Ripping My Heart Out of My Chest and Stomping On It.
Also alternately titled:
A Lesson in My Littlest Son's Independence I Hoped Wouldn't Come Until College.
This week was a bit strange from the start. I was home with the boys as usual on Monday, but their school was closed for teacher meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday, so N and I took turns staying home. I worked in the morning and stayed home with the boys in the afternoon.
Wednesday evening I planned to go have dinner with some friends. I nursed Lu at about 5pm and figured he'd be up around 11pm to nurse as he'd been doing for weeks now. N said that he went to bed fine, although it was later than usual. I got home around 9:30pm and got excited when he started stirring around 10pm because I really missed that bedtime nursing.
I went into his room and picked him up and started to try and nurse with him. He would try and latch on but would turn away. He has done this only once or twice before and it was when his tummy hurt and he had to poo, so I figured that was it. I put him back into bed and he didn't cry and fell back to sleep.
He woke up around 5:30am on Thursday and I went in planning to feed him since I was pretty full from skipping his nighttime and overnight feedings. He screamed and pulled away and arched his back. I tried numerous times with this same result. I realized that this probably wasn't going to just pass.
I felt terribly rejected. The one thing that I thought caused him the most comfort was now the absolute last thing he wanted. I tried to have N hold him so I could pump, but he screamed at that too. He wanted me to hold him but didn't want to nurse. I was confused and hurt and in pain from being engorged.
N eventually was able to distract him enough so I could pump. As I pumped I started reading articles I could find on nursing strikes. I was pretty sure that is what was happening, but I also had noticed that he was slowing down on both nursing and taking his bottle, so I also wondered if this was weaning.
I took him to school and drove to work, feeling sad and scared and completely unsure of myself as a nursing mother. Why didn't he want me anymore? Is this the end? I'm not ready to wean yet. Do I have to be ready? Isn't this about him? But it is about him. He needs this milk to be healthy. Should I just give him the bottle from now on and call it quits? I don't want to stop. It's not all about me. Am I being selfish?
Ugh. The emotions were running rapid. I really did feel like someone ripped my heart out and stomped on it. I felt angry at LBZ. Every time he laughed I wondered how he could possibly be happy about anything with our nursing relationship in shambles. I wanted him to feel rejected like I did. Some mothering, huh?
Once at work I spoke with a few nursing-friendly co-workers who encouraged me to stay positive and keep my milk up in case it is just a short strike and that he might regain interest. I felt a bit more hopeful and hoped that maybe he would nurse when I picked him up from school since it was the longest stretch that we had been separated in almost a week. That didn't happen.
On my way to pick him up, I prayed. I don't often pray, but yesterday I did. I didn't pray that he would go back to nursing, although that is what I really wanted. I prayed for my own peace in whatever he did. That I could accept his rejection as nothing more than a single act and have strength to make it through that feeding, if he did refuse.
Well, he did refuse. He started to put his mouth on and decided he didn't want to. I gave him a minute, tried the other side and when he refused, I accepted it. We went home and I tried a few different positions, none of which were successful. I again felt angry at him. I didn't understand why he didn't like to nurse anymore. BBZ started acting up and it was just too much for me to handle. N was home by then and I just ran into our room and cried.
I don't think I can adequately put these emotions into words. I was angry, hurt, sad and worried. I had no idea what to do next.
I found a LLL meeting that I thought I'd go to, but then LBZ started crying and neither N or I could calm him down. I decided at that moment to take him to the doctor. I had planned to see how the night went, but this made me not want to wait. I packed him into the car and ran off to the urgent care. Diagnosis: "really bad" ear infection.
I was simultaneously relieved and upset by this diagnosis. Now I understood why he was refusing. Clearly, he is in pain. I stopped and got the prescription and filled it on the way home. I gave him a dose and tried to get him to sleep. He was happy and playful, until I tried to get him to nurse. I tried every position imaginable. He was just not having it. I finally gave in and gave him a bottle. He sucked it down and passed out about 5 minutes later.
He woke up at 5:30am again this morning and would not nurse. He went to latch on, but turned away and arched his back and cried. While I still felt hurt from his rejection, it was different. I understand why he doesn't want to nurse right now and I want to support him and his decision.
And there lies my dilemma. My son has made this decision to no longer nurse. Is it forever? Maybe, maybe not. But I am completely torn between what I want and what he wants. While I realize that many children return to nursing following a strike, but why? Do they eventually give in to a persistent parent? Do they decide they still want to? I have read about strikes that last for weeks, how long do I let this go on before I finally give up?
And is it giving up or would I be following the baby's lead, as so many breastfeeding resources say to do. I feel very confused about what the next few days or weeks may bring. I will continue to pump and offer for now, and who knows what will happen next.
I realize that my mothering life will constantly be lessons in learning how to balance my sons' need for independence and my needs as a mother. While I know how beneficial nursing is to him, I also want to respect his decision if he no longer wants to, even when I so desperately do.
I have also decided to call the ENT and explore the possibility of tubes. I feel very disappointed about this as well, but I feel it is the right thing to do at this time. I have not made the complete commitment to doing them, but I am going to explore this option. At least I can go into this saying that I tried other things. I am going to say that diet changes combined with the chiropractor got us an extra 5 months. He would have otherwise had tubes placed months ago. And if this ear pain was enough to cause him to stop nursing, I have to do something more than what I've done so far. It's just time.
I will keep all of you updated as we head down this path. No matter what is to come, I can feel great about our nursing up to this point. I can continue to pump and give him my milk for his health. While I do hope that he will return to breastfeeding, I can also prepare myself in case that isn't our path. Only time will tell.