I realized today that it had been exactly a year since I decided to quit breastfeeding Declan. He was 11 days old, and I was MISERABLE. I was so stressed, so tired, in so much pain and so desperate for a break after trying to make nursing work. I had lost 31 pounds in 11 days because my anxiety level was so high, I couldn’t eat one bite of food. I had no milk supply at all and was convinced that Declan was starving to death. I was suffering from the typical new mom fears on top of all that mess. For those that have been there, you know what I mean. I was convinced that if he didn’t eat every 4 hours MAXIMUM, he would die. He would just waste away in his bassinet before my very eyes.
I was also convinced that if we held him while he slept, he’d be sleeping in our bed until he was 12. When I was desperate for sleep and decided to hold him anyway, I would sleep for two seconds and then jerk myself awake, convinced he was going to somehow leap off my chest, roll off the king-size bed and impale himself on some unknown sharp object on the floor. I remember one night, Paul had taken him out to the couch so I could sleep for a couple of hours. I woke up to use the bathroom, and while I was in there, I realized I had been asleep for several hours, like 5, and hadn’t heard a peep. So I started PANICKING on the toilet, convinced that Paul had either rolled on top of him on the couch (hardly possible) or dropped him on another one of those hidden spikes. This did not speed up my bathroom break, which therefore led to more panic. I needed to put my eyes on my child NOW. And finally, when my body cooperated, I ran out to the couch and there were my two men, snuggled on the couch, both breathing. I’m fairly sure I woke them up anyway.
That day I quit nursing, so many of those fears were alleviated. I could SEE how much Declan was eating. Paul could feed him while I slept, therefore cutting out a lot of my sleep-deprived delirium. I began to believe that he wasn’t this frail little creature on his way to death’s door. In other words, I began to relax and enjoy being a mother.
Fast-forward a year. Now, my fears are more abstract. Typical things: fear of kidnappers or car wrecks or falling down our scary basement stairs. But day-to-day life is much more sedated, to the point of comedy. I think most parents can relate to the kind of insanity that happens once you have a toddler, and how normal it becomes. For those not yet in the toddler world yet, I promise you that you, too, will not believe the things that you do, see and say that you swore would never happen, or would have mortified you just months before.
(If any parents of toddlers out there don’t have conversations like this, please don’t judge. Maybe I am alone in all this. I doubt it, though.)
Recent conversations include:
Me: “There’s something in Declan’s hair. [sniff, sniff] Ewww, I think it’s poop.”
Paul: “Has he pooped since his bath last night?”
Me: “No.Hmm. Must be the cat’s. I’ll give him a bath later.”
Paul: “Where’s Declan’s paci/sippy cup/the remote control?”
Me: “Did you check the tub?”
Paul: “Oh, no. There it is.”
Paul: “What’s he eating?” (This question occurs quite frequently, and never during a meal. I’m sure I’m not alone in this.)
Me: “Um, looks like macaroni.”
Paul: “When did he have macaroni?”
Me: “The other day.”
Paul: “Ouch, buddy, you ok?”
Me: “He just hit his head, he’s fine.”
So despite being a poop-covered, trash-eating, bathtub-playing toddler covered in bruises, cuts and unknown substances, he’s survived. Thrived, actually. Despite not having years of breastmilk, despite chewing on toys at the children’s museum, despite eating grass and McDonald’s (GASP!), he’s a walking, talking, big ole 1-year-old whose only fallen off the bed during waking hours. If only I could tell this to that 11-day-old Mom, so that she could have relaxed sooner. Babies aren’t nearly as fragile as we think. It’s the moms with the frailty.