This week has been a strange old week. The Baby turned One, I came to the realisation that the anxiety I have been experiencing is actually a little out of the realms of ‘normal’ (crying in the super-market car-park after shopping for picnic food the night before The Baby’s party, out of a) sheer relief that no-one knifed/kidnapped/attacked me, and b) shame that as a 32 year old woman I tremble and cry at the thought of going shopping alone), I breastfed The Baby for the very last time, and I started on a course of antidepressants.
Yes, it’s been a strange old week. Of all the events listed above, the one that turned out to be the most emotional, the one that caused the strongest reaction, was the end of breastfeeding. I have shed a few tears over the decline in The Baby’s need to nurse over the last few months, but never as much as I have this week. Before I went back to work, I began to replace the after-lunch feed with a bottle, to make the transition easier. I was then breastfeeding twice a day; first thing in the morning and last thing before bed.
After starting back to work, The Baby became less and less interested in the evening feed, preferring a bottle instead. I think it filled her up better. We carried on with the morning feed, and this became my absolute favourite time of day. The Boyfriend and I both take turns at getting up first thing to change The Baby’s nappy once she starts shouting and screaming and bashing Winnie the Pooh against the sides of the cot at the break of dawn, and this is followed by a snuggle and a feed in bed with me, while The Boyfriend makes tea (when he’s around and not at work or having a lie-in). I love this time. The Baby has never been one for an uninterrupted feeding session; she is nosey and easily distracted, and as a result she has only ever fed continuously for around five minutes. She would break off to have a look around the room, check nothing has moved (sometimes she wouldn’t let go of my breast before doing this; sometimes she would bite before nosing around the room; on those occasions the nursing session ended abruptly and loudly), play with the button or zip or ribbons on whatever top I’m wearing, before suddenly and ravenously remembering she was feeding, and attack my breast with the vigour of a malnourished calf. She always reminded me of a feeding calf. From the time when she began to learn to sit, she hasn’t wanted to feed in the cradle position, she always had to sit. More recently, she would sit directly opposite me on the bed, both hands placed up onto my chest, huge eyes looking up at me, while she drank. For all of two minutes. Then up! Standing, walking, a few laps round the bed, stopping at the headboard to post her dummy through the slats, shouting and pointing at my phone or my cup of tea indicating she wants it, shouting at me when I tell her no, before falling to a sitting position, and bouncing excitedly up and down as I ask her if she wants more milk. This little routine would carry on four or five times, before she was well and truly bored with my breasts which were more for entertainment value than nourishment, and needed a more substantial breakfast from a bottle.
Over the last couple of weeks, these morning feeds have consisted of no more than two sittings at the breast, both of around two minutes each. She was weaning herself. One morning last week I didn’t feed her. I can’t remember why. I felt so awful about it later that I tried to feed her after lunch. She was having none of it. And that was the point at which I knew she no longer needed to be breastfed. It was also the point at which I realised I no longer had to refuse medication, and I booked myself a doctor’s appointment.
I carried on feeding The Baby in the mornings after that day, but I knew she didn’t really need them, or probably want them either. It has been a more playful time than a close snuggling time, due to The Baby’s resistance to anything involving lying down. I think I’ve got more out of it these last few weeks than she has. And on Wednesday morning I fed her for the last time. I wept. I felt guilty, even though I know this has come from her, this isn’t something I’ve engineered myself, but I was a little bit pleased as I could start to take medication to help me overcome this anxiety, which then made me feel selfish. Guilt. I think I never really stood a chance against Guilt; Catholic upbringing, depression, and motherhood. It’s part of the package. I wept because the one last thing that only I could do, that special time that The Baby and I shared, however brief it had become, was now over. I think I liked the fact that she was dependent on me, only me, for something. If only those dark early days had been filled with more sleep in between the feeds, I’d go back there in a second. As it is, not any money in the world would convince me to step back seven or eight or nine months to night after long, lonely night of hourly demand feeding and no decent sleep.
I feel sad that the breastfeeding days are over so soon. I know it’s been twelve months (and two days) but I imagined I would still be nursing when The Baby became The Toddler. At least this was her decision, though, and I really couldn’t have wished for better timing.
The medication so far is making me feel a little disconnected from the world. I feel like I can hear my voice echoing through my head, as if it is being played on a loudspeaker on delay. I don’t like it. I’ve lost my appetite, which is great, as I’m hoping that even if I feel a little zoned out for a while, I’ll at least lose the baby weight that is clinging to my tummy and hips and thighs like a needy child. The thing I am hoping for the most is that I can stop the crying and the panicking. I had to walk to the doctor’s on Wednesday, having driven round the streets four times looking for a parking space. The doctor’s surgery is a ten minute walk away, but I feel too vulnerable to walk by myself. On Wednesday I had no choice. The Baby was fast asleep at home so The Boyfriend couldn’t come with me. After searching for the non-existent car parking space, I drove back home, considered not going at all, felt guilty about not keeping my appointment, and then I panicked and palpitated and lip-bit my way to the surgery, and broke down in tears the minute the doctor asked me what I was there for.
I have also signed up for counselling at the surgery. The CBT was a waste of time, and I have tried counselling in the past with no positive results, but as these are the only options on the NHS, and I barely have enough money to fill my car with petrol, let alone fund private psychiatry, I am willing to give it another go. I want to feel better. I want to feel like I can contribute to society, to the world, to my life, and most importantly to my daughter’s life. So I’ll do whatever I can.
Yes, it’s been a strange old week, this week.