Over 2 years ago when I had Natalie, I went in for my 6 week check-up. I was feeling great, loving that my stomach was almost as small as it was pre-pregnancy, and enjoying every second I had with my new baby girl. Then, the doctor turned to me and said, "any signs of postpartum depression?" I almost felt like laughing at him. How in the world could anyone with a new baby possibly be depressed? Then, I remembered some friends who had in fact suffered incredible bouts of depression after delivering their children. At that time, I felt grateful that I didn't suffer from such horrible feelings.
Fast forward 6 months . . . I was a full-time working mom with a husband in school. I still loved my baby and things were going great. Still, there were absolutely, positively, no signs of depression. I made dinner, visited with Nathan, went outside for a bit, and then sat down to feed my Natalie. She had been breast-fed up to this time, but because I lack milk supply, we had to supplement. I used to read while feeding Natalie, and we loved our time together. This night though, was the beginnings of something new. Every time I put Natalie to the breast, she would kick, scream, cry, and wail in frustration. I turned to Nathan and said "is she weaning herself?" Turns out, the bottle is much less work. I didn't think anything of it, and continued to pump for almost 2 months even though I could no longer nurse. She would still get the benefits of breast milk through her bottle. Then, I dried up. Nothing.
I didn't think anything of it. It's natural to eventually go from breast to bottle. I didn't really mind. Until . . . the days got longer, I got tired, I felt disconnected from Natalie, and I would find myself sitting with a glazed look wondering what had happened. I couldn't explain it to anyone. I just felt . . . depressed. It was so hard for me to give up nursing my baby. I felt like I had let her down, like I wasn't any good at nursing, and like I couldn't feel close to her anymore. Then I hit a downward spiral for about a month. It was a horrible month for me - and I'm sure for Nathan, who always hates seeing me sad. Eventually, I learned that I could still be connected to Natalie. I learned that she was still my little girl. I learned, above all, that I had not failed at nursing. I gave it all I had. Unfortunately, I am not as blessed as those women who produce an abundance of milk!
I realized then that I didn't suffer from postpartum depression. However, I did suffer from post-nursing depression. I know it doesn't really, medically, exist. But for me - it is very real.
Maejae is now 6 months old. I thought I would nurse her until she was 12 months. But, once again, my milk supply is gone thanks to my lack of thyroid. Maejae misses nursing, and I don't think she was quite ready to stop. I know for a fact that I wasn't ready to stop. But, sometimes we aren't in control of everything. It has been almost a month since the last night I was able to nurse my sweet girl to sleep. I miss those times. I don't feel the same bond and connection with bottles as I do with nursing.
It's been a little tough for me. I once again felt the post-nursing depression, and slumped around for about 2 weeks. I would sometimes let myself think that Maejae didn't love me as much anymore. But, I am getting better, just like I did with Natalie. This time, the depression isn't sticking around as long as it did with Natalie. I think it's because I know now where it is coming from, and I can look at my relationship with Natalie, and know that Maejae and I will be just as close regardless of how long I nurse her. These last couple days, some things have seemed a little over-whelming. But for the most part, I have been happy and back to myself again. Nathan has been so patient, and knows that this transition from breast to bottle is probably harder on me, the mother, than it is on my babies. He helps me so much, and despite my no-nursing loneliness, makes me laugh everyday.
I am grateful that I can breastfeed, and that I was given the opportunity to do so for both my girls. But, next time around - I will shoot for 12 months again . . . and when I don't quite make it, and the post-nursing depression comes . . . hopefully, I'll remember that this too shall pass, and thank God once again for being able to nurse as long as I did!