Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Adventures in Breastfeeding: Weaning

Of all the parts of motherhood I hold dear, breastfeeding is definitely one of my 
greatest loves.  As a full-time RN who works outside the home 5 days a week, I 
consider myself beyond blessed to have been able to exclusively nurse Brees for as long 
as I have.  I had hoped to make it to one year, diligently toting my pump to work with 
me everyday, storing milk like it was the gold at the end of a rainbow.  I worked really, 
really hard to balance my career and my role as a mother and we made it to Brees' 
first birthday with a healthy breastfed baby.
And then we decided to keep going.  Two years, that became my new goal.  By that 
point nursing was second nature, completely effortless, and simply required me to 
continue to eat healthy and take care of myself.  Brees began eating the same foods the
 rest of the family was having, decreasing her nursing sessions to only 3 times a 
day: morning, evening, and bedtime.  I loved every minute of it, especially the 
bedtime sessions, sitting in my rocking chair in her nursery, just the two of us.  
It was an unspeakable bond.
But then Shawn got into his accident and our whole world was turned upside down.  I was 
at my husband's bedside, nursing him back to health, willing him to overcome his 
greatest obstacle, which meant I was away from my little girls.  We spent a total of 21 
days away from Isabelle and Brees with only a few short visits scattered in between.  I 
was in such shock about the accident for the first few days that my body did not respond 
to the lack of nursing as I might have thought it would: there was no pain or swelling, 
no leaking or infection.  I simply just stopped producing milk.  I remember waking up on 
the 3rd day and crying quietly into my pillow, the emotional toll of everything that had 
happened too great for me to bear in silence any longer.  I remember picturing the 
girls, imagining their arms around me, smelling their hair and hearing their little 
girl laughter.  It was a very hard day.
On the 5th day, my mother in law brought the girls to visit.  Because Shawn was in 
such critical condition, they could not visit him.  Instead, I spent the afternoon with them 
at the hotel room Shawn's family had reserved.  We ordered in pizza and played games 
and caught up on all the love we had missed.  We took a nap all cuddled up together and
 I held onto them for dear life, allowing their innocence and unconditional love to mend 
my broken heart.  As our visit was drawing to an end, Brees became fussy and wouldn't 
let me go.  I rocked her and held her and tried everything I knew to make her happy, but
 the tears kept flowing.  Finally, she reached down and pulled up my shirt, laid on her 
side and attempted to nurse one last time.  She closed her eyes, rubbed my back, 
and relaxed as she had done so many times before.  She did not get frustrated when the 
milk did not flow as she was accustomed.  She simply breathed in the moment and enjoyed
 it for what it was worth: our closeness healing her broken heart.
 I never meant to stop nursing you when I did and I will probably never forgive 
myself for not doing more to increase our chances of continuing later.  I have loved 
every minute of our breastfeeding journey together, even those long nights when you 
woke up every hour and refused to go to anyone else.  Our weaning story is definitely 
not what I would have ever imagined but I know that one day we will look back on all 
of this and understand the greater purpose.  I am so thankful to be home with you again, 
to rock you to sleep every night and see your smiling face in the morning.  We may 
have closed this one chapter in your story so far but, I promise you, there is so much 
more waiting for us ahead.  You are loved, my sweet girl, loved beyond belief.

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Deanna Fike said...

oh liv. this post brought me to tears. i only breastfed owsley for six months, but when my milk stopped producing it hurt my heart so very much. this was still such a sweet post, and your girls are so lucky to have you for their mama. 

Aisha Quin said...

As mothers we hurt so much when we can't give our babies what we feel they need, but in this case I'm sure Brees will grow up & see just how much her mother loved her & her family. Being able to breast feed for that long is amazing in my eyes, I was only able to go 4 months & wish I could've done more. Continue to keep them close & that bond will always remain.

Ashchatman said...

Olivia, it saddens me to even think of you being sad about this.  Your children are so lucky to have a determined and loving mother.  This happened to me with Maggie but she was 5 months old.  As I breastfeed Lucy (btw i need cosmetic surgery after this 3rd time around!) I sometimes get sad bc of what happened with Maggie.  Strangely though, Maggie is most 'cuddle one' of the three so it takes more than the breastfeeding bond.  It is phenomenal that you have breastfed Brees this long; Im so proud of you.

Caitlin A. said...

This post is very sweet and so honest...I'm not a parent so I can't relate to that sense of guilt you feel, but please take comfort in knowing that you've always done your best and that no one could have foreseen the change in your situation.  What Brees needs is love, affection, and support, and she has that with you whether she's weaned or breastfeeding :)

Kara said...

Oh Liv, please don't feel an ounce of guilt for what happened! Your family went through a massive tragedy and you did what you had to do - you kept things together for all 4 of you. I'm so sorry your weaning experience came about in a way you never expected, but you should be so proud of the time you gave her. You're a hero in my book! Hugs and love!!

heartbot said...

This is so sad! Please don't feel guilty. You've done so much for all of your family. Your girls and your husband are all so lucky to have you. 

Renee said...

I agree so strongly with all of the other comments!!  Your such an amazing woman, and your girls are growing into strong, amazing women because you've put your heart and soul into your family!!  Grieve for whats been lost but be proud too, of what you've accomplished in such a short time!!

Alexandra said...

What a lovely story. I also enjoyed breast feeding and kept at is a long as possible.  I knew when I was ready to stop, but none the less it was also a very sad time for me too. You shouldn't feel guilty as life throws things at us when we least expect it. You did what you had to do and be by your husbands side. I bet if you could go back you wouldn't change where you were during that time.

Olivia said...

You are so right, I wouldn't.  I was exactly where I needed to be and nothing will ever change that.  Thank you for your kind and understanding words.

Olivia said...

Thank you!!  You are right: it is a grieving process.  Just writing about it set something free inside my heart.

Olivia said...

Thank you!!  We are all very blessed for sure!

Olivia said...

Thank you, friend.  It was so freeing to write about something so painful.

Olivia said...

Ash, I have a feeling Brees will be much the same as Maggie:)  Hopefully as well behaved, too!  Hope to see y'all this weekend!!

Olivia said...

Thank you!!  And you are right: the bond continues well beyond the nursing phase!

Olivia said...

Thank you, D.  You know I think you are one of the best mamas out there!!

Mama said...

This definitely hits close to home. I had to wean before Cole and I were ready. He had just turned two and I had a cut that would not heal. It broke my heart to do it, but I knew it was what I had to do to heal at the time. Just like you did what you had to do to help your husband heal. Since it is so fresh in both our hearts and minds, it's one of those things that only time can heal. My heart is with you. Thank you for posting about this. It was beautifully written, especially your letter to Brees.

Vanessa said...


Brees knows she has the best mama. And please pat yourself on the back. I know you persevered with breastfeeding even while working (most of us aren't superwomen like you!). You are an inspiration.

Brittney said...

Ahhhh tears!! The idea of weaning my baby is breaking my heart! It's simply amazing how hard you worked to breastfeed.