by: Joni Edelman
My husband and I decided to at least try get pregnant with our fifth (yes, I said fifth) child when our fourth child was just 8 months old. This was a conscious choice because: A. I was (am) getting old. Fast. B. Since I was already Advanced Maternal Age (whatever that means) we considered that it might take a few tries before we were successful, we thought, “Hey, let’s get this party started.”
It took one month.
So I found myself pregnant, mid-summer, with three teenagers and a 9-month-old baby. It’s worth adding that the 9-month-old baby slept about as good as a newborn baby, or worse. Just imagine the worst sleeping situation you can. Multiply it by 2. That’s her. Oh and by the way, my husband works out of town three days a week.
I know you’re probably saying to yourself, “WHAT THE HELL is wrong with this woman? Is she insane?’
Breastfeeding is important to me. Also, I have a guilt complex. There was no damn way I was weaning Ella. Even if it killed me (and it came close), I was hanging in.
And the first few weeks were really nothing special. I was nauseated, having a hard time nursing and keeping food in my body simultaneously. There was some gagging. Ok, there was a lot of gagging. It passed. There was some discomfort but nothing to moan too much about. Ella seemed thirsty, but Adventures in Tandem Nursing was my trusted companion. Having read that milk can take a turn for the salty, I kept a water bottle nearby and soldiered on.
The second trimester crept up before the holidays and one day, nursing Ella down to nap, I realized I hadn’t heard her swallowing. I snuck away, attempted to hand express some milk, only to find that I could not. I chalked this up to some inexplicable cause, I was dehydrated, hungry (neither of which are plausible), any cause really, other than the actual cause: my milk was gone.
It hadn’t even occurred to me that my supply would even dip, much less drop to nothing. And so I sat on the floor of my bedroom, huddled next to an outlet with my pump, topless and awkwardly entangled in tubing, pleading for even a drop of milk to appear. And of course — or there would be no point in this story — there wasn’t a bit. Not an ounce or a teaspoon. Not even a drip.
Blame it on the hormones, the dark winter, the shortened days, the overwhelming task of taking care of four children, blame the tears on what you will. I sat huddled, crying, sobbing, irrationally devastated. The only thing I wanted to do was feed my baby, and birth my other baby. And those things couldn’t co-exist.
Suddenly I felt the crushing guilt of everything I’d ever done; my divorce, my new husband, the new baby, the other new baby, the non-organic fruit in my fridge, that time I bought french fries, that other time I bought french fries, that glass of wine I drank during the third trimester, that time my sprinklers ran all night and we were in a drought, global warming. All of it.
Guilt complex. Did I mention it?
I took my guilt and terror into the second trimester. I took my crying to twitter. I asked for reassurance anywhere I could find it (including The Leaky Boob). I was so sure she would wean and it would be my fault and I would have broken her and myself and everything.
But she didn’t wean.
And sometimes I wished she would have. I know that doesn’t make sense (see: I’m crazy). But there were at least three occasions in the middle of the night — Ella screaming to nurse from a breast that had no milk (and PS that isn’t super comfortable) — that I wanted to literally put her outside. It was winter, or I might have.
Pubic symphysis dysfunction nearly crippled me. I had no milk and a baby that wanted nothing but milk. I had four kids that needed me and I was crawling on all fours to the laundry room. I wanted to put my screaming baby outside. I wanted to cover my head and come out finished with pregnancy. Sometimes I didn’t want to be pregnant at all. Sometimes I wanted to cease to exist.
It was not a good time.
And of course, because guilt, I was sure my unborn child knew I didn’t want to be pregnant. And I knew he’d be born and feel unloved and unwanted. I knew it.
And then my homebirth turned into a hospital birth (though that’s another story). And because I didn’t feel guilty enough about the fries and the lawn and everything else, I now got to feel guilt that the baby (who I was already sure felt unloved) had to be born in the hospital.
Less than two days after Max arrived my milk came in with a gush. When Ella realized the milk had miraculously returned after 6 months, she looked up at me, slowly signing ‘milk’ with the deliberate opening and closing of her tiny fist, she smiled her tiny smile, tongue still curled around my nipple. Her hand stroked the back of Max’s head, as if to say, “Thanks for coming. And oh also, thanks for bringing the milk with you.”
We made it to the other side. We graduated to tandem. And I didn’t put anyone in the backyard — excluding myself anyway.
Back to feeling guilty about global warming.