weaning

how to wean part 1.jpeg

how to wean part 2.jpeg

 

Breastfeeding is a lot of things.

The first time I did it, it was excruciating for two months and then it kind of clicked and was easier and just a thing I did several times a day. I had to stop earlier than I’d planned, due to needing a mammogram and breast MRI, and the shock of having to make that decision was unsettling. It took about three months to fully dry up my milk supply– from when baby Giles was 9 months to 12 months. The two weeks following my last nursing session were a hormonal roller coaster which felt similar to my immediate postpartum experience. Once I found out that “post-weaning depression” is a real thing I felt better, just to have a name for what I was experiencing.

Eventually things evened out in my brain and I felt like a person again. I started to feel a lot better physically– my vitamin D levels got better, my blood sugar went back to normal, and I started losing weight (I hadn’t lost a single pound other than the initial loss after giving birth). Some women lose a lot of weight while breastfeeding, others do not.

The second time was a whole different monster. Felix was born six weeks early due to preeclampsia. As soon as I pushed him out of my body he was whisked away and I didn’t see him for almost 24 hours. Before I had even seen him I was handed pumping equipment and told to get moving, the tiny preemie needed my liquid gold.

I stared at photos and videos my husband sent me from the NICU, willing my milk to come in. And it did. During those two weeks in the NICU and for three months following I pumped 8 times a day. Every three hours I would try to nurse, sometimes succeed and sometimes not, pass the baby to my husband to be fed a bottle, and then pump for ten to twenty minutes. It was awful and hard and I wept. Nursing hurt. Pumping hurt, though a little bit less then nursing. I also felt sad every time my milk let down (which is a real thing that just happens to some women). The thought “I don’t want to do this anymore” repeated itself in my mind every time I fed my baby. I wanted to stop breastfeeding, but felt guilty for wanting that, since he was so small and still so young. I wanted to make it to six months.

Finally, I started weaning. After just a few days my supply had decreased dramatically. We used up my very prolific freezer stash within a couple weeks. We bought formula. And in about a month I was done.

The hormone crash hit me hard, with intense mood swings and a lot of guilt. I know that my baby is fed and healthy and fine, but there’s this physical feeling of guilt, of shame for not being The Best Mom. Formula is JUST AS GOOD as breastmilk. It was invented for a reason. But there is societal pressure about breastfeeding, and also this innate feeling, which is about everything not just breastfeeding, that I AM NOT GOOD ENOUGH feeling. If I don’t sacrifice every single thing about myself for my children, it feels like I’m not doing enough.

Really, truly, our children are better off if we are kind and gentle to ourselves. They are happier if we are happy. Which means giving ourselves what we need, putting on our own oxygen masks first.

I know this, but I still have the bad feelings. The hormone ups and downs and doubts and that terrible shaking knowledge that bad things things can happen and I can’t protect my kids from the world. The aftershocks of birth that came the next night, keeping me awake and terrified at what I had done in becoming a mother. Why had I destroyed my body, my mind, brought out this tiny helpless thing that will be harmed in some way by the cruel world?

But then that tiny, helpless thing smiles. Laughs. Holds his bottle on his own. Says, “dada” (of course dada and not mama). And then he gets up on all fours, rocks back and forth, and moves just the smallest bit forward by his own damn self and suddenly he is a PERSON. He will be okay. I will be okay.

I’m so glad to be done breastfeeding.

 

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mama’s last valentine’s day

mama's last valentines day

I still have regrets about that day. Flashes of it come and go in my brain, sometimes I am bombarded with these moments and I feel so, so badly for how I acted or things I said. We never got to make up from these last fights because she was soon not fully herself as the tumors took over her brain.

Logically I know that she isn’t still mad at me. As a mother myself now, I know that no matter how angry I ever feel towards my kids, I will always love them in a way that transcends it. I am their mom. I am the person they can feel comfortable enough around to yell at and feel all their feelings without judgement. I also know that 27-year-old Anna didn’t know how to express all the jumbled up complicated feelings and thoughts that clogged up her heart and mind as she watched her mother die.

But.

But it still churns up my guts to think about this day when I was kind of a bitch about the valentines. I am pulled to a dark place and all I see is Mama’s hurt, disappointed, angry face.

dear pepper/another birthday

dear pepper, night owls.jpeg

I call this new baby “Pepper” while she/he is in my belly because on the day I told my sister I was pregnant she harvested the first anaheim chile peppers from her garden. It was March, which is autumn in the southern hemisphere, where she lives.

We don’t know if Pepper is a boy or a girl. I like the not knowing. I refer to “her” as a “girl” because it’s simpler than he/she all the time, or “it.” And maybe there is a little intuition there, I honestly don’t know. I don’t know what is right, just that maybe the gender of an unborn baby doesn’t matter to the baby. Maybe they are just a human: existing and growing limbs and learning to use lungs and blink their eyes and feel the differences in light.

Lately I do not sleep. This happened last time, in my pregnancy with Giles. Third trimester insomnia. Mostly it is because I am uncomfortable. So I am tired all the time. I’m existing in a state of being barely here.

Today is my mom’s birthday. She would be 60.

I hate counting the years, because they just keep going and I’ll end up counting for a really long time.

 

 

 

a day in the life

This is an old diary comic from February. Every hour from 6am to 7pm.

unnamed

A glimpse into a day in the life of a stay-at-home mom. Even though it’s months later, our routine is fairly similar. Galactus even still gets stuck in trees. I’m just more pregnant while doing all of these things. I wonder how it’s all going to change once the new baby comes?

 

remember me

movies

This past November we took Giles to see Coco at the movie theater. He was eighteen-months-old at the time. This past Saturday Giles went to see it again, at a special screening with his Nana and Granddad. He came home talking all about it, now twenty-two-months-old. He said what sounded like, “mama me,” a bunch of times and at first I didn’t know what it meant. But then I realized he was talking about the song from the movie, “Remember Me.”

This song makes me think of my mom. Know that I’m with you the only way that I can be. 

I learned it on ukulele so I could play and sing it for Giles, and for myself. And for my mom.

Next November we have another baby due. Four wheels on the car. I’ll take her/him to the movies too.

 

helpless

helpless 1

helpless 2

this comic was drawn with my left hand (which is my non-dominant hand). i do that sometimes, for specific stories, or to loosen up.

my mom switched to painting left-handed after she developed neuropathy in her right hand. in her own words:

My mind is coming back. Possibly, this has something to do with my recent shift to painting with my left hand (because of the neuropathy). Painting left-handed does not feel awkward to me—just the opposite: It feels like coming home. I feel more like myself , more in-sync with myself, than I ever did in my whole life working right handed.
This has been a powerful discovery, and one I have yet to fully process or understand.
~ Viola Moriarty
7 March 2011

 

valentine to myself

valentine

This comic was drawn in my journal, so there’s another comic on the back of the page showing through just a little bit.

I made this in my class tonight (I often participate in the exercises with the students). The assignment was: make a comic as a valentine to yourself in the past, at a time when you might have needed it. 

There are several past Valentine’s Days when I would have benefitted from a note from Future Anna. Sadder ones. Lonelier ones. But this one sprang to mind. I really was happy being alone that day, even though a little part of me longed for something romantic to happen. But I used to worry about how things would work out: love, career, family, all that jazz.

What I know now is that everything works out. This doesn’t mean that everything is good and tied up in a neat package with a bow. What I mean is that everything just is. It works out because it exists, I exist, I am here in my life and I am okay. No matter which paths I could have chosen, I would have ended up somewhere. Decisions are not right or wrong, they just ARE. So you pick the thing you really want to do, or be, or have. Like John Carter in E.R. when he choses to drop out of his surgery residency to pursue emergency medicine instead. He struggles with this decision, and really either path would have been fine. Either path leads to good and bad things. It’s just, which thing do you really want to do?

I long very deeply for the ability to call my mom, in a casual way, just walking around. To talk about our days, thoughts, whatever. So if I could tell my younger self to do anything, I guess it would be to call her. Even if I’d just called her five  minutes before. Call her again. Hear her laugh. Argue with her. Tell her you love her. Hear her call you that nickname that rings in your head even now, almost five years after the last time she ever said it.