant Braden would get all the antibodies and benefits early on, and then it wouldn't be too long before my husband could share in the feeding and nighttime duties.  And anyway, I have low bone density, so I was advised by my doctor to only breastfeed for six months max.  I purchased all the related breastfeeding gear - ointments, pads, pump - but expected to shelf it in relatively short order after my son was born.

And then Braden came.  The labor was long, but otherwise uncomplicated, and the first time I looked at him was the most amazing moment of my life.  It was such an out of body experience - this baby came out of me?!?!?  A real life person?  My husband and I both cried.  And within moments, he was wrapped in a blanket, on my chest, and breastfeeding.  The moment had been so overwhelming that I almost didn't notice I was feeding him.  It was just so natural - just the way it was supposed to be.  Braden was not inside me anymore, but we were still so intertwined and connected.  From that moment, I was hooked.

Of course, in the beginning breastfeeding wasn't all smiles and rainbows.  The first week or so involved a lot of pain, frustration, and constant concern over whether Braden was getting enough milk.  But he and I were partners in this endeavor, and we worked together, equally, to get it right.  And we did.  In this regard, I know that I am lucky, as it doesn't always work out for everyone.  And I am not one of those breastfeeding nazi moms who looks down on anyone giving their child under 2 a bottle.  But for me, the frustration and pain soon subsided, and lest I worry that Braden wasn't getting enough milk, well.... just take a look at him: 

Braden, circa 2 months old.

Yes, his cheeks did eventually become normal sized.  But I digress.

Of course, the implications of being your child's only food source is that you are on your own.  People can help you with diaper changes, burping, and rocking the baby to sleep, but in the end, it is just you and the baby in the trenches.  And while Braden adapted to life outside of me, and all of the associated physical challenges, I adapted to my new body as well.  The leaking, the sleep deprivation, and an entirely new purpose in life.  But it was beautiful.  And Braden and I became so bonded, not only because of the breastfeeding itself, but because we were both undergoing transformations at the same time, and adjusting to each other.  He and I alone could appreciate this struggle.

Six weeks came and went.  And then three months, four months ...  When Braden was five months old, I went back to work, where I pumped religiously - not so much so that he could continue to only get breastmilk, but more to keep up my supply so that I could still feed him full time on the weekends and my days off.   By that time, Braden was no longer a passive participant in the feeding process.  He would gaze at me, giggle every once in a while, caress my face...  I didn't want to miss any feedings I didn't have to.

My doctor's orders to stop at 6 months loomed during this period, but I shut it out until the time came.  I knew that I needed to take my doctor's advice seriously, so I cheated by 1 month and weaned completely at 7 months exactly.  That evening I gave Braden his final nighttime feeding, and I cried the whole time.  

Obviously, both Braden and I got over it, and joyful times followed.  About a year later when I got pregnant with my second son, I looked forward to breastfeeding again, and I knew this time around that I would certainly go beyond six weeks.  And once again, I experienced that amazing moment of seeing my new son, Casey, for the first time, and feeding him right after our introduction.  And again I was lucky.  The breastfeeding went smoothly after a few days.  After all, this was old hat for me.

But this time, an awful bout of post partum depression, which came on three days post partum, presented challenges I never had to face with Braden. For the first week, I sucked it up and did what I could to get by.  I went through the motions, the feedings, the wakings, but I wasn't there emotionally.  And after that first week, I knew I needed to get on some kind of medication.

The idea of taking medication while breastfeeding was terrifying for me.  When I was pregnant, and when I was breastfeeding Braden, I wouldn't so much as take a tylenol or eat a tuna sandwich.  And now I was contemplating entering anti-depressants into the mix?  The doctor told me she could prescribe zoloft, which was safe for breastfeeding.  But that would take up to a month to kick in.  In the interim, if I really couldn't get by, she could prescribe xanax, but I would have to stop breastfeeding.  I can tell you, I needed that xanax more than anything.  But I resisted, and took it one day at a time, until finally, things became manageable.  But I came close to throwing in the towel and reaching for the formula many, many times.

And you know what?  If I had formula fed from day one, it would have been okay.  But breastfeeding Casey took on a new meaning.  It was the only thing that bonded me to my son when I was in the depths of depression and anxiety.  And I think in a way, holding on to that helped get me through that rough patch.  In the end, Casey and I continued our partnership until he was just over six months old, just as I had with Braden.  And because I almost didn't get there, and because Casey could very well be my last child, nursing sessions with him became extra special. 

I prepared for the final wean in the same way I had with Braden.  I reduced a feed every few days, until the last and final feed came.  And just as with Braden, I shed some tears for another end to another era.  As much as weaning does mean a new found freedom for me (and Braden is thrilled), it is bittersweet.  For me, breastfeeding wasn't a duty or an obligation.  It was a gift that I am so thankful I was able to experience, two times over. 

Casey and I, May 5, 2011


  1. Thanks for sharing this. I too had a wonderful experience breastfeeding, and still miss it.

  2. I didn't have the same experience but YOURS brought tears to my eyes....

  3. I know I'm reading old posts and commenting, but I totally get this post. Breastfeeding (for me) was amazing because it forced me to sit down and just spend some time with my son. Even when things get crazy, you are forced to take a time out and with him, you know?


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