And Finally, Night Weaning
"She's eating again?" It wasn't the first time the nurse had asked that as she came to take our vitals. And while I knew that she was concerned that I had barely slept since being admitted the night before, I knew even more that I was doing exactly what I wanted to be doing. Even if it meant that I didn't have the energy to do anything else.
Yes, I have been this tired ever since.
Since I suck at carrying babies to term, I focused all of my hippy natural woo-woo womanhood on something I didn't suck at: making milk.
I'd spent months preparing, determined to have a successful breastfeeding relationship with the baby I knew would be my very last. I soaked up breastfeeding communities and blogs and other publications. I became acutely aware of the word "lactivist."
I said yes to things like co-sleeping and immediate skin-to-skin contact; said no to pacifiers during the first crucial weeks and keeping formula in the house. I read up on cluster feeding, reverse cycling, overactive letdown, and nursing strikes. I felt solid, I think. I felt prepared.
And then, I actually had the baby.
I was a fool to believe that reverse cycling wouldn't be an issue for us since I would be with Iliana all day. A FOOL. As soon as she was alert enough to realize that there was this whole world thing going on out here, she became the most distractable baby ever. I tried covering her to keep her focused, but the cover just became another toy. I offered her the breast incessantly throughout the day and offered every variety of any goddamn thing else that I could imagine. I even let her eat olives, which, come on, are totally the devil. I tried everything.
And none of it helped. Every night, she latched on as if I was a life boat. She didn't just nurse during the night. She nursed throughout the night. All night. Every night.
Every. Fucking. Night.
I didn't always hate it. Most nights I actually loved having her cuddled up, smelling her New Human smell. And sometimes, I didn't even notice that she was nursing while we slept. But when I did hate it, I hated it with an impossible vengeance that had me thinking that I should never have had her in the first place.
I was, obviously, a complete and utter disaster as a mother.
Every single one of her well baby visits turned into a discussion about sleep issues. And every single time, her doctor gave us suggestions and encouragement and the okay to do whatever in all heck felt best for our family. Then she would look me dead in the eye and ask how I was coping with the sleep nursing. "It's okay," I would shrug, "and it won't last forever."
I mean, I'd also complain. I wasn't a total liar to my daughter's doctor, but I wasn't brutally honest. I didn't tell her how desperate I felt on those nights when I just wanted her to leave my goddamn nipples alone for one fucking second. I didn't tell her that I had to bite my lip to keep from screaming and remind myself not to punch the baby in the face. (This is not an exaggeration.) (I have never punched the baby, in the face or anywhere else.)
Ian and I kept working the problem like we would any other parenting issue. We observed and discussed, we modified and observed. We caffeinated. We drank gin. I researched suggestions for night weaning while co-sleeping, but didn't find anything that Ian and I hadn't already tried on our own. That...was tough. I wasn't even able to feel all clever or anything when I read advice from the experts and only saw a list of our already failed experiments. I just felt defeated.
Still, we kept trying. Until we finished building her room, there wasn't a heck of a lot more we could do. I spent months talking to her about night weaning while offering her an even more ridiculous number of nursing sessions throughout the day. We discovered more food that she was willing to eat and added tofu to the yogurt and berry smoothies that we'd already been shoving into her face after dinner every night.
At first, the night weaning talks turned her into a clingy mess. She actually nursed more overnight. We backed off; we eased in again. We observed and discussed, we modified and observed.
We caffeinated. We drank gin.
And finally. Finally. She was ready.
Almost exactly one month ago, on a night that we absolutely did not intend to night wean her, she got up for one of her night time nursing sessions and...didn't nurse. She took a pacifier, which hasn't happened in over a year, and let me pace with her until she fell asleep. Me! Mama Milkies, who has never been able to soothe her in the middle of the night without bringing out my boobs. When she woke up a few hours later, I was able to get her back down without nursing.
“What the heck was that?” Ian and I asked each other, high on this new drug called sleep.
“It's because we're in the middle of the remodel,” I said. “If we hadn't already bought half of the materials, she would have shoved that pacifier up my ass.”
I'm sure as hell not going to complain. (About the night weaning. I definitely would complain about my kid shoving things up my ass.)
She still gets up several times a night, I think to just check in. We tell her that nursies are night-night and she says "okay" and goes back to sleep. She wakes up at five and asks to nurse. I tell her she can, but only for a little bit and then we have to go back to sleep. She says okay, nurses, then goes back to sleep. When she wakes up for the day a couple of hours later, she is happier than she has ever been. And, holy crap. So are we.
Okay, so it's not like the past two years of exhaustion and frustration have magically gone away, but I will say that I am elated it's happening like this. I know that she's ready for this, and I know that we did everything we could to encourage her. Actually watching her switch get flipped over to "ready" has been mind blowing. And even though I'm still pretty damn tired, it is, like every other pain in the ass thing about parenthood, absolutely and completely worth it.