I have yet to document the events or emotions of the day we ran the 5K. It's a lot of mental jargon right now and I tend to want to let that stuff simmer for a while before I bring it to a boil, out in public, so I shall return with a post about it later. In the meantime, however, I need to document another topic near and dear to my heart (near and dear to my boobs actually); I've reached the end of nursing.
(I'll pause so those that are uncomfortable reading about such matters can exit stage left.)
Although the weaning process has been gradual, the official end is just that. The End. Not to be continued. Finito. Done-zo. And basically, it makes me sad.
Breastfeeding is possibly the most personal choice a mother could ever make and for me, it was one of the greatest and most rewarding experiences I've ever endured. I say endured because it was not a task for the faint of heart. In the beginning … oh the beginning … praise Jesus (with both hands straight up to the ceiling and head bowed) the beginning … the beginning is a horse of a completely different color. I think because there are no drugs to numb the pain or dull the slow torture that is that initiation of latching, in my book, the beginning of breastfeeding is right up there with child birth. I vividly remember curling all my toes, tensing every, single muscle in my body and clenching both fists while I closed my eyes and waited for the shear agony to end, only for it to begin again in less then a few hours. The beginning was truly a test of my patience and tolerance. Think nipple clamp + the suction of a Dyson + an unpredictable newborn + an overemotional mother. While I'd like to tell you that once we got the quintessential latch down it was all rainbows and unicorns and lollipops, I can't because that would be a lie. There's also the overall soreness, the bruising, the cracking, the bleeding, the crying (some for Mae Mo, some for Mama), the engorgement, the leaking and the pumping. Sounds Awful with a capitol A, right? Why bother, right? Why put myself through it? My answer would be, why not.
The good news is, everything I've just described was temporary. Can I get an amen?! (No idea where all this religion is coming from except to say that when a woman talks about the workings of her boobs, things can get a little spiritual.) True, it was around for a few excruciating weeks, if not months, but what's that in relation to an entire life span? While it seemed unbearable in the beginning, once I reached the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, it was truthfully a piece of blissful pie; a piece I wouldn't trade for all the Olive Garden pumpkin cheesecakes in the world. In my case, I'm certain Maci's intuition helped expedite the learning curve. She happened to come out an eager beaver who knew what she was supposed to do, generally speaking. I was able to avoid nipple shields, lactation consultants, mastitis, plugged milk ducts, low milk supply or any other of the countless afflictions that can result from breastfeeding. I hardly had to even use nursing pads and definitely wasn't one of the women that sprang a leak at the sound of a small baby's cry. I know I'm one of the lucky ones. Especially because I had a rock star support system; an all-star-cast-of-The-Expendables-but-for-breastfeeding support system. No one showed greater kindness then my husband, greater experience then my sister, greater encouragement then my mom and greater commiserating then my best friend. Reassurance without judgement from those you love is like a little shot of Bailey's in your hot cocoa. You can probably do without it but why the hell would you want to? And can I just add that breastfeeding is one of the most liberating things I've ever been a part of. I used to be shy and timid about me and my body parts but once Maci entered this world and latched on to one of them, all bets were off. Family and friends knew to brace themselves for the appearance of my milk jugs. To some that may sound appalling but to me, the freedom was appealing.
Now let's have a little talk about me and my Medela. I had a relationship with my pump. For one entire year, I not only nursed my daughter, but pumped at least twice a day, every day, so that she could consume beast milk exclusively. I did the math, that's at least 730 times. Take every sappy thing I mentioned in the last paragraph, turn it around and give it a swift kick in the ass and you'll start to understand my feelings about pumping. In the beginning, it was a way to help start and increase my milk supply. In the middle, it was a way to stock up for daycare and vacations and most importantly, Mama's nights out. In the end, it was a way to be able to read some (more) good books. Meaning, it felt absolutely futile at the finale but it helped continue the flow of FREE liquid gold so I couldn't refuse. My Medela accompanied me to work every single day, to Iowa, to Chicago and even to New York. If there's one saving grace about pumping, it was that I even had a Medela to begin with. Expecting mothers who want to breastfeed: find a Medela (they say not to use someone else's but I felt completely comfortable using my sisters and just bought all new attachment parts – which is the only thing that actually touches the breast or the milk anyway – and sanitized them sporadically). Better yet, register for it and let a group of others pool together and buy it for you. Either way, I 100% guarantee you will never regret this investment.
Alas I was able to part with the pump and slowly started to wean Maci. My personal goal was to nurse for an entire year. Basically, it was what I was familiar with. Because I indeed made it one, full year, Maci was able to go straight from boob milk to whole milk. We started by replacing her two daycare daytime boob milk bottles (uh-huh) with a "half-and-half" bottle to introduce her to something new by pairing it with something old (as in familiar, not expired). Slowly the bottles became more whole milk, less boob milk until they converted completely. At this point I nursed her at night and in the mornings. Mae Mo was never one who had to nurse at night. She didn't need it to sleep and truthfully, she was far too busy or wired or occupied with Dad to make it a priority so this feeding easily slipped by next. We had been down to our morning feedings for quite a while when just this week, she decided she was going to start sleeping in a little later then usual (growth spurt?) which meant I was already up and showered for the day and instead of laying back down in bed with her when she woke up, Shawn or I went to the fridge for her sippy cup of milk and that was that. Clearly I was more distraught at this revelation then she was because she hasn't looked back since. Along with bottles, my boobs have been discarded. Little pieces of useless equipment (sniff)… past their prime (sniff)… that have been littered (sniff)… and left on the side of a very lonely road (sobbing).
Bring on the BEER!
MY BAKER'S DOZEN FOR SOON-TO-BE-BREASTFEEDING-MOMS:
1. Assemble your support team. If you don't have one, call me.
2. Buy a Medela breast pump. Pumping is not a place to pinch pennies. (Ask to use the hospital's Medela while you're there and then take the attachment parts home with you. As my nurse put it, it's built into your bill anyway.)
3. Worry not the first few days, your baby is indeed getting enough. Their stomachs are the size of hazelnuts, they truly do not need more then your colostrum.
4. Start by giving yourself just one week. Work in successful week increments until you make it a month. Once you make it a month, shoot for two, then three and so on.
5. Drink ridiculous amounts of water.
6. Lend your vanity to someone else for awhile. If you're comfortable, forget the hooter hiders and you nurse your baby where ever you need or want to. If someone asks you to stop, call me.
7. Have faith in your body.
8. As soon as you can, give nursing while laying down a try. It's the most relaxing 500 calories you'll ever burn.
9. Don't worry, you don't have to pump and dump. Alcohol metabolizes in your breast milk just like in your blood stream. Give yourself a couple hours and a couple glasses of water and you're golden.
10. Buy or borrow a boppy.
11. The most healing product for your nipples is truly your own breast milk.
12. Learn how to spell Lansinoh.