I woke to your little cries and babbles of conversation between you and your small ragged stuffed bunny early that Sunday morning. Pulling my feet to the floor I stretched while in my heart, I knew that this feeding was going to be our last.
Greeted by your toothless grin and flushed cheeks, I pulled you from your crib and sat us down in our rocker together. I held your chunky long body against mine. “You’ve grown so much,” I told you as I struggled to wrap your legs around my body. Your finger gripped mine and I kissed you while the tears streamed down my cheeks and onto yours. “This is it,” my heart murmured and I closed my eyes.
Your interest was quickly lost and you fought latching and already my heart was beginning to crack. I stroked your fine hair and your chubby fingers patted my chest while your attention turned from me to your surroundings and legs kicked, begging me to let you sit up. You were drawn to the shadows on the wall, the hair in my face and the sunlight from your doorway, and you were pulling away from my chest within minutes.
You were weaned.
I couldn’t always be your physical sustenance but my heart will always feed you when you need it most.
No one tells you that you birth your child twice. Severing the umbilical cord to detach the physical body from another and then metaphorically cutting the cord again when you wean that same baby from the sustenance of your milk. I don’t know if you’re counting but that’s two times that your baby is depending on you for survival and twice you have to sever that tie. Whether it’s several weeks down the road when you make the decision or years later, it happens two very separate times and there is little to no provided support or information to even bring the realization to light that physical and hormonal separation does not end with childbirth.
Weaning has been described in such a way that terrified me to my core. Adjectives include: “alienate, divide, separate, estrange, detach”. I couldn’t help but develop tunnel vision and focus on the word “detach”. Detached is how I felt the moment my child was sliced from my womb after I suffered a seizure during childbirth. Estranged was how I felt when I lost a loved one to suicide. Alienated was the feeling in my gut when someone I once loved told me they didn’t love me anymore. Those words were the furthest thing that I wanted to define the experience of letting my child find contentment in something other than my chest.
At first, I thought I was just sad that our journey was over. Days turned into weeks of sadness and I felt alienated from the self I once knew as a mother. My mind and my body felt estranged from one another. Those horrible words however would not be experienced in my relationship with my newly-weaned son but rather, the relationship between myself and my own body.
In the following weeks, I went through the fiercest transformation I had known since childbirth. My body ached, my leaking breasts were engorged and confused, and my mind was spiraling. The hormonal shift was so powerful and my days began to feel dark and bleak while my happy child guzzled his new milk from his cup. An insurmountable sense of grief loomed over my head while knowing in my heart I had made the best decision for myself and for my child.
Why was I so sad while my child was so content?
The physical symptoms of a hormonal shift coupled with a withdrawal of my daily doses of Oxytocin caused me to feel so ill. I was nauseous and vomiting and had intense migraines. I couldn’t tire my mind but physically found it hard to get out of bed in the morning. My eyes were clouded and my eyelids were heavy. My appetite and desire for providing my own sustenance was beginning to fade as my child’s need for me was.
Just as you weaned from me, I am still weaning from you.
I had such high expectations that my body’s adjustment to go from sustaining two lives down to one should be effortless. While I still had your blood in my veins you no longer had my milk in your plump tummy. You are weaned my child, while my mind is still yearning for the Oxytocin that I once had while nursing you.
We are led to believe that our mind should be able to combat the drastic change in hormones but are told that if we feel “off” to see our doctor during our next annual checkup. We are made to feel that if we as mothers feel anything short of gratitude with a healthy dose of guilt, we are doing it wrong. If we could in fact breastfeed our child but are choosing to stop, we should not be able to voice our symptoms but should go about our days living in the consequences of our selfish choice to end our own breastfeeding journey.
Post-weaning depression is real.
Weaning from your baby is real.
Let’s make the conversation about it real, too.
You may also like:
I Knew What Nursing Could Do For My Baby; I Had No Idea What it Could Do For My Heart
I Didn’t Think It Would Be Like This: Weaning Depression and Anxiety and Why It Often Goes Undiagnosed
My Heart Broke the Night You Weaned