Milestones and Boulders Archive

Milked It: A New Era for Arielle and Me

I didn’t really mean for it to happen when it did, but it’s sort of symbolic that Rosh Hashanah, the start of a new Jewish year, known for wishing health and sweetness to loved ones, would also mark the final time I breastfed Arielle.

It’s a [Hanukkah] miracle I even breastfed her as long as I did. Or at all! The journey was nothing short of my share of uphill battles and it never came easy for me when it truly mattered, but I was so intent on being able to do what I couldn’t do for Madelyn. The complications from my c-section with Madelyn in 2011 left me feeling quite depressed and defeated and I knew that if I ever had another baby, I would try to do my best to be able to breastfeed.

First day on the job as Arielle's personal dairy farm.

First day on the job as Arielle’s personal dairy farm.

And I did! For 18 months, just two days shy of 19 months, Arielle and I weathered a storm — Hurricane Boob — for the benefits of bonding, comfort, and the magical science that IS breastmilk. Do I think breastfeeding is the only acceptable form of nutrition for a baby? No. Madelyn did just fine on her powdered cocktails of Nutramigen. But I did feel like I missed out on an experience, and I am so glad that Arielle and I have had a very special connection that I’ve never had with anyone else. So, perhaps, it was about me all along; satisfying the curiosity of wanting to know just how special breastfeeding can be, as many women — friends and strangers — have expressed.

But it was time. She was hardly nursing anyway. She would go days between nursing sessions and didn’t seem to notice because she really didn’t need it. I started to wear my nursing tanks and bras less. I wasn’t really nursing her out in public anymore. She was starting to just ask to go straight to bed and skip the milk before naps and nighttime. And then yesterday, Erev Rosh Hashanah (that’s like New Year’s Eve), we were cuddling, she was thirsty, and really, I was too lazy to go downstairs to get her a drink so I figured she could have breastmilk because I am nothing but a walking pantry, and she wasn’t into it; a few suckles and she unlatched. I tried to get her interested again because, I mean, I really didn’t feel like going downstairs (it was cold!), but she shook her head and kept asking for “wa wa.” I suddenly felt like a chef whose patrons were sending entrees back to the kitchen. Where did I go wrong? Why did she not want me? My recipes had always been tried and true! I straightened my chef hat, twirled my tiny mustache, and in my best French chef accent I thought to myself, “Well, what’s that famous French saying? “A little dab’ll do ya?” I tasted a dab and — sacrebleu! — my milk was salty! That’s a sign of milk that hasn’t been emptied and neither of us had been very interested in emptying!

And that’s when I realized that this was the end of our journey. It had to end eventually. I knew that when I first started. People would ask me how long I’d plan to nurse Arielle, as if I was a carton of milk branded with an expiration date — tssssssssss 18 months — but I always just shrugged and said, “Whenever either of us get sick of it.”

Well I came to learn that neither of us were sick of it. Trust me, I was sick of it many times along the line, but I had recently actually gotten to a point where it was easy and drama-free. But we just went with the flow — literally — and I knew it was looming after she turned one, but I also didn’t seem to have any reason for us to stop. But now, between her display of needing breastmilk less, my sudden salty milk, and an impending surgery I’ll be recovering from in about six weeks (more on that later), this feels like the right time that will be stress-free for her and not painful for me.

For the past 18 months, our nursing sessions have always been accompanied by my phone in my lap. Bad habit, probably, but early on my phone served as a distraction when breastfeeding was painful, and then it was kind of a time killer when she wouldn’t stop pre-gaming before bed, and recently it has been a quiet time for me, away from the rest of my household and able to just rest my mind on quiet, brainless activity. But last night, for our final nursing session, I put my phone down, and drank her in, and told her all the reasons why I love her and why we went on this journey together. I cried. She had no idea. But I cried because this is my last baby. My second baby, and my only one to successfully breastfeed. I was sad when my pregnancy experience was over because I’d never know that again (and I’m also weird and liked being pregnant), and I was sad when she left the newborn stage because I’d never love another tiny, little baby again, and I was sad when she started walking because she’d never really need me to explore the world again. I know I sound like a total nutcase, but each milestone, though exciting, leaves me a little older and less needed by these wonderful daughters of mine. Well, I suppose less needed for this period of life (I anticipate being very needed when they want money for shopping or for soap opera breakups). But with each of these milestones achieved, I always knew I was still providing her nourishment and comfort with breastmilk. (That, and if we ended up like Tom Hanks on a deserted island with a volleyball, I could totally keep my family alive!) Now, though, I am two deflated B-cups away from having any biological purpose: I am finished making humans and finished feeding them. Send me out to pasture. Moooo.

As I sat in the comfy chair with Arielle during our last nursing session, I went through all of the major moments of our breastfeeding relationship and tears trickled down my cheeks. My mind showed me the good, the bad, and the ugly, like a time lapse of all the highs and lows of or our 18+ months together: from our first suckle in the hospital on 3/4/15 to the first successful feeding after her tongue tie release; to breastfeeding at Disneyland and on airplanes and at carnivals and Shabbat services to various dramatic blebs and plugged ducts that had me flirting with mastitis; to hating nursing and threatening to quit 13 times to accepting the amazing help of my husband who washed pump parts and set alarms and propped pillows; to having to change my diet completely in order to help Arielle’s digestion of my milk to over supply and under supply at various points of our journey; to sweating bullets while figuring out how to cover up at the mall when a screaming baby was frantically hungry and searching for food and comfort to not giving a shit about what other people thought and hoping to teach others less fortunate to understand and normalize breastfeeding and eventually leaving the Hooter Hider in the car in a fit of freedom; to hand expression when I realized it did more than my pump and blissful peaceful lazy weekend mornings cuddling in bed with Arielle at my breast while big sis and silly dog and daddy played around us; to the sisterhood of breastfeeding support groups and going from desperately needing the information to confidently sharing the information. I don’t regret it, though at times I thought I did. But now, looking back, I know that 18 months is no small feat and I cried because I was proud.

My job here is done. Boob drop.

My big girl is a party girl, probably thanks to her months and months of being up all night at the boob keg.

My big girl is a party girl, probably thanks to her months and months of being up all night at the boob keg.

A Bedtime Story

I’m happy to report that Madelyn’s final night in her crib and first night in her bed were the exact same experience: boring! No muss, no fuss. No tears, no fears. I am still pinching myself how easily she transitioned.

The day her bed arrived was a big day. It was Friday, her favorite day at school because of all the Shabbat fun she has in the morning. Then it was Halloween. Then it was bedtime. It was one of those go-go-go days when parents probably shouldn’t do things that are of the milestone flavor due to rushing around and a less-than-routine schedule, but we’re risk takers and like to play with fire like that.

Her bed arrived while she was at school, and we spent the last hour of her school day making the bed and decorating her room so that she’d come home to a mostly complete version of her new living quarters. It was so fun to set up the new bedding and decor I’d worked so hard to coordinate and we couldn’t wait to show her the final product after I picked her up. I took it so seriously, I was just one headset away from actually becoming a Pottery Barn employee.

We led her upstairs to her room and let her open her door. Her smile went from wall to wall, and she instantly declared that she loved “the pink bed with flowers!” We climbed into her full size bed and snuggled in the new sheets as she explored the new bed’s anatomy: pillows — two of them! — sheets, a duvet, a quilt, and her favorite “friends.” The girl who had insisted that she loved her crib and didn’t want to give it to her baby sister truly turned a corner, and she continues to declare that she loves her big girl bed.

On the left, Madelyn's new bed. On the right, Ariel photobombing Madelyn's new bed.

On the left, Madelyn’s new bed. On the right, Ariel photobombing Madelyn’s new bed.

After a fun night of trick-or-treating with friends, we weren’t sure what to expect for the new sleep routine. We grappled with the concept of teaching her about staying in her bed throughout the night and not to play with her toys during sleep time and how she can’t go downstairs and other rules that come along with new freedom. But it dawned on me that we should use the first night as our base, our foundation, and it would only possibly cause confusion or problems for my goody-goody daughter who never even tried to climb out of her crib. If there was a problem by the morning, then we would address it. But to put thoughts in the girl’s head when it might not even occur to her to run wild around the house, might just end up shooting us in the foot later.

So, we read a story, tucked her in, gave lots of kisses, and left the little girl in the big bed until the morning.

Reading Tango Makes Three from Madelyn's new "nest" -- we love this book!

Reading Tango Makes Three from Madelyn’s new “nest” — we love this book!

"Comfy and cozy" surrounded by all of her friends. We are one stuffed animal shy from promoting her to a king size bed.

“Comfy and cozy” surrounded by all of her friends. We are one stuffed animal shy from promoting her to a king size bed.

Then I stared at the monitor all night.

I haven’t looked at the monitor much since Madelyn was an infant. I’ve never lived in a big enough house that I wouldn’t hear crying without the monitor, and watching a sleeping baby is actually kind of boring. So, the monitor has always been back-up for comfort, but I’m not the mom who’s tied to it.

Except for the first night in her big girl bed. Without rails. And with lots of extra bedding.

But finally, my heavy eyelids gave out and I slept on and off all night, hitting the display button as ferociously as I hit the snooze button on my alarm clock every morning. “Is she?!” No. “Where is?!” In bed. “How is?!” Sleeping. All my light sleeping and frequent wake-ups throughout the night were unnecessary.

At 8:15 on Saturday morning, I woke up with a jolt half expecting to hear Madelyn banging pots and pans downstairs in the kitchen or her laughter outside riding around on her tricycle. I looked at the monitor and she was fast asleep. In the era of the crib, it wasn’t abnormal for her to sleep until 8:30, 9:00, so this this wasn’t totally crazy, but I thought her new surroundings would surely throw her off.

I was up-up for the day, so I relaxed in bed waiting for her to wake up to see what she’d do. 8:30, 8:47, 8:55, 9:10, 9:15… nothing. Still and quiet. No red light blinking on the monitor to indicate sound and no grayed out three-year-old thrashing around on the screen.

And then it happened. 9:20 and she started to stir. She sneezed a cute little morning sneeze. Then she sat up. Looked around her room. And I braced myself for the cry and the plea to be rescued.

Wrong.

She greeted her “friends” with a cheerful good morning not dissimilar from Cinderella to her woodland creatures who lived in her attic, crawled to the foot of her bed, turned her body over, and thumped down on her two feet. Then she went nose-to-lens with the camera on her dresser where I watched her up close and personal as she undressed herself, peeled off her Pull-Up, opened her drawer, fished out a pair of likely princess undies, and then she disappeared out of frame. I heard the rolling of her closet door slide open and the clanking of hangers and clothes swishing around. Then two soft thumps, one for each foot, and silence.

The echo of our floorboards signaled she was cannonballing down the hall and Princeton growled at the 37-inch intruder, completely dressed in a matching ensemble and ready to take on the day, who opened our door with, “Goooooood mooooooorning, Mommy and Daddyyyyyyyyy!”

And that’s when I died.

She was so, so, so proud of herself! She galloped into our bed and we snuggled and discussed her first night in her big girl bed. The reviews were in and they were two thumbs up and then some: “I love my big girl bed!” “My bed is pink!” “I didn’t have a bad dream!” “I loved sleeping with my friends!”

Bryan agreed and backed up her claims with, “Your big girl is so comfy and cozy!” to which she followed: “That’s what I always say! Comfy and cozy!”

I died again. Because I am a cat.

Our love fest continued as she managed to tell us every detail of her slumber, which was pretty dynamic considering all I could see on the monitor was a quiet little girl smushed among pillows and sheeting. She narrated everything we caught on camera, about how she got up on her own and dressed herself “in pink because I looooove pink!”

I keep wondering when this luck will run out (March 4th is the answer). There’s no way lightning can strike twice. Baby in the Utey, if you can read this: It’s A-OKAY to take after your big sister!!!! Madelyn always been such an easy transitioner. Her first day without a bottle of milk? Didn’t even flinch. Potty training: Diapers whaaaat? And now the big girl bed: She was Goldilocks on the first try and it was juuuuuust riiiiight.

I was so proud of her, but doubted the streak would carry on.

So when the second night came around, I held my breath, but bedtime was smooth again. Sure enough, at 3:21 a.m. I heard whimpers. Normally, I wait out the whimpers — I’m not a get-up-and-instantly-go mom. But with such a change, I didn’t want to play that game. So as I got out of bed to address the whimpers, I looked at the monitor and she looked distressed. As I ran down the hall, she was gearing up with more intensity, “Mommy!! Daddy!! Mommyyyyy!”

I rushed to her side and patted her head. Before I could ask what happened, her panicky voice told me: “PIGGY!!! PIGGY FELL OUT OF BED!!!!!!!!!”

Miss Piggy, my own childhood stuffed Muppet that she sleeps with, is… rotund… and had the end spot on the bed (bad call, parents). She rolled off. Pig down. I picked her up, placed Piggy between Madelyn and Rapunzel, and tucked everyone back in.

I got back to bed and Bryan asked what was wrong with Madelyn. “Piggy needs bed rails,” I said.

And then we laughed ourselves back to sleep.