Monday, January 18, 2010

Goodbye, boobies

No, I don't have breast cancer or anything awful. What I do have is a scarcity of oxytocin. While I do have several ways I get my "feel good hormone" the one method that I've depended upon for almost a year has ended. I've weaned Ryder. Those of you reading who are men or who haven't breastfed a child or didn't have a positive nursing experience may not be able to relate to this blog post.

I didn't have much of a choice but to wean my baby. I've had hypertension for more than a decade, from way back when I was a skinnyminny in my early 30's. While pregnant, my blood pressure was well controlled up until the last month when I went from pre-eclamptic to "we're booking an OR for your c-section". Not like a c-sec wasn't planned anyway since I also had placenta previa. Anyway, the only medication known to be safe while pregnant/nursing wasn't working so well for me even after Ryder arrived. I ended up in the ER twice in the last months of 2009. My doctor impressed upon me the seriousness of the situation and we agreed I'd wean my son in order to change to more effective drugs.

It wasn't easy to breastfeed in the beginning. It wasn't comfortable, Ryder had difficulties learning to latch on, I had flat nipples (who knew?) and wore two types of odd thingys for a while to convince my nips to pop was a lot of hard work to nurse my child. It took a few months for it to become easy but once it did, wow, was it nice.

We'd settle down, get comfortable and Ryder would squirm in, snuggle up to eat. I'd watch his sweet face as he nursed, usually with eyes closed but sometimes open and watching me back. As he grew older he'd play games while feeding, reach up and touch my nose, my mouth, poke at my ear. He still hasn't outgrown his love affair with my hair. Sometimes I'd make a funny face and he'd chortle around me, his laugh tickling me as he drank. As I breastfed, the oxytocin flowed and acted both to relax us and to stimulate feelings of comfort, security, nurturing and contentment. I never ceased to be amazed at my body's ability to feed my son, even when I didn't produce enough and had to supplement. And since most evening nursing sessions ended with Ryder sleeping in my arms, breastfeeding allowed me quiet time to contemplate my happiness, even though our financial situation was stressful at the time.

To wean him meant that I had to give up these precious moments. It was harder on me emotionally than it was on Ryder at all. He'd been eating regular food and getting formula supplements, after all. I like to think that he knows that formula isn't as tasty as mama-milk, though. He won't remember to be able to deny it so I'm holding to that thought. I started off slowly, skipping one nursing session a week until we were down to only the bedtime feeding. Because I wasn't a milk cow like some mothers can be, it wasn't very worrisome up to that point. But oh, how things change.

Did you ever wonder what it would feel like to fill your boobs with concrete? I can tell you. It feels as if they will either burst through the skin or give in and fall off. And falling off would've been preferable. I bound them under skin tight jogging bras. I thought about, but didn't go for the folk remedy of stuffing cabbage leaves in your bra. I did cry in the shower and massage them once, when I couldn't take the pain anymore. Slowly, they deflated naturally. I'm told it takes a month for milk to completely dry up.

As my boobs flattened, so did my spirit. I'll never share that innocent intimacy again with Ryder. Given my age and our current birth control, I most likely will not share that intimacy with any other baby. It is bittersweet in that I'm happy Ryder is content with table foods and formula but sad that I'm not nourishing him from my body anymore. I'm glad I could breastfeed him for 10.5 months.

Ryder's goodbye to the boobies was fairly easy for him. Aside from rubbing his face in my chest when he's upset (nursing is comforting), only once has he dived in when I was shirtless. He gave lefty a quick mouthing and crawled off, heading toward a toy on the bed. I like to think of it as his goodbye kiss. Meanwhile, my boobs continue to shrink, which is a bit alarming since they weren't large to start out. I hope to remain a B cup but we'll see. Goodbye, boobies.

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