I still remember the first time my baby latched. It was a few hours after she was born. After several tries she finally got it. Even though it sort of felt like a baby shark was attached to my breasts, I was singing hallelujah.
For weeks, we continued. She gulped down my milk while I winced in pain. For my first two babies, the "raw hamburger meat nips" stage only lasted for a week or two. This time, something wasn't quite right.
After several visits to the lactation consultant, it was determined that my daughter had a pretty severe lip and tongue tie. We drove two hours to the specialist when my baby was just 7 weeks old. While the doctor soldered her skin away, my husband and I held our tiny bundle down. She screamed like I've never heard and I felt like a horrible mother. Yet three minutes later, the procedure was done and she was nursing beautifully once again. The pain was gone by the next day.
Because she was my third, I felt like a pro. We nursed exclusively anywhere and everywhere that was needed. It was no big thing for me to nurse her at the library or the park, church or my in-law's house. I never pumped, because as a stay-at-home-mom, I didn't ever have to leave her. Pumping is the worst, anyway, so this was ideal for us both.
We made it to her first birthday and I was glad. With my first, this never happened. With my second, it was a huge milestone. But with this baby? I knew we'd continue on for several more months.
This Sunday, my baby turns two. And two weeks ago, I nursed her for the last time. Since then, I've been a blubbery mess, trying to get through each day with what feels like the cloud of postpartum depression over my head, once again.
The past two weeks have been a struggle. I feel tired and hungry. Irritable and anxious. Helpless yet restless. Unable to concentrate or be fully present in a conversation.
Part of me is grieving because that part of our relationship is gone. And for awhile, it WAS our relationship. When everything else felt cloudy or out of my control, breastfeeding was this amazing source of renewal for my heart. We always say that breastfeeding is a great thing to give to our babies, but we sometimes fail to mention how much more we are given in return. I think about the past two years and all we have done together. All we did to make this breastfeeding relationship possible. The sacrifices. The procedures. The months of not being able to leave her side because I was both her sustenance and comfort.
Another part of me is grieving because she could very well be my last baby. That stage is over and my husband and I have had many conversations about "moving on." I can't think about it too much, or I get a big lump in my throat. What if I never have another baby? What if I never get to nurse another child? What if I forget about how beautiful and wonderful and life-giving this stage of life was? What if I forget it all?
The past two weeks have been a struggle. I feel tired and hungry. Irritable and anxious. Helpless yet restless. Unable to concentrate or be fully present in a conversation. The unmistakable symptoms of postpartum depression have returned. I can't help but wonder what this means for me. How long will it last? Will I be able to handle it? Will I have to go back on medication? Will I need to see a therapist again? Will I have to fight the stigma once again? Will I be told to "pray more" or "do yoga" or "have more faith" by my friends?
All I know is to take things one day at a time. To ask for help when I need it. Grief is an important part of life and trudging my way through it will bring healing, whether it takes weeks or months.
If you or someone you know are experiencing the signs of postpartum depression or depression from weaning, know you are not alone and that there is help available to you.