I will say that a Whuffle with a sippy cup isn’t half as adorable as milk-drunk Whuff.
Paulo weaned three weeks ago and my body has gone back to… I guess this is normal. For the first time in a year and a half, my body is completely my own. I’m no longer feeding a baby from my person in any way shape or form. I got to “celebrate” as soon as we got home from Portugal by being able to take DayQuil for the epic cold that Nuno brought back with us. Which, I must say, is so much better than the horrible month-long chest cold I had last January while 33+ weeks pregnant and not able to take anything stronger than Robitussin. (And PS, I had to take the diabetic version which tastes like swamp infested feet.)
I didn’t actually miss having my body to myself. Sharing it was fine with me. I got a little wistful when I got my period back and realized that I could potentially have another baby and that I didn’t solely belong to Paulo anymore. And now… we’re not physically connected in any significant way at all. I no longer have anything to offer him that can’t be given to him by someone else.
And weirdly… I’m really happy.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m so glad we breastfed. For one, I hate the smell of formula and making bottles is a pain. And washing them without a dishwasher is even worse. Since weaning, the number of dishes I have to do per day has increased approximately eleventy billion percent (give or take). My boob was way more convenient. I’m also glad I could give him an immune system boost and all of that. We had a really easy go of it and my only complaints are very minor and involve ZOMG TEEEEEEETTTTTHHHHH. I will absolutely breastfeed Eventual Second Baby for as long as s/he wants to (within reason. I’m not going to live in a college dorm again. I just won’t.).
But truly, it was time to stop. We’d both had enough.
In the last three weeks, my body and mind have returned to a much more peaceful state. I had no idea how much breastfeeding had changed me until I stopped doing it.
Seriously. Pregnancy hormones are one thing and you pretty much know that you’re bonkers because someone is kicking the hell out of your diaphragm and getting all wedged into your rib cage and you can’t zip up your own boots, etc. Breastfeeding… the hormones are just as whacked out, but the cause is much subtler. Sure, you’ve got two giant milk jugs hanging off of your person, but it’s hard to tell exactly how much this is affecting your general personhood until suddenly, it’s not.
First, I’ve lost ten pounds. In three weeks. Without doing a damn thing.
I’ve heard of people talking of breastfeeding as the ultimate way to lose the baby weight as you burn so many calories just by feeding the baby. For me, it was the opposite. By six weeks postpartum I was down nine pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight. By November, I was back up to where I was at 36weeks pregnant. My body’s reaction to shedding so many calories per day through my milk was to retain as many in the form of water weight as humanly possible. Also, I wasn’t just eating for two as I was when I was pregnant – I was eating for at least six. I was hungrier and ate more than I ever did at any point during pregnancy. (It should be mentioned that I was on the gestational diabetes diet during my last trimester, but still – I was much hungrier breastfeeding than I was going through that nonsense.) Simply by weaning, I am honestly eating 25% of what I ate while breastfeeding. I’m eating the same foods, but y’know… 75% less of them.
Going along with that, I feel much more comfortable in my body. I wasn’t “fat” by any means at any point (at my heaviest I was a size 14) but I felt too big for myself. I felt very doughy. My clothes were tight and made me feel lumpy. Now… I still have a bit of a muffin top, but it doesn’t bother me in the same way. I feel like the size I am and the size I feel match up. I still want to get back into swimming (the constant low-grade illness of December and then going to Portugal kind of derailed that), but that’s mostly for my happiness – I don’t feel any need to specifically lose weight.
My emotions have evened out.
Breastfeeding made me weepy at everything. Everything. Songs. Board games. Everything. Seriously, before weaning I was playing a board game and while I seriously didn’t care about the outcome, I was losing so horribly that I started crying. There I was, wondering what the hell I was doing because truly – it didn’t matter to me – but I couldn’t stop myself. Thanks, hormones. Thanks so much.
The thought of Paulo growing out of babyhood was especially excruciating. I tried my best to be at peace with the passing of time, but I still – like most mothers do – found myself whispering to him “You don’t HAVE to grow up, you know. You can stay my tiny baby.” I would feel a tinge of sadness with every milestone, every adorable outfit outgrown. I’m not saying I’m in any hurry for him to grow up now – I still want to cherish my little man while he’s little as he’s getting a little bit bigger every day. But… it’s so much more exciting. I find myself looking forward to things like his first birthday (in six short weeks!) more than I had been and looking backward on his new-baby days with less longing. Though let’s be honest – the first age I wanted to even pause at was three months. The newborn days? Nuno said it best (and I think this is true of all newborns, not just The Whuff): “It was awful. I mean, it was great. It was wonderful. But it was awful.” Even when breastfeeding, I’d see pictures of friends’ newborns and coo and think silently “At least it’s you right now and not me.”
Kind of counter-intuitively, I feel like I’d be ready for another baby. Now, I don’t want another baby for another few years. I’m in no hurry. I absolutely have no desire to get pregnant right now on any level. There are no voices in my head (or my ovaries) telling me to get knocked up. But… if I did… and when I do… that’s ok. When breastfeeding, the thought of another pregnancy terrified me. I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t do it. The thought of it now? It would be overwhelming and I do hope to wait a few years, but it by no means scares me. Now that Paulo doesn’t need me in such a physical way, I can let myself be open to someone else needing me like that someday. (SOMEDAY. Seriously, I can’t stress enough that while yes – we’ve always planned on having children plural, we’ve always wanted – and still want – to space them out by a few years.)
(I’m only kind of joking here when I say that part of the rationale here is that I absolutely love babies and could become a baby hoarder and end up with ten hundred thousand babies if I just kept getting pregnant. Much better to just hold off for a while and be on a kind of baby diet where I only have them every few years like cheesecake and how you can’t eat it every single day. Yeah, that one maybe only made sense in my head.)
Lastly, one of the most amazing things has happened that I never would have expected: Paulo wants me more now than he ever did before. I may no longer be a source of food, but I’m who he wants for comfort more than he did at any point before. He’s been able to say “mama” for a while now, but his calling out for me has increased tenfold in the last few weeks. He reaches for me all the time. There are any number of moments per day when all he wants is me. It’s amazingly heartwarming and I was so afraid that I’d lose that when he stopped nursing, that if I didn’t have anything specific to offer him that he wouldn’t want me as much. And yet… he does. And if anything, he wants me more. It’s wonderful. Anyone could give him a bottle and snuggle him, but I’m the one he wants holding him before he goes to sleep. And while maybe it would be more convenient for him to want his dad just as much – I’ll confess that I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Breastfeeding my son was amazing, but now we’re done and I’m so happy it’s over and we’re on to the next stage in our life together.