Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Be the Match

Are you a bone marrow donor? Please consider joining at Be The Match. It takes no time at all--they send you a swab and you get some cells off the sides of your cheeks and mail it back. Then, if you're matched with someone who is in desperate need for bone marrow, they'll call you and you go through the process of donating. Donation will mean the difference between life and death. My mother has been registered as a bone marrow donor for as long as I can remember (back when the only way to register was to go through a donation process!) and she's never been called up, but stands ready. As of a few months ago, I, too, stand ready and will be thrilled to donate if needed. BTW, I don't work for Be the Match or have any stake in the issue other than compassion.

I bring up bone marrow donation because the family at reproducing genius is experiencing a potential diagnosis of a rare form of leukemia in their beautiful three year old son. Please go there, donate some money via paypal if you can, and sign up for Be The Match. One never knows if their son will need bone marrow donation or not, but it cannot hurt to have as many people signed up as possible. Please offer support in whatever way you can. I've been an occasional reader there over the years, but because I have an almost three year old boy and a connection to the academic world, I feel immediately called to send out the word, hoping that someone would do the same for me if I were in that situation.

Life is so unpredictable. It often seems that horrible things happen all the time, especially when we are part of the ALI community in any way. We are privy to each others' moments of pain on a regular basis. But beautiful things happen too--all the freaking time--and we have to band together and send beauty and love and hope and money and bone marrow and whatever we have (--everything we have--) to anyone who is going through a time of need. Please join me in doing so.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

the long process of weaning

Last night, I slept with cabbage leaves in my bra. A true sign of desperation!

How did I get to cabbage leaves? Well, I've been thinking about weaning for a while. I started the breastfeeding journey with E with small goals. 2 weeks. 2 months. 3 months. Hey, maybe we'll make it to 6 months! And ultimately, I hoped to make it close to a year like I did with her big brother W. Around 9 months, she started to be much less interested in nursing than in food. It became a challenge to get her to latch on long enough to bring on let-down. I skirted mastitis twice during months 9 and 10 because of plugged ducts. I got shoddy about my pumping at work, abandoning it altogether at some point because my output was so low and I didn't feel engorged during the day. Even worse, she started chomping down on me with her four little teeth, especially during those middle of the night feedings where we were both half asleep. Around 10 months, I decided I had enough.

If you've read any of my previous entries, you know that I'm generally pro-breastfeeding but am also very supportive of formula feeding--my philosophy is that babies need food and love, and the kind of food doesn't really matter. That said, I've been feeling some anxiety about not making it closer to a year. You know how it is. A philosophy for others is one thing, but a philosophy applied to ME? Different. I think I've worked through that anxiety for the most part. Remembering those little teeth biting me is helping!

So our last breastfeeding session was a middle of the nighter about 10 days ago. I felt a pang of sadness and then a bit of relief to know that this would be it. She barely took anything and seems mostly to have adjusted. There were a few days where she'd kiss my chest or bury her head in my clothed breasts, but I took this as a signal that she was hungry and that she could use extra cuddling, both of which I provided right away. Now, she seems to be okay with the sippy cups of formula and on her end of things, all seems to be well. In fact, she has started sleeping through the night after almost 11 months of at least one wake-up (often two or three). It took a few days of my husband going in and cuddling/rocking her to sleep, but she almost magically stopped waking all on her own.

The weird part--the part that leads to cabbage leaves--is that I seem to still be making milk, and in fact, am again skirting plugged ducts and mastitis. I actually got up and pumped briefly last night because I was certain that if I didn't, the blockage might get worse. Do cabbage leaves really work? I'll let you know. So far, they just seem soggy and smelly and weird.

One of the hard parts of this transition is that my baby girl seems suddenly closer to toddlerhood than babyhood. I'm not great with the baby phase, but seeing it end is still very sad. I loved breastfeeding, especially in those early months where it's just you, the baby, and the endless cuddle. I don't plan on having any more babies, so in all likelihood, I'll never snuggle a baby to the breast again and just writing that makes my eyes well up.

But it's time. It's time for me to go back on medication that helps me control my anxiety. It's time to enjoy being with baby E more than when I was wincing in pain from being bitten or when I had to force her on. I sometimes wish I was the kind of mother who was all extended-breastfeeding-is-for-me. And again, I support whatever works for other people. Most of my friends are extended bfers and I think it's awesome.

For now, I'm reeking of soggy cabbage and hoping that this new phase of milk production winds itself down soon. I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

a rough spot

I haven't written much because I'm in a rough spot. I'm having a completely mixed summer. The kids are my joy and give me the happiest of moments. I have a few posts in the works about who they are, what they're up to. I have plenty of things to say about them, but I'm not in the mood to write those things today.

Today, and for the last few weeks, I've been worrying over the rough spot I'm in. What's happening is that my relationship with my husband is completely on the rocks, and not in an interesting or casual way. We're not having a fight. We're not clashing over an issue that we'll finally resolve with a hug and a kiss. Instead, we're silent. Angry. Furious. Most of the time. How did this happen? When did this happen? What the hell shifted and left us here?

I feel very tender. Like a big part of my life is an open wound that I return to again and again, unsure of what to do to make it feel better. Worrying that it will never feel better and it will always be open and sore. We have good days and bad days, and I just don't see how we'll get out of this rut. I miss him and yet I feel nervous when we have long periods of time together because these days, the silence is crushing.

Even worse, the summer is ending and the fall semester begins in a few weeks. He's a high school teacher, so he'll be returning to school and I'm a college professor and will be doing the same. Our lives will suddenly get much more complicated and stressful than they are now, juggling too little money, too much responsibility, two full time jobs, two little kids who are in part time daycare (yes, seriously, I do my full time job in far fewer than the hours needed to do it well because we can't afford to put them in full time care...it's hard and stressful and I really wish we had the money for full time care). How will we handle all this given that we're in the rough spot now, during the relaxed summer season?

I know this post sucks. It's not telling you anything specific about my life and it's not ending on a happy note (like: we had a fight but we worked it out and all is fine!). It's just messy. But this is where I am today.

One last thing to mention. I really want to stop breastfeeding baby E because I want to go back on medication to help me manage all this anxiety. But adorable baby E has no interest in weaning. So on top of the messiness of my relationship, I have this sweet girl who practically crawls inside my shirt when she's hungry, and I can't deny her because it's so wonderful that it makes me smile just thinking about it. How do you wean an 11 month old baby who doesn't want to wean? I guess the answer is that I don't. I'm going to keep going for a little while longer. Hopefully I can just keep managing the anxiety until then. Breastfeeding is so complicated! And even though I want to quit bfing, I'm also heartbroken at the thought of doing so--I envy women who can breastfeed until the baby becomes a toddler, and yet I know I'm not one of those women.

Maybe this is all part of a bigger question: What kind of woman am I? What is my relationship to my husband, my kids, my job? It feels like I return to this question again and again in my writing, and perhaps that's where I should spend some time meditating. Perhaps if I figured out my own self, my own needs more fully, I'd be able to be less caught in the (often ordinary) chaos of life? Perhaps the rough spots would feel a little less rough?

p.s. The answer of taking an SSRI compatible with breastfeeding is not possible because I've had negative reactions to SSRIs in the past. I've spoken to my doctor and therapist about it. I just have to wait until bfing is over to take meds. But this is not to pass judgment on someone who takes an SSRI and bfs. It's just a personal thing for my body's chemistry.