I usually write to you more privately. I usually tell you what unique to you things you are doing so when you are bored at age 17, wondering what the hell mom and dad were like (by then you'll likely stop calling us mama and papa) and what you were like (I know, my tenses are horrible...but it's hard to talk to you in the future...), you have a record.
But today, I am writing more publicly. Because this part of our/my journey has been more public.
And part of the purpose of this blog (most of the purpose, actually), is to write about and be conscious about letting go as I move through motherhood.
So here it is.
You are nine months and about three weeks (we can call it 10 months). I was aiming to breastfeed you until you were at least 12 months old. It was a goal I heard from other mamas and I figured it was good enough for me. I have a very, very supportive community, with lots of resources, ideas, milk, education, and positive encouragement. I was going to kick breastfeeding's ass (hmm. Interesting choice of words).
Early on, when you were losing weight (ack!), we started giving you formula. We were warned, but honestly, at the time, I did not care about anything but you gaining weight. I didn't think you were too small, but I also didn't like that you cried for more milk after every feeding and I didn't seem to have any more for you. Heartbreaking is an understatement. I also didn't like thinking that you might not be getting enough food. Not what this mama wanted to hear.
So we gave you 1/2 formula and 1/2 mama milk. You gained weight and it was better. My milk supply went down a bit when I went back to work, as we supplemented with a bit more formula. I wasn't able to breastfeed you during work (a dream I thought I could manage, but it was unrealistic). I was severely sleep-deprived, but I kept on pumping at work, feeding at night, and doing whatever I could do. I talked to moms, lactation consultants, the Dr., the midwives, my family, and I read websites, books, made cookies, took hot showers, pumped the majority of my time at work, took supplements, got milk donations, drank water, drank special tea, and kept a positive attitude.
But, Sweet Pea, after just now reading about another mama wanting to re-lactate (her milk dried up and mine is too, so I started reading voraciously in case I missed something...), I realized I am at a crossroads (a common theme running through motherhood for me...) and I have to make a choice. Hopefully, you'll agree, a conscious choice. I have to weigh the benefit of continuing to try to make more milk and the peaceful release of the expectation (set up by me mostly, and some shame I feel at the idea that I might be "giving up too soon.") to keep making milk. They both stress me out a little (a lot?). If I stop, am I ruining your chances of immunity? If I don't stop, am I stressing myself out so much that I don't have immunity for my own body? And will other mamas look at me as a quitter? (No, they won't, but you can't tell me that sometimes, because I always believe they do...which is horribly inaccurate, I know) Will you throw it back in my face if you get some god-awful thing that could only be prevented by breastmilk? Is there such a thing? Will you be sad that we didn't share this bonding ritual for two more months? Will you be jealous of your friends who got to self-wean? Are you even registering this dilemma at the moment?
This is why this is so hard and only one of the decisions I have to make in the course of your/our lifetime. It sucks, honestly. I feel like a sad-sack when I pump and get .25 oz from about 40 minutes total of pumping per day. And woe is me, that I'm not a big "producer" as if you think less of me because of my milk output. I know, that's not giving you enough credit.
So instead of saying I stopped breastfeeding because of my milk production, (that feels like I am giving my power away and placing blame and it just doesn't feel completely true in its simplicity), I want to say to you and everyone else, that I am choosing to care for myself, my emotional and physical fragility, my body, and my sanity (and ultimately you) and that's why we're stopping.
You are not crying and reaching for me, I am not spending less time with you, you are not hungry, you are not malnourished. When I leave my pump at home, I feel lighter. I know, that even in your non-verbal-ness, you are okay with this. I am the one holding on and not you. (We'll verify this later). I know that when you get older, you will likely say, "Hey Mama, please don't let me and what you think are my expectations of you, hold you back. That's not why I came to you. I came to you to help you let go, to be free, and to teach you to soar." Just like I took the drugs for hyperemesis because I wanted to feel better and to love being pregnant (rather than soldiering on--which might have been way more detrimental to both of our bodies), this is like that. I am stopping breastfeeding because we can move on to other ways to bond, other ways to share, and other ways to nourish. We have a lot to teach each other Little One, don't we?
So there is no big ceremony. The grandest gesture I know is to write. And your grandest gesture is to smile that killer smile of yours...so I will let go and let those be our moments as we continue on...and I won't hang my hat--or yours--on milk or the right diapers/food/toys/books or being perfect or knowing all the answers. You release me and I trust you enough to let go...