Last weekend, my mom, baby girl, and I traveled to New Hampshire to visit my brother and his family. His daughter, June, was born just 7 weeks before Harper, and it was the second time we’d been able to get them together. I had planned on writing about their overall adorableness and the plain ol’ joy of seeing them play together and grow. But, as she often does, Harper had other plans.
I’ve been nursing Harper since she was born. It’s been a hard fought battle, and in the beginning was filled with way more downs than ups and tears than smiles. We have successfully gotten through the nursing struggles, some easier and quicker to conquer than others. For something that is arguably one of the most natural things a mother can do, it came anything but naturally for this mama.
Harper was jaundiced when she was born, something that I realize now is common and often pretty benign. As a terrified new mama, though, it felt as if the weight of the world were on my shoulders (or more specifically, two somethings a bit south of there). My Pediatrician informed me that in order to get the jaundice to pass through her system, I needed her to nurse. So, nurse her I did. I camped out on our couch, and nursed my baby. NON. STOP. For weeks. It was my job. It was full time, I definitely wasn’t getting any vacation days or paid time off, and my boss was relentless. I was convinced that if I didn’t nurse her enough, I would fail at my new job and be demoted to worst mother of all time. We were battling jaundice, and dammit, we were going to win.
Well, we beat the jaundice, but the constant nursing led to some things that I won’t go into detail about here. (Let’s just say they weren’t my kind of sweet.) What I will touch on is the bout of mastitis that took over when she was about 3 weeks old. There I was, burning up (and freezing) with a 103 degree fever, sobbing and in excruciating pain, with a baby who wanted to do nothing but nurse. So, nurse her I did. My body battled that nasty mastitis while my sweet babe, completely unaware and unfazed, nursed.
While Harper is many wonderful things, for the first couple months of her life, she was not a wonderful sleeper. It seemed like her new favorite hobby was to fight sleep. In fact, if there were a contest for the worst sleeper ever, I don’t want to brag, but I’m pretty sure she would be in the running for the blue ribbon. For the first 3 months, I was lucky to get a 3 hour stretch of sleep from her each night. Just one. The rest of the night, we were up. So, if she didn’t want to sleep, what did she want to do in the wee hours of the night, you ask? She wanted to nurse. And since my husband didn’t have the equipment necessary (and she wouldn’t take a bottle), it was up to me. So, nurse her I did.
Around 5 months, we began to see the light. I grew to love nursing my baby. We could escape the crazy, noisy, hectic day and retreat. Sometimes I would nurse her because she was hungry, but sometimes I nursed her just because. Because she wanted to, or because I wanted to. Because we had made it through jaundice and mastitis, the pain and the sleepless nights. The battles had been fought, and the war won. We were in our nursing groove, and it was wonderful.
My plan has always been to wean her when she is about 1 year old. But it seems that once again, Harper may have had other plans.
Last weekend, at almost 10 months old, my baby girl did not want to nurse. Not only did she not want to, but she fought it. For three days, anytime I tried she writhed and cried and pushed me away, her little hands balled into tight fists, her sad, beautiful eyes searching for something else, anything else, to satisfy her hunger and bring her comfort. She wanted absolutely nothing to do with nursing.
After a quick Google search, I discovered we were in the middle of what the lactation people call a ‘nursing strike’. I had no idea why it started, how long it would last or how to make it stop.
And I was heartbroken. It wasn’t a part of my plan. Didn’t she know that we had more time? That it was only the beginning of June? That we had fought so hard together to make this thing work, and that we had won?
I was simply not ready for it to end. Suddenly, I was struck with the realization that I would do it all over again. All of it. The agony of the beginning and the endless sleepless nights, the fear and anxiety. The battle wasn’t over.
And so, I fought.