Monday, May 23, 2011
It was hard. And not for all the reasons I thought. I thought it would break my heart to lose the intimate ritual with my little girl. It did. I thought I would be overwhelmed by my daughters whining and tears. I was. But the hardest part of all, the part no one warned me about, was the hormonal ups and downs and the depression. That was the hardest part of all.
I wasn’t really ready to stop, but it was time. My sister-in-law (the baby whisperer) reminded me that Story should be getting rid of her nightly bottle soon and I couldn’t imagine getting her off the breast without a bottle to suckle. Then there were the books that warned me that the closer my child got to the dreaded two’s, the harder it would becomes to wean her. But it was two pivotal scenes that finally convinced me the time had arrived. 1) While paying for my groceries at Trader Joes, Story unbuttoned my blouse, stuck her hand in my bra and delicately removed my nipple to the shock and awe of the cashier. 2) A recent viewing of HBO’s Game of Thrones featured an eight year old boy King suckling at his mother’s teat and my husband kind of looked over at me and raised an eyebrow. The time had arrived.
I had already narrowed Story’s breastfeeding sessions to once in the morning and once at night. I asked Gabe to put Story down for three nights in a row with a bottle while I hid on the other side of the apartment. Then, when Mother’s Day weekend arrived I told my husband what I really wanted for Mother’s Day was to wean our little girl. He took over the morning and evening ritual and replaced her breastfeeding sessions with a bottle. We tried a cup, but she wasn’t having it. One vice at a time, I told myself.
By day three I was ready to go back to sharing Story's morning and evening ritual with my husband. At first, everything seemed fine. But then the crying and tantrums began. Our once peaceful little girl woke up screaming and kicking. She went to sleep in much the same way. Staying firm through the crying, and kicking and screaming and whining was hard. But this is what parenting is all about. And just like with the sleep training, I knew we would get through this and feel like awesome superstar parents when she finally got it.
By day five, my confused hormones began torturing me with moments of real darkness. Everything felt personal. My husband could do nothing right. One minute my husband had left his dishes in the sink, and the next I felt trapped in my marriage, contemplating divorce and daydreaming about abandoning my family. This was a first, and I’m not proud of it. Some might call it post-partum delayed. Fifteen months delayed. I was totally unprepared for it.
It’s been about two weeks now and the depression has lifted, I feel like myself again. I just sort of had to wait it out while being careful not to isolate or act on any of my irrational thoughts. My hormones stabilized in time to save my marriage. Baby is still fussy in the morning and night, but we have found that a new bedtime ritual has helped her soothe herself to sleep. We always had a bath time, book time, feed time and then into the bed sort of thing. Well now we do bath time, book and cup of milk time (that’s right! I got her off the bottle too!). We dim the lights one by one and go around the room saying goodnight to every toy and object. By the time we have said goodnight to the talking tea pot she is limp and leaning back in my arms begging to be placed in the bed. I lay her down on her crisp cool sheets, pull up the blanket and she hugs her little “z-raffe" with a newfound interest. I turn off the final light and tip toe towards the door. She calls out when I reach for the door knob.
“Buh”, she says.
“Bye,” I say. “Goodnight sweet Story.”
And just like that, another big parenting moment has passed.