the other side

A month after Blythe was born I wrote this: LIFE.
First day home from hospital
Now, here I am, 11 months in to this beautiful journey of life with Blythe Kathleen.

Whew. It's been a year.

The first three months were at times, if I'm being honest, pure hell. I hurt. I cried. I didn't sleep. I hurt. I thought my body would neverEVER let me function normally again. I felt like I was letting Blythe down. I tried so very hard not to resent her when she got hungry and I had to nurse her…again…because it hurt, so very badly.

around two months
And here I am on the other side. I say this because this week Blythe and I are weaning.


I've read many a blog, talked to many a mom, that cried when it was time to stop nursing. They didn't want to let that precious time go with their baby. Though I will agree that there is something unique about the experience, for me it was nothing to write home about, and certainly nothing I am sad to leave behind.

When Blythe was first born, I knew I wanted to breastfeed her. So I stuck with it. And I stuck with it. And Brent would bring her to me and then rub my feet to help me not think about the pain. I would call my sister so she could keep telling me over and over, "It gets better, I promise." My mom would sit next to me and tell me I was going awesome, and then she would switch off with my mother-in-law.

And then I got mastitis. Google it if you don't know what it is. Awful. I was running a 104 temp at one point. After I survived that, I made 8 weeks my new goal-- one year was too big, too lofty…too far away, so I would just try to nurse Blythe for 8 weeks.

around three months
And then I started bleeding. Badly. Sometimes I thought Blythe ate more blood than milk. I was about ready to throw in the towel, but instead went to a little class with Kali. I didn't want to give up until I'd tried everything, because I knew breastfeeding would be good for B but, since I'm being honest here,  I also knew that it was free and had not budgeted for even the cheap formula in my "I'm-quitting-my-job-to-stay-home" plan. There were a lot of factors, so I kept pressing forward.

The lactation consulted couldn't believe I was still nursing after she checked me out. Blythe was latching on fine, but without going into too many details, there were other issues at hand. She prescribed some cream and told me to take a week off just pumping to heal. This helped a little. I set a new goal: I would to nurse her until 3 months.

By the time three months rolled around, I was physically feeling a little better. Other mothers had jumped in when I wrote the "life" post and encouraged me to press on. I still did not like nursing. I couldn't just cover up and nurse her. I always had to isolate myself. And Blythe was a slow eater. She took AT LEAST 45 minutes to eat. I read a lot of blogs, perused a lot of pins on Pinterest, checked a lot of facebook statuses, and read a lot of books…because I was sitting and nursing, by myself, all the time. I heard the song on a Christian radio station around this time that said, I might let you bend, but I won't let you break, and it spoke volumes to me.

3 1/2 months
But I had made it to three months. So…new goal: six months.

Slowly but surely, Blythe and I carried on. And slowly but surely, we kept dropping feedings and by six/seven months we were down to FOUR feedings! FOUR! I could do four! Four is reasonable! So I told myself to buck up, hang in there, and make it to 8 months. "You can do it, Kels. 8 months! Let's go!"

And sure enough, we made it to 8 months. Though it no longer hurt, I still didn't enjoy it, but it was more tolerable. And by 8 months she could eat in about 20 minutes. Progress! Press on. Full steam ahead. [It was somewhere in here that I sent Kali a text, having figured up to the minute how long I had spent nursing Blythe…the figure was crazy…it was WEEKS' worth of time, just nursing].

This is when I set the goal: one year. I will make it to one year and then stop…cold turkey if we have to. Not one day over a year would I nurse her. [unless I had to of course, and then I'd put on my big girl panties (is this just a saying in my family?) and continue].

Well, last month I realized that my milk supply was dropping quite a bit. Blythe was becoming more disinterested in nursing, and eating a LOT of food. My excitement rose and rose as I knew the end was in sight. So I said to myself, "11 months will be great. 11 months deserves a medal of honor." So last week I dropped to three nursing sessions day, and this week we nurse in the morning, and she has drank formula from a sippy cup for lunch and supper splendidly. When the one little tin of formula I got is gone, I will transition her to cow's milk.
around nine months
And this weekend…this glorious, splendid, snow-covered weekend… I will drop the morning feeding. I will get to stop wearing nursing bras and stop hiding out [and unfortunately probably stop eating like a cow]. I will get to get Blythe up in the morning and not worry about her getting clingy and fussy right away because she smells breakfast on me. I will, in a way, finally get my body back.

This may come across as very selfish, to say that I haven't enjoyed providing food for my daughter [which is an amazing thing God gave us, let me say!]. But I will tell you this: these past 11 months, particularly because breastfeeding has been so difficult, have been more humbling than any other time in my life. I assumed it would be easy. It wasn't. I assumed I would enjoy it. I didn't. I assumed I would get all those warm fuzzies when I sat down to nurse her. I never did. I assumed I would be sad to let this time of her being so dependent on me, her mom, go. I am not. I've learned that what I think will happen, or how I foresee things, may just very well be wrong. And I've learned that sometimes moms just do what they have to do, and take the burnt piece of toast as they dole out the good pieces to others.

And I will say this: I will never judge another mother for how they choose to feed their infant-- if they want to breastfeed, great. If they want to do formula, great. If their child won't take either and they have to make custard and feed it to their 3 week old on a little spoon like Grandma Pat had to do with my father in law, more power to 'em! I'm so thankful that the people in my life, my friends and my family, gave me permission to do whatever I wanted to do and what I thought was best for me and Blythe. I will never forget them during that time.

But now? Now I will rejoice that the clock is ticking down, minute by minute, until I get to stop nursing! I have an hour long massage I've saved since before Christmas for this time to celebrate.

about two weeks ago, around 10 1/2 months
It's hard to see the end when you're so engrossed in the struggle every moment of every day. But this was a good reminder to me that, in all things, God is faithful and he never has left my side.


momiss said...

Definitely the words of a mother. Oh, and those burnt pieces of toast? I call those "mother's rations". LOL When other people would ask me how I stayed so skinny (many times not in a very nice way) I always said immediately and with a straight face "mother's rations". If they didn't know what I was talking about I figured they were not "real" mothers. Baahahahaha!

Hannah said...

I know you have shared before a little bit about the struggles of breast feeding, but I am so glad you shared your thoughts on the matter again. Mostly because I can fully understand what you mean now. It is so exhausting, draining, and demanding (as you very well know). But I am determined to keep going for as long as I can, which is hopefully a year. Landon has been so sweet during this time, telling me it's ok and he understands if I want to stop. It's amazing how how far a little encouragement will take you.

I'm glad you made it this far and that you are almost done nursing, something worth celebrating for sure!

*carrie* said...

Appreciate your honesty, Kelsey. As I mentioned last week, I was shocked by how painful nursing was when I started out with Nathan. Like you, I assumed it would be easy and that a year would be no problem. I took a similar approach in setting goals and then changing them when needed. I shared that with a new mom friend a couple years ago and she said it was the best breastfeeding advice she received--to set a small goal and move it forward if you can. ANY breastmilk is better than none if you can do it.

Have fun celebrating! I think I have a long ways to go. =)

Kali said...

"You did it! You did it! You did it! Yay!" We're doing the Dora dance for you ;-) I think you should bring B to Shatto to celebrate!

Ashley said...

Kudos to you! Every mother has their story, but congratulations on sticking with it...and being honest! My kids never made it past 4 months with me. I literally could not supply enough for them and the judgements I got were astonishing. What matters is the kids are healthy and happy :) Great job!