Pregnancy, breastfeeding, my toddler, and me

My pregnancies suck.  I’m often asked why I keep having children when pregnancy is so difficult for me physically with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG).  Usually my response is something like “because I’m crazy,” or “denial is a powerful thing,” or “I had to believe that next time would be different” and I attempt to laugh it off as just another piece of my crazy.  And maybe that’s exactly what it is.  The truth is, I don’t have a good answer that will help it all make sense, even to myself.  The best and most honest answer is simply that we didn’t feel done and I just couldn’t let HG win.

It gets even more confusing when I go through a difficult pregnancy and continue to breastfeed my current nursling.

At just over 26 months I’m pretty sure Smunchie and I are weaning.  It’s not what I wanted, or at least not what I planned.  I might have wanted it.  When I discovered I was pregnant with Sugarbaby I swore I would not intentionally wean during this pregnancy like I did last time.  No, we were going to stick it out no matter what.  Even if I hated it.

I did.  Hate it, that is.  It wasn’t the fact that my pregnancies are complicated, that I struggle to keep food and liquid in at all, that I end up with IVs and then a PICC line, or even that I feel like I have the most unrelenting case of food poisoning ever.  No, those things actually made me grateful Smunchie was still breastfeeding as it gave me a way to stay connected to her when I couldn’t get off the couch.  At first I was so grateful for breastfeeding and I cherished our cuddling “bobbies” time, because it anchored me a bit, it was only slightly uncomfortable, and I could tell she found it comforting in the midst of all the change we were experiencing with the effects of the pregnancy on our family.  But then it started to get more uncomfortable.  Then it started to hurt.  Then it started to require breathing exercises worthy of labor. Then every time she would latch I would mentally cry “please wean, please wean, please wean…”  I didn’t want to be a martyr, that doesn’t do either of us any good, but I didn’t want to end something that was so important to her plus I had this goal of not leading weaning and letting her self-wean.  And I’m a goal oriented person, I really like meeting my goals.  My experience weaning during my last pregnancy was unpleasant anyway and I deeply regretted it for even selfish reasons.  Mastitis and my HG getting worse made me greatly debate if the point of weaning, which was because I was still 26lbs below my prepregnant weight at the start of the 3rd trimester, would have been better served if we had continued breastfeeding instead.  Squiggle Bug was broken hearted and when she began rejecting me for all forms of comfort once we weaned, I was broken hearted too.  I wasn’t about to let any of that happen this time, no, I would fight for our breastfeeding relationship through this pregnancy.  It was important to me to continue, for both of us.

Pain, discomfort, and being downright miserable are hard to push through though.  To preserve my sanity there were times when I’d limit her feeding sessions, telling her we’d be “all done bobbies” after singing a song or counting to 10.  I’d try not to clench my teeth while she nursed.  Or stick my tongue out at her.  Or make scrunched up torture faces.  Or cry.  It didn’t help that I could tell my supply was dropping quickly.  In previous pregnancies I had been on Reglan to aid in digestion but this time we decided to see if I could go without as the side effect of depression had been difficult on my family.  Without the Reglan providing a boost to my supply, I experienced my milk drying up and the only response I had to galactalogues was to vomit.  I knew that to best prevent drying up I needed to let her nurse more but between her frustration that the milk sometimes just wasn’t there and me being ready to climb the wall every time she latched, I had to have limits on how long she could be at the breast or risk damaging our overall relationship if my frustration really came through.

The handwriting was on the wall.  I resisted but I welcomed it too.  It was confusing to be so conflicted.  The Piano Man didn’t say anything but I could tell he wanted us to wean, wanted the stress and emotional roller coaster about breastfeeding to just end.  Finally, about a month ago, he told me he thought it would be ok if we were done because, well, look at her.  She’s happy, confident, healthy, and almost never asks for it.  He was right, about all of those things.  If I didn’t offer, she didn’t ask, often for days at a time.  She did happily come for cuddles and kisses all the time.  She was still very attached.  Just, without the breast.  I offered right then and she did come over, climb on my lap and latch for a moment.  A brief moment, for just about the time she probably got some let down, then she let go, sat up, patted my breast, and said “tan tou!  All done.”  I think that was for my benefit.

She has breastfed a handful of times since then, most were her request.  I continued to offer but she began to decline more frequently.  She had things to do, games to play, places to explore, “bobbies” just weren’t what they once were.  Two weeks ago she asked to nurse early in the morning in bed.  Excited and kind of squirmy, she latched.  I started my concentrated breathing when suddenly she let go, made a face, and said “blech.  Yucky.  All done.”  I tried to get her to latch again, encouraging her to try but she only pulled my shirt down and repeated “all done.”  Since then she has tried only 2 other times, all brief, and all ending with some kind of disappointment on her part.  Like she remembers what it once was but recognizes that it’s just not that any longer.  I’ve stopped offering, mainly because she was starting to seem upset when I did and usually refused me with a sad “no.”

Once SugarBaby is here I will let Smunchie have the breast if she is interested.  I’m not going to insist or force anything and if she’s moved on then so will I.  Letting go hasn’t been easy but I know that together we’ll share with our newest nursling the joy that is “bobbies.”  My friend Diana Cassar-Uhl, IBCLC, encouraged me that we would find new ways to connect if our breastfeeding journey came to an end now.  She was right and they are equally precious moments.

Not everyone has a difficult time breastfeeding in pregnancy, please don’t think that just because that was my experience it has to be yours.  Every journey with every child is unique, honoring the journey means you take it as it comes.  I’m so grateful Smunchie and I have had what we have had.  I’m grateful for what is to come as well.  Breastfeeding through pregnancy isn’t easy for me but then, pregnancy isn’t easy for me.  This part of our journey was still beautiful and precious though, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

My big girls helped me with a little video looking over the recent months of breastfeeding during this pregnancy.  Gathered around the piano for this simple recording I looked over these 5 girls that have each had their turn to be my nursling.  Seeing them, today ages 26 months – 13 years, I couldn’t ask for more, my ordinary miracles.  (Don’t worry, I didn’t include any footage of me vomiting while breastfeeding or Smunchie waiting for me to finish puking so she could latch back on to the breast, just the breastfeeding shots.)

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Comments

  1. DC Ebaugh says:

    ohhhhhhh Jessica, you always put it in writing so well! Share this post with Smunchie when she’s older – she may treasure it, as you do! My DS also was curious about nursing again when his baby sis was born 16 mo ago (he is almost 5), and I let him try, but he also went “hmmm” very non-committally and said ‘no thank you”. (This is the kid who screamed for “BOOOOMBIEEEES” when he was a nursling). So Smunchie must be ‘done’ and in her own time, too. Congrats to you – what a loving experience you shared with your child!
    Best-
    Dagmar

  2. DC Ebaugh says:

    …and the video just brought tears to my eyes. My liitle “DangerGirl” makes those exact little hand motions! And I just love how you two look at each other. xo

  3. Melissa Cline says:

    I’ve never dealt with HG, but at almost 19 weeks along with a 28 month old I hear you on the climbing the walls feeling. I’m hoping as I go through my Hypnobabies home study I can send some anesthesia to my nipples during nursing! It has been hard to have to cut back because of my needs instead of his, but I am super hopeful that we can stick it out until the baby comes and “there will be lots of milk again and mama will be less cranky about the boobies.” (oh, the dagger through your heart when your 2 year old says this!)

  4. Kathrin says:

    I cannot even describe the torrent of emotions that have just broken free reading and watching this. Tears are running down my face. You are an amazing mama with beautiful children. God bless you!

  5. While I can’t appreciate the difficulties that you have experienced with your HG, I greatly appreciate your honesty and openness discussing tandem nursing/nursing while pregnant. I am currently nursing both my kiddos while pregnant with #3. And it HURTS! I remember nursing through my pregnancy with #2 and feeling rather uncomfortable when #1 would latch on, but this time around it is just plain miserable. I am determined to not give up though because I remember how useful it was to still have #1 nursing as she adjusted to being a big sis. I adored putting them both to the breast and watching them check each other out, getting to know each other over this shared comfort. Yeah, it’s uncomfortable (or at times downright painful). Yeah it’d be nice to have that part of my body to myself for a little while before this next one becomes attached. But then I wouldn’t have the joy of watching the older ones bond with the newbie in this unique way.
    Again, thank you for “talking” about this. It is just another aspect of breastfeeding that the general public needs to be aware of and eventually accept.

  6. Rebecca says:

    You have moved me to tears! There are no words to describe how absolutely beautiful this is (and you’ve inspired me to ask my husband to video a nursing session with my 14 month old, before it’s too late). Congratulations to you for all you’ve done for your daughters and for so eloquently documenting this chapter in your lives.

  7. Can’t watch the video – it’s making me tear up! I am gutted to have missed the breastfeeding in pregnancy ‘experience’, even with it how you describe. Isabel weaned right at the beginning of my pregnancy (I still don’t know if the two things were related, she had dropped down her feeds over several months prior to that) and although it took me months be ‘over it’ I still get upset at the thought of what it could be. To make matters worse – the emotional turmoil! – she started asking again a couple of weeks or so ago, but doesn’t latch (just mouths the boob) then says “all done”. Anyway, enough about me.

    I *still* think you’re bloody amazing for going through more than one HG pregnancy. Having been there (and felt the overwhelming relief not to get it again – although I do still vomit pretty much every morning even now at 28w) I don’t know how you’ve done it, let alone done it AND NURSED. Just, wow!

  8. Elizabeth says:

    This brought tears to my eyes and strength to my heart. My 19 mo has been nursing so much lately nursing is agony sometimes but I can’t wean! I won’t! It’ll be her choice! You give me encouragement through this video.

  9. I am teary and crying watching your beautiful video and listening to your girls. Thank you for sharing the very complicated range of emotions involved in your journey. I am 12 weeks pregnant and nursing my 17 month old, things are going well so far but I fear my milk may be running low and the thought of her weaning because we chose to have another baby is gut wrenching. It will be what it will be but thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your story.
    xoxox

  10. Melinda Wyatt says:

    Your blog entry was beautiful and I literally had to dry my eyes with my breastpad at the video! You are a phenomenal mother!!!! What you clearly do for your children is so beautiful and wonderful through all that you are going through! Wow! Thank you for doing this. I need to learn to cherish my time feeding my 11 week old! *happy tears*

  11. You are extraordinary! This was beautifully written and that sweet song is such a nice tribute. Good work mama!

  12. I so know how you feel. We have been dry nursing, for all intents and purposes, since my daughter was about ten months old, using an SNS for supplementation. I was used to it, and it was okay. But when I got pregnant when she was nineteen months old, all of a sudden the combination of dry nursing and hormones, I guess, was becoming more than I could handle. We haven’t weaned completely, but I did encourage her to wait when she would aks for it. Within a few days the only time she asked for “mimis” is at bedtime, so that is what we do now. “I can handle it, I can handle it, I can handle it,” is my mantra. I do hope that she wants to tandem nurse when the baby comes in July and I do hope that I have a better supply this time. Time will tell…

  13. Wow this is just wonderful . It moved me to tears. MY first two are 15 & 14 and now my third is 8 months old and Im currently breastfeeding him. I had Hg with the 14 year old and it was a very hard experience espically since I was only 18 at the time. . You are such a awesome momma . Now a days people due what ever is easy or quicker for there children not what is best. Here you are showing how much you want the best for your child no matter what. I love this viedo and IT is something your family will cherish forever. Beautiful singing also.

  14. That video brought me to tears. I have been struggling with nursing my 15mo lately since it’s so exhausting… like nursing a baby monkey… but this video really brought me back to cherishing those fleeting moments with my baby. Thank you.

  15. Not much makes me cry on the internet but this did. Absolutely lovely. xxx

  16. I made it 40 seconds before the tears started, 1:00 min before i couldn’t hold them in.
    How absolutely beautiful!

  17. I had a very similar weaning journey with my older child. I was so sad that we didn’t make it to my goal of two years, but as time went by I came to peace with it. He did nurse some once his sister was born but I think we are officially done now. One of the last times he nursed and the last I truly remember was when his sister was two months old and he nursed to sleep for a nap. I will treasure that. Thank you for sharing your story and video, it brought tears to my eyes and happy memories to my mind.

  18. That video made me cry. My eldest self weaned just after his first birthday, he wasn’t well and I offered boob, he covered it up and said “no booby”, I really wasn’t prepared for it and it broke my heart a little. Fortunately he’s a wonderfully cuddly 3 year old now. He also wanted to try boob again when his now 9 month old baby brother came along, so I let him. Poor thing couldn’t quite work out latching and gave up. Now he has “pretend boob” while his baby brother nurses, which involves him snuggling up and kissing the boob baby is nursing from.

    Letting your smoochie do it all in her own way is definitely the easiest way, I’m dreading when my nurseling decides to wean, there will be no more babies for me to feed once he’s done :'(

  19. Susan I. says:

    This video touched my heart so much. Thank you so very very much for putting this together and sharing it! Tears are still pouring down my face as I type. This has significance for me right now that I did not expect and for which I am so very grateful. Thank you and your precious family for such a beautiful example and creativity and willingness to share that with others.

  20. I had similar feelings with my first — we struggled to get pg with him and struggled to get a nursing relationship established in the first place. When I discovered I was pregnant with my second, I declared that no negative attitudes about tandem nursing or nursing while pregnant were going to interfere with the nursing relationship I had with my son. And then the pain and irritation started. I would say the alphabet – sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly – and he knew that when I got to Z it was time to stop for that session. He “weaned” about a month before his sister was born and I was so sad that he stopped asking for “deedee milk” He later said he stopped asking because there wasn’t any…

    After his sister was born and he better understood that mommy had milk again for the new baby. He asked if he could nurse and I said yes. His face LIT UP and he sat up, patted his sister’s head and said “Thanks for bringing more milks, Elizabeth!!”

    He continued to nurse until the week of his 5th birthday at which time he’d spaced out nursing sessions so far that when he went to nurse that last time he couldn’t. He had no idea how to get the milk out. We cried together as he took another step towards being “big” and we snuggled and talked about how much nursing had meant to him.

    For us, during that transition when I was nursing the baby to sleep at which time I could not nurse both at the same time, I started using “reflexology” (essentially foot rubs!) to connect with him and stay close so he felt included. To this day, as he approaches his 9th birthday, we still do reflexology at night before bed!

  21. I pushed my little one harder than I wanted to to wean this pregnancy. I turned her down often and I limited nursing sessions because it was just SO incredibly painful I didn’t want to resent her. I struggle with the guilt of it. She clearly wasn’t ready, though she seems fine with cuddles instead of her usual ‘milk’ time. It’s been a few weeks since she asked and I’m mourning the loss of breastfeeding, feeling guilty for encouraging weaning more than I wanted to, and enjoying not having people fighting over time with my breasts ;)

    Motherhood is hard, breastfeeding & pregnancy are hard. I think we all have to manage the best we can to make it through with our sanity and our children’s safety and health intact! :)

  22. that was beautiful <3

  23. Minus the HG (you are seriously a super hero for enduring that – my “normal” food poisoning feeling was bad enough) I TOTALLY relate to what you’re saying. I didn’t want to wean Jules when I was pregnant with Jolene because he needed the boob. It was the cure-all for everything that ailed him. But when it started to feel like he was chewing on my nipple with a mouth full of broken glass, and I screamed inside my head with agony every time he’d latch on, something had to give. I suffered through five long months of that, eventually shutting down my left boob all together because it was just too excruciating on that side (and it never resumed full functionality, actually, it only produces about 1/8 of what the right does now). I gently began distracting him when he wanted to nurse, and the started forgetting about it. The last time he nursed was Christmas day of 2010, when he was 2.5 yrs and I was about 24 weeks into my pregnancy. I was sad, and I knew I’d let him go back to it when the baby came if he showed interest, but honestly, by the time she came along he was totally over nursing. He never once showed a single bit of interest in breastfeeding – as though he had completely forgotten that he’d ever done it. And for crying out loud, the kid was 2 and a half! That was a year and a half longer than I ever expected to nurse him, and 6 months longer than the WHO code recommends. I think I really did my part, and you have to. You’re an awesome mom, and you’ve suffered through a lot to be the awesome mom that you are. I’m sure you know that. Big high five for making it as long as you did.

    • “Mouth full of broken glass” holy crap, yes. That’s what it was starting to feel like and I just couldn’t stand it. When she wasn’t latched I’d think “I can do this” but as soon as she latched I’d be trying not to scream how much I hated nursing in that moment. Which, you know, sucks. But we rock, I think there’s a lot to celebrate in making it as far as we did and letting it stop when it was time. Even if it wasn’t exactly what I had wanted. High five right back! ~Jessica

  24. This is a beautiful post and video. I can’t imagine nursing through HG (and I have never even experienced it!), but it is so beautiful to watch little Smunchie nurse and to hear your big ones singing.

    Makes me really happy that I am continuing to nurse my little 13 months old — no end in sight for us!

  25. what a beautiful video, brought tears to my eyes. Like someone else said, it makes me want to make sure I get a video of me and my baby nursing, because it’s a kind of closeness I never want to forget.

  26. Kimberley says:

    I can give a point of view from both sides…I had always seen older children nursing and thought how odd it was and I am a HUGE supporter of bfing. I wondered how it wasn’t awkward or weird for them to have their 2+ yr old suckling from their boob. (I wondered this to myself I have never made a nursing mom feel uncomfortable about their choice). That is unfortunately due much to our societies view of breast, I am sure. Even after having multiple children and breastfeeding them all I still wondered..how do they do THAT?! My first 4 never went past a year at the most and all self weaned…well, one due to horrific chomp biting that I could not curb. NOW….my view is much different…Now I have a thriving 1 1/2 yr old son that loves his nip. And I mean L-O-V-E-S his nip! And I love giving it to him. The bond is much deeper…the longer it goes. The emotions that I feel when I even consider this time ending are overwhelming and painful to my heart. I cannot imagine the day when he will no longer come to me bright eyed and with big slobbery smiles, saying “nip nip” and scrambling to lift my shirt. The eye contact and soft pats he gives me with his free hand. I don’t think many can understand unless they have been there or are headed there. Thank you for the video. It was… in one word, amazing. Having been on the other side of the fence I do understand the feelings of it being “odd” but being on this side I understand now…how magical, beautiful and amazing it is to give your child liquid gold well into their toddler years. <3

  27. You’ve done it again! Another beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. Lovely video!

  28. MUCH of my BFing journey with this pregnancy has been painful and difficult with my almost 3 year old still BFing. I don’t have HG, but I do cringe, almost cry, feel like vomiting and have to do deep breathing just for him to get a mouthful or two.

    Today he asked for it, the first time in 5 days, and I said yes. It was painful and I could feel the PULLING of my milk ducts, but after a moment or two, he pulled away and said: “Eww.” I’m planning on offering him the chance to BF once the baby arrives, as well. I really love our BFing time together, and I miss it! I feel like part of me is guilty, and the other part is sad!

  29. Oh, I so felt this! I am massively impressed that you managed to nurse while PG and hooked up to an IV, amazing! I nursed our son until I was about 4 months along with his sister (he was 2 1/2), at which point it just became too excruciating and I was dreading bedtime every night. I had nursed him through a cleft repair so I hated to give up on something we had both worked so hard on. One morning when she was a couple of weeks old, he crawled into bed to watch her nurse and after she was finished asked if he could try. He seemed to have completely forgotten how and I was a little afraid that he was going to bite me. But, he figured it out and now, at 8 months and 3 1/2yrs, I’m nursing them both! My little guy starts school in the fall and I’m interested to see how long he keeps wanting to nurse.
    You should be proud of yourself, Jessica!

  30. Seeing the other comments I skipped the video. I’m due in June and everything makes me cry! Nursing while pregnant is harder than I ever imagined. I too thought I’d continue and gradually changed to hating every moment. I felt so guilty about it! Charlie’s just about weaned now and I’m so relieved…I don’t want to be relieved but I am. I’m trying to focus on the beautiful time we’ve had nursing.
    My husband pointed out that nature has designed moms to not like nursing while pregnant–it’s not our fault, the universe is set up that way. He grew up on a farm and remembers there came a point when the mama was just done–sheep kicking their babies, pigs just getting up and walking away, cats biting their kittens. I feel that way too. ;-)
    I’m planning on letting him start up again after baby arrives if he wants. In the meantime I’m using techniques from my childbirth class to get through. I figure its good practice.

  31. Monica Orozco says:

    All I can say is that this video brought tears to my eyes. Didnt know how much I missed breastfeeding until this video. You’re a trooper!

  32. Rachel S says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I’ve been on your blog almost 2 hours reading a little of this and that. Congrats on your new tiny one =) she’s beautiful! I can relate to you on so many different things. I’m a mom to 3 boys and often hear how outnumbered I am and “if we are going to try for a girl.” Ihave Eosinohilic Esophagitis and a undiagnosed arthritis pain issue. I am extremely sick during my whole pregnancy. I nursed my 2nd son until he was 28 months and I was 6 months pregnant with my 3rd. It was a smooth transition and he was as done as me. In December when youngest was 28 months I weaned him because I had to add morphine to my pain management. It was a really hard time for both of us. He still asks about nursing and has even tried a few times. I was getting into the shower the other day and he told me, “I love your boobies mommy!” I’ve felt so bad the past few weeks. Your video reminded me how much I miss it. Now we really feel like we want to complete our family with baby number 4(boy or girl, we are ok with either!) But my health is really not the best. We have tossed the idea around and haven’t decided yet what is best. I’m on quite a few different meds for my issues.
    What are your thoughts on BFing and medications?? I’ve been very relaxed because I know my body filters out so much and it knows what its doing. My dr has the same thinking.
    What about meds and pregnancy?? That’s a lot different.
    I hope one day to be a Lactation consultant and eventually be registered and a RN as well. Right now I enjoy being a SAHM. We live simply so we can have this for our family because we feel its best. I am the go to person for my friends and family when they have BFing questions! I love helping others suceed and want to help people get the best start and have a great support system. My favorite book to recommend during pregnancy to prepare is “so that’s what their for!” I knew as a little girl that I was going to be a mom and breastfeed. It has always come so naturally to me and I latched my first son all by myself!

  33. Ladybug11780 says:

    So, she selfweaned basically. I need help. My boy is 28 months almost. He only nurses to sleep at night. I have been able to distract/night wean all the other sessions for the past 2ish weeks (night weaned for about a month). Im 20 wks pregnant and the nipple pain is do bad, i HATE nursing now. I get anger and frustration when it is bedtime. I ask him to stop. I cant take it anymore and i am so disappointed becausr i wanted him to self wean. I dont want him to cry and beg and basically he asks over and over again at night. It breaks my heart. How do i gently force this last session to be over before i lose my cool? he doesnt swallow so it defintely has to be dry nursing.

  34. Chanterons says:

    This brought tears in my eyes…not in the way one one think it would.
    I am so sorry women have to go through that sort of self-sacrifice. It is normal to resent something painful, annoying, boring, repetitive. No need to label it. This is not a disease, it is perfectly normal. I would have not accepted to go though pain just to satisfy a need that is not even vital. Going though so much pain, distress, discomfort just to meet a goal, a certain ideal of motherhood is crazy.
    A child requests breasts just because he/she is used to do it. Breasts are not compulsory to bond with a child. I never breasfeed my baby. Feedings were happy, funny, lights and easy moments. Breastfeeding would have destroyed our relationships. Bottle feeding made our first weeks, months blissful. No pain, no tears, no tiredness. Just smiles, kisses, love. I am so grateful quality formula exists.
    Many women feel what you feel about breastfeeding. I am sorry but breastmilk is no vaccine, its benefits are in fact quite minor. I hate La Leche League and Doctors like Dr Sears, which are manipulating women for ideologic reasons.

  35. I too suffered HG all the way through to week 41. When we get asked if/ when we will have another I joke that it will take me a long time to forget being pregnant, but I guess it willget to the stage where the fear of another pregnancy is less that the desire for another child. Watching you feed your toddler with the oh so familiar fluid drip certainly affected me. Thanks for sharing.