Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Reality is Sinking In: I Really Have Stopped Nursing

Operation: Wean
Day 2

Yesterday was much easier than Monday. Despite all the ice cream justifications I spouted out, I didn't even need to bring in sweet reinforcements. She accepted cereal and pasta and other drinks when I refused to nurse.

She still hasn't understood the concept of "No more boobies." She just hears "No boobies now." So she's rejected over and over again. That's the hard part. But she is at least starting to accept it more quickly, with fewer cries if any.

So wow, I haven't nursed in more than 2 days!

I've noticed just how much I really used to breastfeed, because yesterday every time she woke up or came close to me my instinct was to pull my shirt up. I had to remind myself not to do it!

In case you're wondering how much physical pain I must be in, the answer is none. I tried to wean while on a business trip in September, so I've already gone through the pain of days' worth of engorgement. When I returned from my trip, I didn't have the heart to refuse her like I planned, so we rebuilt a small supply of milk. Not enough to cause me discomfort now.

Monday, March 29, 2010

When Attempting to Wean, Have Chocolate on Hand

Operation: Wean
Day 1

Why am I finally weaning?
  • Melody is about to be 22 months
  • She claws at me constantly. I have scratches on my chest from her pulling down my shirt.
  • She does said clawing in public--on subways, buses, in restaurants
  • She is not in it for the milk. Long after she drains me she wants to suck for comfort, making me a human pacifier.
  • I'm going on 3 trips for work in the next 2 months. It will be hard enough on her and Joe as it is, so if I can remove the "mommy can give Melody something daddy can't" factor I hope it will be easier on both of them in the long run.

Theo stopped nursing on his own at 9 months, so I've never weaned before. I did, however, have to wean him off the bottle at 2 years and 3 months. He was very addicted. I told Joe we were going to throw away all his bottles and stop cold turkey. It would be a hard few days but we'd just have to deal with it and then it will be over. Joe had his doubts but went along with it.

Turned out to be not so bad. Our secret weapon was ice cream. To ease his howling for the bottle, we gave him his favorite dessert. After a couple of days, he forgot all about the bottle. (Happily, Melody never really took to a bottle so it's one less thing to wean her off of. And we didn't use a pacifier with either kid.)

My strategy is the same now. Have treats at the ready when the screams come.

I'm not so much weaning as stopping cold turkey. Gradually and increasingly cutting down on feedings is the most common method of weaning. Turns out that trying to cut down on feedings wasn't in either of my kids' DNA. This method of replacing boob with ice cream would undoubtedly be unpopular with many mothers, but I remain unapologetic. If I can soften the blow of this cruelty, great!

I knew the mornings would be the hardest. When she wakes up, the first thing we do every day is lay on my bed and nurse. And nurse and nurse. This morning, at 6:30 AM, I stuck her in the high chair with ice cream and Nick Jr. on TV.

When she was finished, she lay on the couch with me tugging my shirt. I was prepared--I'm wearing a turtleneck, which I plan to wear for as long as I need to during this process. Melody begged for milk.

"Alk! Alk! Aaaaalk!"

At this point I took my mother's advice and had a conversation with her, as mom had done with Elliot. "No more boobies. You're a big girl now. Let's hug. Can we hug?" WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

I offered her a cup of warm milk and she refused. But all her wailing made her thirsty, so she eventually grabbed the cup and drank. After a few sips she tossed the cup in protest.

Later in the morning she wanted to nurse, so I made her hot chocolate. That kept her happy for a bit.

Now, as I type, she's happily munching on strawberries and ham and eggs (made with the delicious ham Joe's mom made for Palm Sunday! She sent us home with leftovers). So it hasn't been so bad. She cries, yes, but then she gets over it. I wasn't sure if she'd spend all morning whimpering, or worse, screaming. But she's fine.

How long will this take, I wonder? When will she really, truly stop asking for the breast? And when will she forget about it entirely?

In case you think I have a blase attitude about weaning, guess again. This is as hard on me as it is for my little girl. I shudder when I think:

I will never nurse again.

I put both my children to my breast the instant they were born. It has been a beautiful, special part of my bond with them.

It's Melody's greatest comfort when she gets a bruise or is sleepy. It's the one thing I can do for her that no one else can. It's ours, and no one could take it from us. Except me. It's a bittersweet ending.

I do worry that I'm choosing the time I'm ready to stop instead of when she's ready. My best comfort is knowing she won't really ever be. Addicted as she is, she'd have just as much trouble with this a year from now.

Joe has been very supportive--he has always said I should stop when I am ready. I know other dads pressure their wives to stop once the baby is "too old," so they can get what's rightfully theirs returned to them.

Boobs, when this is all over, you won't look as you once did. But I'll try to love you anyway. You may be closer to the ground, but you brought my children closer to my heart. You nourished my babies; you did what nature meant for you to do. How can I be mad at you for that?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bronx Zoo

Our trip to the zoo this weekend was in a word--perfect.

When Theo was Melody's age we'd take him to the zoo, hoping that this time he would notice the animals. But he rarely did. It was like they didn't even exist. We always left a little sad.

But in the past year, Theo started loving the zoo! He especially likes the polar bears and penguins. It was a thrill to watch him walk around on Saturday with his hat and his map--he looked like a little safari man.

Melody was enthralled by the giraffes. She giggled at the monkeys. But most of all, she loved the simple ducks that you'd see at a pond. She gazed at them for a long time.

As you can imagine, they charmed the heck out of the 7 train passengers on the way home. They really, really adore each other.

Click here to see the rest of the zoo album.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Note to My Daughter

Dear Melody,

I know one day you will no longer call broccoli "gocky" and grapes "apes." When that day comes, I will be sad.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Where's the Shooting Thing?

Another proud parenting moment--Theo asked me where the shooting thing is. He was talking about the nerf gun he got for Xmas, which I hid and he recently found. I love that he doesn't even know the word gun!

More recent cute-isms that I posted to Facebook but should really mention here:

  • Theo wants Aunt Gloria Nicodemi to come over so he can make her avatar on the Wii. (A mii.) He wanted to know if he could put a baby inside.

  • Melody just handed me my pants from the laundry and said "get dressed."

Balancing Hard Work and Expectations

Joe and I walked away from our meeting with Ms. Fredericks today feeling great! She was all smiles talking about Theo, telling us we should be very proud. And we got the impression that she really likes Theo. I know it's hard to imagine anyone not liking him, but that's the sweet Theo you know. In school last year he had bad behavior issues and I could tell his teacher just plain didn't like him and didn't want him there. It's very hard for a parent to see someone feel that way about their baby.

The Report
Now, I was that kid who was unhappy with a 99 on a test. I held myself to ridiculous standards. I'm not sure why, because my parents sure didn't. They always had to tell me to ease up on myself, force me to stay home when I was sick because I wanted to go to school  (not becuase I liked it, but so I wouldn't miss something important) and sleep more and study less. It was definitely somewhat of a role reversal. I think I owe my attitude to the need to compete with my two best friends who are geniuses and scored 100s in their sleep.

All the stress I gave myself in school was unnecessary and not something I want for my children. But how can a perfectionist hold her children to lower standards than she held herself?

Maybe autism was the kick in the teeth I needed.

First graders are given standardized tests in NYC now. Makes you wanna cry, no? We received those results today. Theo was on grade level with math, and on the cusp of grade level with reading. My heart sank when I saw his below-average reading scores, but only briefly. I reminded myself this wasn't a standardized test for special needs kids--it was for all first graders. It wouldn't be fair to hold him to the same standards as everyone else.

Nor would it be fair to teach Theo that it's OK for him to expect less of himself and use autism as a crutch. We are still learning the careful balance needed between making him work hard but forgiving himself for taking longer to catch on.

But it's his mom who struggles, to tell the truth. I get frustrated during homework. I start yelling at him. Yesterday I made him cry because he wasn't telling me the right answer in math. I know that makes me sound like a monster, but he wasn't trying.  He was just naming random numbers as answers. I usually know the difference between him being uncooperative and legitimately struggling. Still, when I saw the tears I hugged him and told him this work was hard and he was doing a great job and would get it soon. I reminded myself that I had to get my act together as much as he does.

Luckily his wonderful sitter Sharon and his best friend Reina (she's 8) are the ones who help him with homework on most days, and he is much more cooperative with them.

Back to the parent-teacher conference. Ms. Fredericks has been giving him lots of prizes lately for good behavior. While he has trouble transitioning between activities, he's socializng much better with the other kids. He works beautifully with Ashley, who is calm. She keeps him with the calm kids because they bring out the best in him.

She was very impressed with his growing vocabulary, as are we. She showed us the "on demand" story the kids had to write where the kid writes a 3-page story with 3 illustrations with zero help from the teachers. His story was great! Really nicely written, most words spelled correctly--and adorable drawings of him sledding.

The principal randomly walked in the room during the meeting and gave us a big smile and thumbs up to indicate how well Theo was doing. I smiled through my teeth and repressed the urge to say "aren't you glad we didn't take him out of this school last year like you clearly hoped we would?"

Ms. Fredericks also remarked on the great change in Theo ever since we took him off the gluten-free casein-free diet. He was just so happy to eat what the rest of the kids were eating! Remember my post about the important social component often ignored when this diet is discussed? She used to buy him gluten-free cookies (which I didn't even know--so sweet!) to help make him feel like he fit in, but he always knew they weren't the same as the other kids' snacks. She says he's an overall happier kid in school now.

Heehee-- I told Theo I was proud of him because his teacher said he was doing well in math, reading, and writing. He asked, "What about lunch and snack?" as if those were subjects too!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Three Generations of a Rocking Chair and Dolls

I always loved the little rocking chair in Aunt Don's apartment. During our last visit, it occurred to me to bring it out for Melody, along with three dolls that belonged to my cousin Jo when she was a little girl.

Melody didn't exactle handle the dolls with care, but she sure did look cute on the chair!

Now Jo, Melody and I have all sat on that little rocking chair that Aunt Don says Uncle Charlie brought home for Jo.

Update: Jo read this and said
"Hi darlin....this is great. It was very emotional for me to see Melody in that chair. It was around 1952 that my Dad brought it home so that I could sit in front of our first TV and watch Howdy Doody!! I still love it."