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Wednesday, July 1, 2009


First, I want to thank everyone who weighed in on last week’s post about weaning. One of the great things about blogs is their potential to start and sustain a real discussion. And of course the challenge with an online discussion is to keep it from turning into a “fight.” Breastfeeding is such a hot-button issue for so many people, and I really want to thank you for not letting the discussion turn into a yelling match. I do realize that my sensitivity about weaning emerged a bit, and that probably hurt my facilitation skills. Ah well...

It’s been a challenging week for me. I’m craving prolactindoesn’t that stuff come in a bottle?—and I’m really missing my cozy time with Zoë and the way nursing calmed her.

All of this (plus the health scare I had a couple of weeks ago) has made me very tense. I developed these ridiculous knots in my back last week, knots so tight that my arms began to tingle and my chest felt heavy. But instead of realizing the tingling was a result of this tension, I became convinced that I had a serious underlying health issue. (This is what happens when you combine an active imagination and a worrying nature with hypochondriac tendencies.)

So I spent a week brooding and worrying and feeling generally low. I sat and stared at my computer, working over the same sentence again and again, struggling with the silliest of words.

Yesterday, D said, “Go get a massage. Today. Now.”

I love massages. I do. But they seem like such a luxury, an expense that I hardly ever justify. But yesterday it was either try a massage or go to urgent care toting my Internet-procured list of possible causes for my symptoms. I decided on the massage, partly because I figured it would be less expensive than urgent care. I got a last-minute appointment at a salon near my dad’s house, dropped Zoë off with grandpa, and splurged.

But it turns out that sometimes a splurge is not a splurge at all. This woman was fabulous, and the massage was painful, but afterward, there was no tingling in my arms and no heaviness in my chest.

Then last night, I was checking my website for messages, and there was a note from another mother writer, the wonderful Erin White of Hatched by Two Chicks. (Erin’s lovely essay “East Wind” was in Creative Nonfiction a few years ago, but I didn’t realize she was a mother-writer and blogger until last night!)

This is what Erin said:

“There is nothing quite like the end of the nursing relationship, especially with a toddler. I weaned my first right before her second b-day and the process knocked the two of us off our feet. But we got back up again, much faster than I might have expected, and then we got going on the task of figuring out new and amazing ways of connecting to each other and to our own worlds. My second (who I think was born the same day as your second!!) weaned herself at 11 months and I will always be grateful to her for that. I got my energy, my body, my work, and--dare I say--my chi, back in the most amazing way. Nursing is heaven and weaning is freedom. For mamas and for babies. I tend to see nursing and the decision to stop as really great practice for making later decisions about ourselves in relation to our children. And as the mothers of daughters (I have two, as well) I think its so so important for us to get really good at valuing our bodies and our independence while at the same time staying really connected to our kids.”

I love that. After all, parenthood requires constant practice in letting-go. And we must continually navigate our shifting and growing relationships with our children.

Zoë and I will be fine, eventually. We’re in the midst of figuring out new ways to connect. Yesterday, she had trouble falling asleep at nap time. We battled it out for a bit, and then I just went and got her from her crib, and she fell asleep in my arms, like an infant, her face pressed into my neck. The same thing happened again this afternoon. So for now I’ll just I hold her tight, listen to her steady breath on my neck, and rest my cheek against her temple.


Monica Crumley said...

What a sweet post and so poignant. I miss the sweet, hot, milky breath of my content baby drifting to sleep in my arms. But the freedom is a welcome and necessary part of the journey.

cath c said...

erin's words are a godsend. prefect wrap up of what the goal of weaning is.

it's easy for me to be sensitive about the issue as i consider it now, too. my apologies for getting more pedantic in print than i may have been feeling as i wrote it. no intent to offend on a hot button topic for all mothers, and a lot of society besides.

Melinda said...


Thanks for sharing Erin White's note to you. She really captured that combination of loss and freedom that happens for both one's toddler and oneself. And the role model for little girls about the value of taking care of one's female self. (Makes the loss part easier perhaps?)

Glad you're feeling better. Zoe is a lucky young lady.

Shannon said...

Hi Kate,

This is me to a tee:

"This is what happens when you combine an active imagination and a worrying nature with hypochondriac tendencies."

I try not to google health-related things as much as possible.

I hope that all is well with you and that you find there is nothing serious going on with your heart. I would have been so scared if I were in your shoes.

I'm sure you know this, but I want to tell you that I read your blog faithfully and love it. I apologize for not commenting--I'll try to do that a little more in the future.

As to weaning, if memory serves, I think I did much the same thing as you've described in this post. I would hold my daughter until she fell asleep, which I loved. (I should add, however, that I STILL stay with her until she is sleeping--and she is three!)

Best of luck with this transition from breastfeeding.


P.S. (I'll be attending your workshop on the 11th, so I'll see you then! I'm looking forward to it.)

kate hopper said...

Thanks all. And thanks to Erin for letting me post her words here!

Shannon, I'm so excited to finally meet you!

Mary said...

I am behind on all blogs and so missed this thread. I had NO idea that breastfeeding could interfere so much with the mama's immune system, but thinking back, I had the same experience. Tired, always battling a cold. I also had additional health scares/problems that eventually convinced ME to wean. I live in Berkeley, though, where breastfeeding till age 5 is not unheard of so I had a lot of doubt. Abe self-weaned before 11 months, Oscar was never capable and Ruby and I bargained till she was 3 years old. We traded it in for "snuggle and talk time" which satisfied both of our needs for physical intimacy but gave me the freedom I desperately needed. It was a long, hard process, with many sleepless nights. She still loves hugging and snuggling and though I thought I would really miss breastfeeding this is just as good. Sounds a lot like what you and Zoe are doing. Best of luck with the transition....and keep taking care of you!

The Blue Suitcase said...

Oh precious sweetness. We weaned at 17 months, and this is still how my 25-month-old falls asleep at nap time. On my favorite days, anyway.

Amy said...

This was exactly what I needed to read this morning as I am struggling with weaning my 22-month-old daughter. She is suddenly experiencing some crossover effects from some high estrogen levels that I've been experiencing and it was the kicker that I needed ot be done. but it's hard. And it re-defines our relationship - which is a good thing - but still difficult :)

Thank you for your words and willingness to share. This is one the experiences that makes me infinitly grateful for the blogging community.