My breasts are founts of liquid gold. At least La Leche League thinks so, and my baby boy seems convinced. Perhaps that’s why I love breastfeeding. When nothing else is going right with the baby stuff, breastfeeding buoys us. Even if I can’t figure out the source of a given problem, nursing almost always works, so much so that I sometimes feel like a one-trick pony. Hungry? Have a nip! Tired? Latch on! Hurting? Take comfort from one of these! Angry that your arms are shorter than your torso? Suck on this!
And now I might have to wean. I even hate the word: wean. To my ear, it sounds like some sort of conjugate of wimpy + mean. The problem is that I have been struggling with erratic moods. In a single day, mine can go up and down more times than a big booty at a hip-hop party. This is the nature of cyclothymia. Inasmuch as a person can be diagnosed on any sort of mental health matter, I was diagnosed with this disorder (sometimes called “soft bipolar”) about two years ago. It made sense of some really idiotic shit I have done since my early 20s — buying goldfish, for example. But it’s never been quite so drastic in the past as it’s become since my son’s birth.
With my firstborn, I felt so level during most of my pregnancy and for the duration of the time she nursed. Menstruation kept at bay, I sort of rocked steady. But in the months since our son’s birth, I’ve felt like a big puzzle come apart. If only I could put a handful of the pieces back together, the rest would be easier. But so far, I’ve had minimal luck. The psychiatrist listens and says, “Ohhhh. Uh, huh.” The psychologist suggests massage and sensory-deprivation. My own experience tells me earlier bedtimes and better rest, less wine and more exercise, more natural light and less sugar.
Some of these natural fixes are doable, but others, with a baby and a preschooler in the house, are not. Kids are a banquet of sensory input: screaming, crying, repeating your name ad nauseum, asking for snacks every 15 minutes, hurting themselves in the most unlikely ways. I can’t count how many times my daughter has fallen up into things and hurt an earlobe or the crevice between her toes, then proceeded to scream as though she were being attacked by hornets. While her brother can whine endlessly, she can entertain herself for hours repeating the same annoying made-up word. (“Ahhh-pee-YAW!” is her perennial favorite. I have counted, and she has repeated it more than 30 times in a single car ride.) The noise! The input! The lack of sleep!
Medication is not an option, as anti-depressants make me manic. (This is not a spontaneous-trip-to-Vegas Fun Jenny kind of manic either. We’re talking the kind of unfun mania that leads to screaming over mismatched socks, or obsessively yammering for hours at bedtime.) Mood stabilizers — the drug of choice for cyclothymia — are contra-indicated for breastfeeding moms. This is kind of a scary reality for me. What if this depression doesn’t lift on it’s own? What if I get worse before I get better?
Which brings me back to La Leche League. Those crazy, flippin’ nuts. If weaning becomes necessary before my baby or I are really ready for it, I want to make sure I do it as gently as possible. I thought the Milk Mavens over at LLL would be an ideal resource for guidance on that front. Surely there have been other moms who’ve had to wean for medical purposes? When I go to the LLL website, I follow a FAQ link labeled WEANING. I won’t quote it in full or even in part. I’ll just give you the gist:
Thinking about weaning? Let us tell you more about the benefits of breastfeeding! Are you tired from waking to feed at night? Try cosleeping! Feeling strapped down by a breastfeeding baby? Take him out on your date with you! Stressed? Nursing releases relaxing hormones, so do it more often! Having chronic breast infections? Don’t fail your baby over a little ouchie! Older members of your family pressuring you to quit? Poison them, bury the bodies, and nurse your toddler in a sling while you burn the evidence!
Eventually I did stumble across some links to essays and articles written by people who’ve had to wean their childen, rather than let their children wean on their own. But my god, I had to dig. And my god, did it make me feel like I’m looking for help deciding whether to perform an assisted suicide. Thank you, La Leche League! It’s simply poetic, such literal splendor, how much you suck!