I thought, for the last two years, that the best part of breastfeeding+cosleeping was getting to sleep all night. With my recent shift to "sleepytime" feedings, I'm feeling like the best part of it was actually the hormonal high I was riding. Guys, I'm in withdrawal.
It took us a couple years to get pregnant, and during that time, our ideas about pregnancy and birth moved from traditional hospital care and birth to a homebirth with almost zero hospital care (except for a single ultrasound to check for anomalies), and all prenatal care done with a midwife. We never considered putting our baby in a separate bedroom from us, but we did like the idea of having her sleep in her own space, nearby. We thought that would be safest to not let her be squished, have her nearby so we wouldn't have to walk across the house when she woke up at night, blah blah. About an hour after Iris was born, I suddenly was urged by the universe to never let her sleep in her bed. I thought, "I hate sleeping alone, why would I put this brand new little person who has been snuggling inside of my warm body in her own cold bed? Fuck that. Fuck that all." Her tiny bassinet became a nappinet. We all took our first nap together around 10AM on May 4th, three hours after she was born. She's never slept overnight in her own bed.
What this meant was that at first when she woke up in the night, I'd scoot over and feed her and she'd go back to sleep and I'd stay half-asleep. She soon wiggled over to me by herself, and then would wiggle over and pull my shirt down. Since she was born, we all slept through the night. No waking up in the morning disoriented. No sleep deprivation. This was amazing.
Traditional shitty USA "wisdom" said to breastfeed my kid for at least 3 months. I figured I'd do it about 6. Then I had Iris and I figured I'd do it a couple years, until she could make the decision herself to eat foods or have milkies. I thought briefly that I might care about my boobies being out in public, but again, that was when traditional shitty USA "wisdom" told me I should care. I didn't. I don't. I don't even remember the first time I took her out in public and fed her because that's how little I cared about the rest of the world once I had her.
This all sounds really positive. The anecdotes of post-partum depression are endless, of not feeling really awesome once you've labored and have your baby against your skin the first time. There's a lot of "Screw that, I'm not dealing with the pain" that goes around. I was ready for all of that. I considered it to be a very normal part of having a kid. But it seems to be more common in a hospital-centric mentality. Once I realized I could have my kid without being hooked up to things, in my own house, surrounded by people I love, with a team of midwives, I decided to ditch all of my preconceptions about "pain." After I had Iris and saw her placenta, I wanted to devour it. I thought, "Look at all those goodies, I need those back in my body." I can't think of a single preconception that went unchanged. I'm so fucking positive about being pregnant, laboring, having your snuggly, all of it. That's part of why I'm writing this post. Because suddenly I'm not feeling amazing, and I think I know why.
A couple weeks ago, I worked on set for two days. These were two very long days in which I only had the opportunity to feed Iris in the morning before I left and in the evening for bed. On the third day, I made the decision to tell Iris that the milkies were all gone during the daytime and were only there for "sleepytime." I made this decision because suddenly, Iris could understand everything we said to her. Not only understand, but also make bold choices in defiance of what we would say to her. Example: We were outside, about to cross a street, and I told her to hold her cousin's hand. I said, "Iris, hold hands to cross the street." She paused, retracted her hand from Emily, and laced her own fingers together. Emily tried to pull Iris' hands apart, Iris was nearly vibrating from holding her own hands so tightly. Our conversations suddenly became a semantics game. Therefore, Iris could understand everything.
Pretty quickly, I felt like crap. Sad. I felt really sad. I'm sad about a lot of things, mostly about a friendship that dissolved a few years ago that I've never really gotten closure on, partly about my sister living in another state, partly about my whole friend support system approaching extinction. This was a different sad. A "Why don't I even feel like masturbating, that usually makes me feel better?" sad. I started feeling pissed off. As in, my kid would spill something and I would yell and kick something over and that moment would make me want to stop existing. I have cooked food only four times in the last week and three out of those four times I left the burner on for hours and made our house smell like a wet steamy dog.
Then, I started going to sleep with Christina and Iris at 8:30 and waking up at 7AM. This is a rarity. It used to happen once every month or so. I had the urge to go to the store and buy a candle. What the fuck was going on with me? A candle? Going to sleep at a regular time? Last weekend, Christina and I talked about my sudden depression depression, and I said, "I'm withdrawing from Iris, I'm fairly certain that is it." Why else would I desire to go to sleep with Iris, since sleepytime is milkies time? Why else would I desire to wake up at 7AM, if not for another oxytocin and dopamine craving?
So, I'm more than admitting it. I'm accepting that I've been a breastfeeding junkie and now that I'm partially weaning, my cravings and withdrawals are kicking in. I get shaky around midday. I feel lost around 11AM. By the time 8PM comes around, I am all about making tea, getting on pajamas, and sliding into bed with Iris to get our milkies on.
I plan on continuing this nighttime feeding ritual until Iris leaves me and falls asleep snuggling her other Mom. Right now, it's the main thing that's keeping my spirits up, and Iris looks forward to it, too. She doesn't eat and then want to party for a couple hours after. She eats and falls asleep eating, and I fall asleep with her next to me and my feet snuggling my wife's feet.
You're probably not suffering from the same hormonal withdrawal that I'm suffering from, but most depressions are probably from some type of hormonal problem. Here's a little list of things I've been doing to help keep me from sobbing all over the place:
- Go to sleep at night and wake up in the morning. I used to to go sleep in the morning and wake up mid-morning. It might not just be the milkies, I think not pushing my body to the point of blobby fatigue is helping.
- Buy a damn candle, or soap that smells delicious, or chapstick, or all of those things. I'm suddenly finding myself wanting to go on shopping binges. I'm trying to avoid this by making a priority list, and putting inexpensive delightful purchases at the top.
- Give hugs to Iris a lot. Long snuggly hugs in the middle of the day. It's making milk letdowns happen, but I'm ignoring them and enjoying the hugs.
- Clean something up that I hate to clean up. Doing this is making me feel like less of a useless human. I organized a bookshelf by color and now my dining room feels magical.
- Let yourself feel like shit. Call another friend that feels like shit. Luckily, the two people I call are both people who agonize over existing, too.
- Set your goals low, write tiny lists, set your standards a little lower so you don't feel overwhelmed. I used to make long lists of things I needed to do, but right now I am doing the minimum so I don't hate myself on top of everything else.
- See the sun. I don't want to go outside at all, but i'm finding that when I do, I become less of a soggy noodle.
I think Iris peed on the bed twice in the process of writing this, which is disgusting and totally uncalled for since she did it on purpose. She's been peeing in the toilet for weeks and I'm only writing this sentence to keep me from tossing the mattress over and wailing on it.
When I come up with more useful things, I'll add them to this list. Do you feel like becoming a puddle? Please, share something you do. Do you feel awesome? Please, don't share anything, I only want to hear from puddle people right now.