Over the past few days, I have been reading through the entries for the January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting Resolutions and considering what type of parent I have been these past ten months and what I would like to change or augment going forward. Considering the issues in these posts has come at a time when I am struggling with the loss of breastfeeding. Each day it becomes more clear to me that Sasha is weaning, and despite my continual efforts to keep him going, he is only latched on for a moment or two before he is off to something else. My milk supply is dwindling and I am now supplemental bottle feeding him from the enormous store of frozen breast milk in our basement.
It's funny to me now how resistent I am to giving up breastfeeding. It had been my plan after giving birth that I would stop breastfeeding at 6 months so that I could resume my cycle and try to get pregnant again. My doctor had advised me that fertility was peak after a pregnancy and with all of the miscarriages and time lost in starting our family, I was eager to have another baby within minutes of giving birth. And our breastfeeding was not a smooth process. Sasha came home with serious jaundice which required supplemental bottle feeding breastmilk from day one so that we could make sure he was getting enough fluids. He also had signficant reflux that caused him to scream and scream while feeding and I was always a wreck feeling like I was torturing him for hours and hours a day. I fed and pumped and fed and pumped and found myself with mastitis every few weeks, so I was truly convinced that six months could not come soon enough.
And then something happened after a few months. I was still getting mastitis, and he did still have some reflux, but despite our issues, he and I had developed a real rhythm. We were a solid breastfeeding team and I loved every minute of it. I started to pump less and this reduced my feeling that there was only about 15 minutes in between feeds or pumps for my breasts to recover. By six months, I had months worth of milk and I took to pumping just once before bed so that I wasn't too full overnight and once in the morning after his first feed. Within another month, I had dropped those as well. But I was not ready to stop breastfeeding.
I decided I could not sacrifice the child I have for a child that may never come. I also realized just how much I love to breastfeed my boy. But now he is ready to move onto other things and it is me that is clinging to our special time together. I think that this is a reflection of many of the things going on in my life that I am still not at liberty to share on this blog. But it is also a result of some big regrets that have surfaced for me over the past months.
When I was 18 and met my future husband all I wanted to do was get married and have a family. I spoke about it so often that he had to tell me to put it on hold for awhile. Throughout graduate school and while doing my internships at Children's Psychiatric Hospitals, I always wanted to adopt the various children who were abandoned by their families. I had already begun to amass a children's library, had picked out names for our children, and could envision a troop of kids following me through the fields of the farm I hoped to own.
But I also promised my desired children that I would not become a mother if I carried the gene for Huntington's. Despite Aaron's assurances that our situation was different, that no matter what happened, that he would be there for our kids, I refused to consider it. And when I was finally tested in the summer of 1995, and the answer came to me that I was not a carrier, what did I do? Did I jump into bed and say let's have at it already. No. I stayed on birth control pills.
I struggle now each day wondering what happened to that girl who wanted a large family and wanted it as soon as possible. I try to speculate now that I felt a freedom when I learned I was not to die my mother's death at 36. That I suddenly felt 17 again, not 27, and that I was allowing myself to just not worry so much about time. But what happened to that time? I was writing and editing and honing my skills as a holistic therapist and coach but I was also very lonely with a husband, who was deeply involved in his medical training. I recall him not wanting to have children when he wouldn't be around to raise them, and agreeing on some level. But even still, I feel like I had moved far outside of myself.
My twenties ended and thirties began and I had hit my mid thirties before we began to try. And then came the time of our fertility challenges and more family time was lost to me. And with these unnamed pressures accumulating in my life, I find that I am angry with myself for straying so far from what had meant so much to me. I now fear that I will not have the large family of my dreams. I go to sleep each night and create a parallel world where I am having children every few years and baby Sasha is the last in the line of many. Then I wake up and realize that I am not in that place at all and I am just so disappointed in myself.
So I have to wonder what can I salvage of that girl I once was who wanted to be a bohemian mother--breastfeeding, baby wearing, co-sleeping, home schooling, pagan nature worshipping, non-stop singing and dancing--the type of moms I see each year at the Women's Herbal Conference I attend. It seems that most of the moms I am reading and witnessing who fall into this all natural mama category are in their 20's and early 30's. Have I lost my chance to follow this path?
I know that I have already missed out on much of what I once outlined for my motherhood, having a husband who was against family bed other than at nap time. In his 20's, I think I could have persuaded him, but now he likes our bed to ourselves. The other night I asked him, now that we have a baby and you see what it's like, would you consider family bed. And the answer is still no. So I have our bed and I have a bed in the baby's room, and adjustments have been made to accommodate our needs. I am still breastfeeding for as long as he'll have me, and I am still baby wearing, taking care to be organic and environmentally sensitive in every way possible and outside in the fresh air enjoying the land, air, plants and animals and yes, singing and dancing as much as I can. Right now we are both grooving to one of my favorites Rising Appalachia, who earth mamas should all embrace.
But can I still be the mom I wanted and envisioned myself to be way back in the day? And will I find a community of moms to bring me in, old age and all?