3.01.2006

A Mighty Wean


(Advance apologies to those of you who are still lactating, who have yet to lactate, or who will never lactate thanks to that pesky Y chromosome. Unless you're into this. Ew.)

We sat in a circle under the fluorescent lights of the windowless classroom, twenty-six strangers. Each face revealed the same emotions—apprehension, nervous anticipation, panic—only in different proportions. The matronly instructor looked up from her notes.

“Let’s go around the circle and you’ll each tell us your name, a little about yourself, and what your biggest worry is regarding childbirth.” The answers were predictable.

“Labor”

“Tearing”

“Needing forceps”

“Needing a c-section”

“Labor and tearing”

“Labor and tearing and needing a c-section and the epidural needle and pitocin and taking care of the baby OH MY GOD HOW AM I GOING TO TAKE CARE OF THE BABY!”

I know what you’re thinking but that last answer, that wasn’t me.

My only concern was breastfeeding.

Unlike many women, I never romanticized breastfeeding. I hadn't thought about it much at all. But when I did, it seemed less of a beautiful moment between mother and child, and more like playing host to a parasitic Mini-Me. I spent many sleepless pregnant nights readjusting the five pillows between my knees and pondering the awesome responsibility of sustaining another being solely with my body. I knew it was the right thing to do but it just seemed so complicated. Reading Dr. Sears (bad idea; very bad idea) would lead you to believe that breastfeeding requires a two-month emotional preparation period, a La Leche League membership, several pre- and post-partum classes, a certified lactation consultant booked six weeks in advance, and mastery of his patented 47-point easy latch-on technique.

Could I do this?

But then Thalia was born and the milk came in and by God, there I was with my amorphous hospital-issue nightgown pulled to one side and a 6 pound, 15 ounce baby at the proverbial teat.

(6 pound, 12 ounces.)

(6 pound, 10 ounces.)

(6 pound, 7 ounces.)

(Okay, she’s got it down now. Nothing to see here. Move along.)

As it turns out, the female body was made for breastfeeding. Who knew? Of course I had a bumpy start requiring nipple shields like something out of a deleted strip club scene from Logan’s Run. Also, there was a brief but unpleasant episode of engorgement involving some triple-D sized cabbage leaves. In retrospect, the cabbage leaves were sexy in a weird, green leafy vegetable-fetish kind of way. Thank you, thank you readers of Big Vegan Jugs for voting me 2005 centerfold of the year. I’d like to thank my mom. And tofu.

Two weeks into it, we were in the groove. My body was mixing up a bottomless lacto-cocktail and Thalia was imbibing with gusto. To my surprise it wasn't bad at all. The convenience! The bonding! The convenience! I breastfed where and when it was called for--in Barnes & Noble, on the benches of the Brooklyn promenade overlooking the East River, in my sister-in-law’s living room in front of her lovely but conservative Southern father. The poor man hasn’t been the same since. I should really send a fruit basket.

My pièce de resistance was a cluster-feeding spectacular amongst the hallowed burgundy booths of Balthazar, where the celebrities deign to consume towering raw bar platters and steak frites alongside mere mortals. Oh it was a beautiful sight. I wore white. Thalia wore pink. The open-mouthed Eurotransplant couple facing us wore black. A little milk with those Bluepoints, chère?

We were having a grand old time that summer, Thalia and me and my enormous boobs. We all got together ten, twelve times a day and it was as though nothing could break up our happy little foursome.

Then I went back to work.

Work means travel. Travel means pumping.

Hauling that mad scientist Medela contraption around was the least of my concerns. (Although every time I attached the cups and cranked up the juice I felt like screaming “On my count! One, two, three…CHARGE.” ) What I could not handle was squatting in a cramped bathroom stall in the Orlando airport for forty minutes with a manual pump sadistically tweaking my nipples raw, while the most horrific sounds and smells drifted my way from the adjacent commodes.

On the second business trip I pumped in the same airport bathroom only for half the time. On the third trip I only pumped at night in my hotel room. On the fourth trip I brought my pump but never took it out of my bag. On the fifth trip I left it at home altogether.

I had been surprised at how much I liked breastfeeding. Six months later, I was surprised at how much I liked not breastfeeding.

I'm happy I weaned. Is it okay to say that? I'm saying it.

To all those well-intentioned people who assured me that breastfeeding would make those 45 pounds slide right off like butter on a hot biscuit--pffffft. I experienced no such thing. But now having ceased nursing, I'm finally back on track to stuffing my hips into my neglected prepregnancy clothes. I'm walking a little taller these days, holding my head a little higher. It's amazing how much self-confidence is gained from the realization that I am no longer in danger of knocking small children to the ground with my ass as I pass them on the sidewalk.

I forgot how wonderful it is to eat Pop Tarts for dinner without worrying that I'm depriving my child of some essential nutrients. I forgot how liberating it is to pop an Advil or an Allegra without first consulting kellymom. And boy do I love that I can have a glass of wine (or two or six) and it doesn't have to be timed around anything beside my own desire for a glass of wine (or two or six).

And above all, I am so very happy that the stained, elephantine bras I sported for too many months are crumpled up beneath the rest of the maternity clothes in a plastic Duane Reade bag in the back of the closet.

The 36DDDs are dead, long live the 36DDDs.

Of course I miss the sweet, still moments alone with Thalia. I am grateful to have been bequeathed so much uninterrupted time where I could just smell the top of her head or study the curve of her shoulders or hear her make her little newborn squeaky-toy sounds as she ate. But in its place, I know there will be other moments. There always are.

As for you Dr. Sears, we need to have a little sitdown, just you and me. No weapons. This time.


26 Comments:

Blogger GIRL'S GONE CHILD said...

Ohhhhhh, breastfeeding. I lasted 6 weeks and almost starved Archer to death. He was down to 6 pounds from 7 pounds, 2 oz. My nipples were bloody stumps. Anyway, GREAT POST. Very funny. You make me laugh every time, woman.

3/1/06, 3:39 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I hear you sista. I liked the title. A Mighty Wean. heehee.

I wasn't able to lose the rest of the preg weight until I stopped breastfeeding. And being that I gained like 60 pounds during my pregnancy and only took off about 18 during the whole birth time, OY! I coud stand in Illinois, but my butt would be in Missouri. Not good! Breastfeeding makes the weight come off! Ha!

And yes, I was happy to be drinking wine and eating candy for breakfast when I stopped producing "boob juice". Two things I still love to do...

3/1/06, 3:42 PM  
Anonymous Mandy said...

I just knew I would wean at 6 months. Here we are at 18 months and my son still has a, um, bedtime snack. I never thought I'd be one of those people--you know, the extended breastfeeders. I'm just exceptionally lazy and willing to do whatever it takes to get him to finally go to sleep at night (also factor in the working mom guilt, etc.). The pumping for 12 months at work totally sucked though, especially in the bathroom at our state Capitol building during our legislative session (I work in legislative affairs for a state agency). Loved your pumping description. You rock!

3/1/06, 4:17 PM  
Anonymous reluctant housewife said...

I hate Dr. Sears. Dr. Sears gave me nightmares. Add the fact that I went to one LLL meeting and it took months for me to recuperate.

Vulnerable and hormonal pregnant women need to be kept away from those two. When I read that Dr. Sears was against strollers (because the baby needs to be attached to the mom at all times...WTF!) I should have thrown the book away right then and there. PFFF!

Congrats on the weaning! I'll have some wine in your honor tonight. Like I need an excuse.

And yes, there are many other special moments to come.

3/1/06, 4:29 PM  
Blogger Binky said...

I once went to a Broadway matinee without thinking that my breasts might prefer to stay home with baby. Halfway into the play, one engorged boob decided it had enough. So intermission comes along and I go into a very dark stall of the mood-lit bathroom and proceeded to milk the damn thing with my hands, aiming for the toilet. Like that's possible. You can just imagine the cacophony of sounds I was hearing. It was no orchestral entr'acte, I'll tell you that much. I'm still breastfeeding, but there will be no more repeat performances of that. I'll bring the manual pump and do it in the car beforehand.

3/1/06, 4:45 PM  
Blogger Carrcakes said...

That was a beautiful piece of literature that left me longing for my 36B-cup nursing bras. I nursed Ava for 1 year, primarily because I couldn't part with having actual breasts.

You're right though, there is such freedom in regaining control of your body and its fluids. Congrats on your accomplishment.

3/1/06, 4:54 PM  
Blogger IzzyMom said...

Thank you Mom 101 and everyone else for giving me hope! I have not lost a single pound since my 6 week postpartum check up. I have exercised like mad and still not lost a single pound. I weigh exactly the same and my baby is now 8 months old. My doctor said that *some* women don't lose it until they wean and I was skeptical. But you all have given me hope that these last 15 lbs might not be a permanent arrangement after all.

3/1/06, 5:09 PM  
Blogger Lumpyheadsmom said...

Yes, yes!

Let's all slap Dr. Sears together, shall we? Thwap.

I can't wait (can't wait) to be a weaner. to wean. to stop pumping. whatever.

Here's to you for sticking with it as long as you did!

3/1/06, 5:34 PM  
Anonymous Kristen said...

Well well. You never cease to impress me. I never had to the airport pumping, it was always to ease the pain or leave some for the babysitter (which she would never take anyway)...

I give a huge round of applause to you and other mommies who work and pump. It takes a lot of dedication.

And I second that notion - since I weaned 2 weeks ago, I'm way less hungry. The only reason I dropped say 70lbs after I had her was because I did the turkey, spinach, cranberry diet for 10 months. That'll drop weight off anyone....

I had to laugh about the kellymom thing - and seriously, I do miss it - a little, but I feel way freer.

3/1/06, 5:43 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Great post! I had breastfeeding problems from the start, despite my gung-ho determination early on to only breastfeed. We managed to hang in there for 4-5 month, although always supplemented with formula. Eventually the formula won. But I'm still glad for the time I got, and I do plan to try again when we have another.

3/1/06, 5:54 PM  
Blogger MrsFortune said...

Woman, you are awesome, as always!! This is something I've been really worried about and I've never even heard of Dr. Sears, so there! I'm glad to hear someone who actually had an EASY time doing it rather than all the horror stories I've been hearing.

3/1/06, 6:23 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

So glad I touched on such a universally troublesome topic!

MF: I was inspired by your post about your birth class, so thanks for that! As you can see, Sears is a misogynist mofo and I'm not the only one who thinks so. Do. Not. Read. Sears. Or at least wait until the baby is already here!

3/1/06, 7:15 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

As if moms don't feel guilty enough, we have Dr. Sears to finish the job (or my mother-in-law who said, "oh" when I started giving my daughter formula at 10-months instead of breast-feeding her). I say good for the mothers who choose to breastfeed and I say good to those mothers who don't bow to the pressure to breastfeed if they think it's not for them. I breasfed both my kids, one for 10-months, one for 8-months -- I didn't enjoy it one bit! So, do what's best for you and your baby will benefit from you being happy.

3/1/06, 9:31 PM  
Anonymous chelle said...

hehe I enjoyed this post a lot! I weaned our daughter 13 months. I miss the quiet times like you said, but having my body back all to myself is wonderful!
chelle

3/1/06, 9:43 PM  
Anonymous sweatpantsmom said...

Great post. You crack me up, and I laughed so hard my boobies hurt. Or maybe it was the memories brought back by your vivid description of the Medela pump. Or is it MEDEA??!!! (Insert scary slasher music here.)

3/2/06, 2:19 AM  
Blogger J's Mommy said...

Great post. It's about time someone shed some light on what it's really like to breastfeed. I lasted only six weeks like GCC and it was an awful experience. When I was still in the hospital the nurse came to me and was like "ugh, you've got flat nipples, this isn't going to work." First of all I had no idea I had flat nipples, but geez she could have been a little gentler about the issue. Anyway, it was all downhill from there. No one should ever make you feel bad about your decision to breastfeed or not. I wish I learned that sooner!

3/2/06, 11:08 AM  
Blogger T. said...

Oh such memories you bring back! When my youngest was born he was unable to nurse so the health professionals encouraged me to pump instead. And I did. All the time. Any time. All the while thinking and feeling like I was some jersey cow hooked up to the barn. After six months of constant pumping, sore boobs and the only payoff was knowing I did the best I could, I quit. Only to have the pediatrician ask me why? I told him to stick the pump on a creative part of his anatomy for six straight months and then he could figure it out for himself.

3/2/06, 11:11 AM  
Blogger GIRL'S GONE CHILD said...

izzy-

i wanted to say that i gained 60 pounds pregnant and didn't lose a pound until I stopped breastfeeding. . As soon as I stopped lactating I lost all of it in a month or two. Keep the faith. It'll happen.

3/2/06, 12:33 PM  
Anonymous dorf said...

All the while I was laughing hysterically, I could only imagine a bunch of guys talking about their experiences with breastfeeding and weaning Here's what they'd say, "Hey, how 'bout those Mets?"

3/2/06, 12:33 PM  
Blogger theirstepmom said...

This is funny, heartwarming and informative all at the same time. I was wondering why you were looking for nursing bra pictures in the last blog...

3/2/06, 2:06 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

stepmom: You mean you missed a day? You are so off my Christmas list.

3/2/06, 2:24 PM  
Blogger Clare said...

Yup, ditto ditto me too on breastfeeding not causing weight loss, alcohol and drugs being GREAT, and portable biological food production being a nifty little invention.

I once sat and breastfed in a purple velvet chair. In a public art gallery. Apparently it was supposed to be for children to sit in and read stories. Ah well.

And God, your mention of the whole thingummy... ah... what's it called... the thing where your breasts turn into melons and feel like a spot that's about to burst pus everywhere... oh well, you know the thing - anyway, it was weird cos although I only experienced it for two days nearly four years ago, I could feel exactly what it felt like, as though I was there right now.

And pumping at work sucks. I gave that up after a few weeks and just reduced the breastmilk dosage - supplemented it during the day with formula.

Haha, I knew this would happen. As I read through your post I realised that (a) I wasn't going to be able to resist entering your comments box and adding my own versions of all your stories, and (b) that there would be tons of other mothers here oding exactly the same thing.

3/2/06, 4:32 PM  
Blogger Clare said...

"leave some for the babysitter (which she would never take anyway)... "

The babysitter refused to drink your breast milk? How churlish.

I meant to say, I was absolutely fascinated by the man-boob thing. Wow. I mean, really. Wow.

3/2/06, 4:36 PM  
Blogger Shalee said...

What a great blog!

I was one of those who actually liked breastfeeding. I did feel closer to my babies and all that, but more importantly, it felt good actually to have fill out a top. Dang, I looked good for once.

And why is it that none of those models look like they need those bras?! They need a little extra baggage to make it a little more realistic for me! Because when I was breastfeeding it seemed that there was nothing small about me... except the baby.

Oh, and Dr. Sears is an idiot. Yet another man trying to explain womanhood from zero real-life experience.

3/2/06, 5:10 PM  
Blogger stefanierj said...

My dorkometer pretty much goes off when an "expert" has to resort to bashing another "expert's" way of doing things. So ppphhhbtt on Sears, Pantley, Weissbluth, all of 'em. You're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

I loved BFing and was heartbroken to stop because my boobs said "I f***ing QUIT" but I got over it and figured it was lesson #127854 in "don't make militant statements about what you will or will not do with a baby"

Though one of my *really nice friends* turned to me after I poured out my heartbroken story of having to wean and said "Well, my son has NEVER even had a DROP of formula." Hey, thaaanks.

Of course, her kid is still nursing at 3 1/2, so who's having the last laugh now, huh??

3/2/06, 7:33 PM  
Blogger Mama Bree said...

wow. I just read this tonight, via today's post, and I wish I had read it many many months sooner!!

I had a really tough time at breastfeeding - latching on, all that jazz was easy peasy for me, and I was super gung-ho at doing it. but for some reason, my body wasn't, and I had some major milk production issues where Logan wasn't gaining at all. :( I lasted 6 months before I finally had to quit, but was pretty much supplementing with formula the entire time....

When I quit, I battled the same emotions you wrote about; I missed my "me and Logan" bonding time but had the same joys of getting my boobs back after 6 long and exhausting months. :) I was embarrassed that I could rejoice at all -- I had that immense pressure from, my mother of all people. She was one of THOSE. nursed all three of us kids for 2 yrs *and* donated breast milk to boot!

Still, I loved the time I had with Logan and am looking forward to trying it again when we have another.

Great post as usual, even a couple some odd years later. :)

8/5/08, 12:46 AM  

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