It was Monday morning around 5:30 am, she woke up on the wrong side of the bed and woke me up with a shrill scream that made me believe she was injured. I wanted… no I desperately needed more sleep before I could even attempt to think about anything else, especially this noise that she had learned and mastered in five seconds. I had been trying to wean her for weeks now, but always succumbed to her wailing. This time was no different, I nursed her hoping she would fall back asleep for at least an hour, that the screaming would stop, and I could muster some energy to get our day moving… eventually. We fell asleep, but when I woke up trying to free myself from her sleepy mouthed death grip, she screamed. All I could think to myself was I’m done. I don’t want to nurse anymore. I just want my body back. I want to be done. I was panicky, anxious, and irritable. It was no longer a question of “should I”, but a desperate plea to have complete ownership of my body once again.
That was the last time I nursed my 18-month-old.
“You never know when the last time is the last time.”
“You’ll wish for those moments back.”
I knew when the last time was the last. I chose this moment. I have chosen a lot of “last times,” but this was official, I was serious. I prepared myself for a myriad of emotions, from my toddler and from myself.
I didn’t feel sad. I felt relief. Little did I know my day would be spent with a toddler throwing a tantrum every five and half minutes because she felt differently than I did. I’d also have a preschooler yelling at me to “make her stop crying” all day long. By 9:15 am, all three of us would be in our own rooms having our own meltdowns. Eventually, everyone but me would be asleep. And I questioned if this really was the last time. I didn’t know if I could handle these tantrums all week or, God forbid, all month. I decided to take it day by day. And this day was rough. Tears were shed by all three of us on muItiple occasions. I texted my husband dramatic texts (in my head) for hours, hoping that he could read my mind from work and find a way to come home early… like 7 hours early. But, if we could survive this day, we might be able to survive the weaning process.
I almost broke out into tears of joy (rather than the tears of despair, desperation, and the beginnings of engorgement from earlier in the day) when he walked in. Bedtime went off smoother than expected, and a little spark of hope appeared.
Maybe we can do this.
The next day was easier, though more physically painful. Wednesday wasn’t too bad. Naps were rough, but they always had been, sleep does not appear to be something my sweet child understands. Part of the reason I weaned her was to see if she would sleep better, because how could her sleeping get worse? Thursday through Sunday was easier and she almost completely forgot about nursing a week after.
I began to think I was over the hump. Maybe the first few days were going to be the hardest. Maybe once she stopped tugging at my shirt it would all be forgotten.
I was wrong.
Week 2 has proven to be the hardest. Tantrums are happening about 3 times a day and I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of toddler emotions that are stronger than anything I could ever feel myself. I already deal with waves and currents that threaten to pull me under because of postpartum depression, and I naively hoped that I could get these emotions under control, see if I can find my way out of the darkness that is postpartum depression by weaning her. But I’m feeling myself fall deeper into the dark abyss that looms near me at all times. I’m hoping it is just these hormones figuring themselves out. Only time will tell.
I wish I had a timetable that would help me know how long these rough times are going to last. How long is she going to cry herself to sleep for naps? How long is every little cry, noise, temper tantrum going to make me feel like my world is crashing down all around me? How long is this weaning process going to completely suck the life out of me? How long until I feel normal again? Will I ever feel normal? That last question is the one that concerns me the most.
We survived a whole month without nursing and now that I have clarity on the whole process, I don’t regret weaning her. During the rough days, I feared that she was going to resent me, not want me to comfort her if I refused to give her the comfort she desired. Some of my fears were realized when she was drawn to everyone but me during her times of despair, but at the end of the day, we always found our way back to each other. Though a part of me was sad to see that beautiful- though exhausting- part of our relationship come to an end, I am grateful to have my body back, to have my emotions even themselves out, to feel like I am a little bit more in control now that I no longer have a toddler dictating my every move. more than that, I am grateful for the 18 months I was able to nourish and comfort her, for 18 months of sweet baby cuddles. I am grateful to have experienced this at all.