When Breastfeeding Ends

I walk into Mara’s room at 6am as she’s gnawing on the side of the crib. Two other sets of teeth marks imprinted under her’s, tug on a contemplative thread in my heart, despite my sleepless daze. Her toothy smile stops me right in my tracks. I sit down to comfort feed her and I’m keenly aware that this time is likely our last. 

Sadness settles onto my shoulders and gratitude in my chest for our time together. 

A familiar undercurrent that feels a lot like fear creeps in behind the scenes. Fear of what I will be left with when I return home to myself after years of baby making comes to a close. 

No more miracle in my belly, or baby on my breast; I am simply me. A sort of “back to reality” feeling – like when I came home from living in Australia – where there are no extra hormones or excuses for mood swings or ease of self care. I am back to me. 

I know from experience that once this transition has passed, I will feel more whole and free than any of these other feelings, relieved to have my body as my own. But this time, likely being the last, feels more momentous. 

There is an inherent worthiness tied to the giving of myself. What is life like when my primal purpose of creating new life has ended? Am I still worthy of love, stillness, joy, peace – all the good things – if my body is only my own? 

I always resented the words “settle down”. Now they land with an air of freedom. To settle into myself and settle into my truth; wherever that takes me. There is a spaciousness in this place, one that allows for something new. While uncertainty isn’t exactly my favorite flavor these days, a part of me remains hopeful for the certain beauty in whatever comes next.

Conversations with myself and my tiny humans

Are you hungry?

Thirsty?

Tired?

Angry?

Scared?

Frustrated?

Shame, fear, regret, disappointment, doubt;

it’s all welcome here. 

I see that you need a hug. 

You don’t have to pretend or perform.

You can be honest with me.  

You are my priority. 

I’m not going anywhere.

Come here, come home, I see you. 

I love you. 

Let’s just be.

Hard Days: A Road Map

Overall I’m having more “good” days than “bad” days right now. After a string of good days, the bad ones still catch me off guard. Is it grief? Is it motherhood? Is it an aggro-crag of PMS? Is it just a hard day?

My dedicated brain is always trying to understand and find an explanation for the spontaneous feelings and happenings in my days.

During the hard ones, I (sometimes frantically) pull out my road map of tactics and try to remind myself that I’m not back at the beginning, but just having a hard day.

With grief, new losses amidst the bigger loss are emerging. The loss of Father’s Day, our family unit as we knew it and the simplicity of nachos with jalapeños at baseball games. The loss of me, as I knew her. 

When I have conversations with my future self, the one who has that “my kids are now wiping their own ass” glow, she always comes with one clear message. 

You will never regret showing yourself compassion. 

She goes on to say…

What you are going through is hard.
Asking for more help is necessary.
Not feeling like you can do your job of motherhood everyday is okay.
Wondering if it will always be this hard is normal.

She doesn’t say to try harder or do more or get a new job, she just says:

Be kind and take care of yourself.

 

Hard Day Road Map

  • EFT – tapping
  • Constant prayer and putting up a force field around me of love and support from my guardian angels and God (sounds a little “woo woo” like Oprah would say, but it helps immediately)
  • Meditation – I love the Calm App
  • Stream of consciousness writing 
  • Getting outside for walk or a swim
  • Yoga
  • Walking barefoot around our front yard
  • Calling someone or meeting up with a friend
  • Crying and allowing the feelings

Dear Dadio

Dear Dadio,

It’s been three months now since you’ve gone home. It feels like longer and it feels like yesterday. I try so desperately to cling onto specific words from past conversations, but everything feels hazy right now. Saying I miss you doesn’t do it justice. I wonder what word would be better. I fucking miss you? I don’t think there is a word. It’s so far beyond anything in my capacity to say or feel. We talked about saying “Altoid” when we are thinking about you a lot. It’s because your car was always stocked with Altoids, Carmex and trail mix. To soccer, from soccer, and so on.

Every day that goes by makes me wonder deeper and further about where you are and how you are doing. You are one more day into your other life and we are one more day into our life without you. More things are happening and you still aren’t here to experience them. Thanksgiving, three of our birthdays, and even Christmas. Thanks for being there with us, even though it’s not how we selfishly wanted you to be.

With Maisley’s first Christmas preschool performance came the uprising  of a new hit single to replace the “Baby Shark” phenomenon: “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”.  I was so proud of her for getting up in front of everyone and pretending to sing. Maisley hugs me, rubs my back and brings me ice packs when I’m crying about you. She says, “It’s okay to be sad sometimes”. I try to hide my tears from her but I think it’s okay and maybe even good for her to see me like that.  Thanks for being the best part of our nighttime routine; your star is always the brightest one.

Coura is so smiley, Dad. She is the happiest baby you’ve ever seen and I have an inkling that’s not on accident. Maisley makes her laugh hysterically by jumping up and down and doing crazy faces. Those two roll on top of each other and Coura is finally starting to hold her own. They love each other so much and Coura seems really content being a part of our family. I wonder what she will be and do and see.

Altoid.

Ryan is doing well, too. Work is humming along and his busy travel season starts in a couple of weeks. His parents got him a guitar for Christmas and I have to admit, he can jam out a mean “Twinkle Twinkle Poppi Star”!

I spoke at an open mic poetry night a couple weeks ago when I had only planned on listening. I know you were there because I heard those chirping crickets. Thanks for giving me that burst of courage to go up there and read my writing. I cried so hard on the way home, for so many reasons.

Since you’ve gone home, I grab the hammer more around the house. I’m growing less afraid of what people will think and less afraid of life. I am trying to be extra kind to the people around our neighborhood or at the grocery store. That’s what you did.

We never got to talk about how the Red Sox won the World Series this year or how Tiger Woods is in the thick of a comeback. Can you believe the Chargers are in the running for a Super Bowl title the year after they move out of San Diego? Bring out your rally monkey for the Angels this year!

Dad, you made and are continuing to make such a dent in our community. I wish you could have been there in person as we celebrated your life. I wish we could have seen the embarrassment and pride on your face as people poured out their respect and gratitude for you. The way you lived made other people reevaluate the way they are living. Just take the compliment, alright?

Know that when we smile and find joy it’s for you, it’s because of you. Know that when we are sad and down, it’s also for you. Thanks for infusing us with your strength during hard days and your joy during good ones.

Thanks for being with us through all of this, Dad. When I pay attention and stay present, I am able to find some peace, because that’s where you are. In the brightest stars. The gleaming sunsets. The wispy clouds. The cool breeze. The James Taylor soundtrack. You are in all that is beautiful. 

That’s about it for now. Give Grandma, Nana and Nonno a big hug for us. Happy New Year, Dadio.  See you in my dreams.

Love you so much,

Jen