When “You are your mother’s son” is scary

“You are your mother’s son.”

My husband said this affectionately to our son last night as we left the restaurant. Colt had just told him, “I didn’t do it. Mama did it.” He was referring to how I had picked him up and put him in his seat because he was dawdling too much to do it on his own…30 minutes ago. That greatly upset my very independent boy, so he sat and stewed on it for the entire meal.

Yep, he’s my son. When I got butt-hurt about something, I used to hold onto it and roll it over in my mind for ages. I used to let small misunderstandings ruin my entire day, which would frustrate my husband to no end. I didn’t like doing it, but I couldn’t help it. I was upset, you know, so it was important to chew on it because eventually he would see I was right and he was wrong, right? Right??

Luckily, I’ve since learned the value of letting go of small annoyances and working through larger problems so they don’t get blown out of proportion. But the memory of my past behaviors is there when my son shows signs of my less-than-impressive qualities. And that’s what makes the phrase, “You are your mother’s son,” slightly chilling to me.

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What else is he going to inherit from me? Will he be a slave to compulsive behaviors, as I was? Will he feel anxious in social settings because he believes everyone there is better than him? Will he lie and manipulate because he can’t handle the emotions he’s feeling? Will he be an alcoholic or addict?

These fears aren’t new; I’ve had them since before I was pregnant. Of course I only want him to receive my good qualities and I want my bad qualities to be left behind in the gene pool. Truthfully, I want him to be more like my husband. I’d rather Colt had my husband’s cool, calm and collected sunny day rather than my up-and-down emotional thunderstorm. So far, it’s looking like he’s more of the thunderstorm type.

I know it’s not just nature that decides how our life goes. Nurture plays a big role as well. I’m able to calm my fears a little because of the changes I’ve made in my life. I’m no longer the slave to compulsive behaviors, the self-hating girl who lies and manipulates because she can’t handle the emotions of addiction. I can do my best to mitigate the less desirable genes I’ve given him, by nurturing him with love, encouragement, empathy and respect. I am the best person for the job of his mother.

And I’m going to do my best so that when someone tells Colt, “You are your mother’s son,” it’s something to be proud of.

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The view from inside

The view from inside

My chest aches. I imagine it as a big ball of grayness – sadness and nothingness all at once – right in the center of my chest. I’m exhausted. I have unexplained headaches.

I’m irritable as all get out. When my son says, Mommy, mommy, mama! I fight back the urge to scream. Why do you need me so much? I need a Mommy, mommy, mama. I want someone to take care of me and cater to my every whim. I just want to be left alone.

Except when I am left alone, I’m still not happy. I get restless. I can’t focus on anything and nothing is enjoyable. So I find myself mindlessly playing stupid computer games, waiting for my son to wake up or my husband to come home to relieve me of my boredom with life.

Except when they are with me, I’m irritable as all get out. And just want to be left alone. But then I am left alone and I’m still not happy…

Fuck.

This is what depression feels like for me. This is what I feel like today. These are the things I usually try to hide from the world.

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I get so frustrated when I realize depression has popped up again. I pride myself on being so vigilant and proactive about staying on top of how I feel. The truth is, I have a chronic disease. And sometimes, despite all the self-care and preventative measures I take, it still flares up. Which fucking sucks.

Did you know that depression is often a side effect of other chronic diseases? It’s because living with something you can’t cure or get rid of is frustrating, rage-inducing and sad. So imagine knowing that you’ll never fully get rid of these random sad times. That no matter what you do, or where you are, or who you’re with, there’s always the chance of turning into that person you hate.

Then I snap at my son for asking me to make breakfast two seconds after I told him I would.  He starts crying and I realize what an asshole I am.

When I’m in a flare, the pity party starts. Why can’t I be super fit like those women at the CrossFit Games? Why can’t I write those clever, witty and insightful posts like all those mommy bloggers I follow? I start comparing myself to everyone around me and always fall short. Logic has no home in depression. I can tell myself, you can be super fit too; you’ve done it before! I can point out, you’ve written some great posts! But it doesn’t matter. I can’t see past successes in a current flare.

One of the hardest things about depression is that it’s mental. Nobody would know I was in a flare unless I told them. My husband can tell (poor man puts up with so much from me) but to the outside world, I might just seem a little quieter. Or like nothing’s wrong – I’m pretty good at putting up a good front to the general public. Even if I want help, I generally won’t ask for it. I’ll just sit there and hope someone cares enough to ask how I’m doing, and then hope that I’ll have the balls to admit the truth (my friend Julie wrote an amazing post about what depression won’t let her say several months ago and yes, I do think her writing is better than what I’ve got down here).

I think if I could just sit on my couch all day, staring into space, I would. Basically accomplish nothing except breathing. But I can’t. I have to be a mommy. I have to get us ready to fly home in 2 days. I have to get off my selfish, self-pitying ass and get stuff done. Which in the end might be my saving grace – fake it ‘til you make it. If I force myself to get up and interact with the world, maybe it will make the flare subside. Or maybe I’ll just be miserable while trying desperately not to be mean to my son.

Either way, life must go on.

Happy Mother’s Day

Just a quick shout out to all the good mamas out there: Enjoy your day!

If you’re wondering if you are a good mama, take this short quiz:

1. Do you love your child/children?
2. Do you try to do your best as a mother?

If you answered yes to the questions above, Congratulations! You are a good mama. 🙂

I’ll be spending my day with this awesome guy:

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5 Minute Friday: Comfort

The 5 Minute Friday prompt over at Lisa Jo Baker is Comfort. Well, here goes 5 minutes of unedited writing on comfort!

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Of all the mama super powers, I think the power of comfort is my favorite. When my son is hurting and comes running to me, I feel so blessed that I’m able to give him comfort. My kisses make owies go away, my hugs quiet sobs, my fingers make tears disappear. To be someone’s main source of comfort is an amazing feeling. He doesn’t know it, but he is my biggest source of comfort. When I’m sad or upset, I can bury my  nose in his hair and breathe in his wonderful, toddler smell and feel my heart lighten. His soft little arms around my neck and his little kisses on my face make me realize the world isn’t such a bad place. When he calls out, Mama!, it’s the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard. I’m his favorite lovie (insists on snuggling mama at bedtime) and he is my favorite cuddle-buddy.

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Best hug in the world

Stop.

How to be a weaner

How to be a weaner

Weaning from breastfeeding can happen in a couple of ways. Sometimes the child takes the lead by refusing feeds, losing interest in nursing and generally showing Mom that he/she is done with the boob. [LC note: it is uncommon for a child to self-wean before age one. For more information, check out self-weaning on Kellymom, my favorite breastfeeding website].

Sometimes, a mother is ready to stop breastfeeding before the child shows signs of stopping. And that is FINE. It takes two to tango and both partners are important in this dance. [LC note: I think it is helpful to clarify your reasons for weaning before going for it. some women wean because they have been mistakenly told there is no benefit to the child after one year. If the decision to wean is made using bad or false advice, that could be upsetting later. But if a mom is ready because she just. is. done., then full steam ahead!]

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That was my situation. I decided shortly after his 2nd birthday (14 Sept) that I was ready to be done, and we had our last nursing session on 5 Dec 2012. I didn’t want to abruptly stop nursing because 1) I went back and forth with my resolve to quit; 2) I wanted to make this as easy as possible on my son (since he would be losing a source of nutrition/comfort that he’d had since birth); and 3) I did NOT want to deal with engorgement. No ma’am.

Here are the steps I took to wean my son. I can’t remember how long each step took, but I didn’t move on to another step until my son was ready. This meant he had accepted the change, didn’t fuss/cry/complain about it anymore and had been that way for at least a few days (meaning I didn’t start a new change the minute I saw acceptance. Had to give the kid a little time to enjoy his new routine before I sprang another change on him!).

    1. First I eliminated any random day feeds so all we were doing was feeding right before bed. I had eliminated some random nighttime feeds months before (we started bed-sharing when he was 20 months old and he thought that meant all-night buffet. Nice try, buddy). We never nursed before nap, so I didn’t have to worry about that. Feeds before sleep are often the last to go, since most moms will do anything to avoid messing with their kid’s sleep. Those are the feeds that a child is often most resistant to losing, so best to give the child practice skipping other, less dear feeds before moving on to the big kahuna feeds
    2. Next I worked on not letting him fall asleep while nursing. This was the precursor to dropping the bedtime feed. If you get them in the habit of falling asleep after nursing vs. during nursing, it might make it easier for them to fall asleep when you take the nursing away. Some moms try to keep babies from falling asleep at the breast much earlier than I did, and awesome possum if that worked for them. I clung to anything that would make my boy sleep. what i did was let him nurse one side until he asked for the other. Then I’d let him nurse just until he was drowsy (fluttering eyes, slower/deeper breathing). Once I saw that, I’d unlatch him and cuddle a bit. He complained and fussed the first few several times, but I’d cuddle him close, rub his back, shush him, sing his calming songs (twinkle star and farmer in the dell) – basically any calming measure besides nursing. This step took the longest for me.
    3. Once he was a champ at falling asleep without the boob, I started restricting him to one side only. He could nurse all he wanted on one side (without falling asleep, of course!) but once he pulled off and said “Nursh other side!” he was done nursing for the night. We had some minor disagreements about this, but I’d calmly say “No other side” and do all the calming measures from step 2.
    4. After he was ok with only one side and it was getting closer to my chosen end-date, I started reducing his time at the breast until he was only nursing on one side for a few minutes each night. I didn’t watch the clock; I just let him nurse for a little bit and then I’d say, “Ok, all done! Time for night-night” and proceed with cuddling/comfort measures. I suppose a mother could use a watch to reduce the time by a minute each night, but that’s not how I roll.
    5. I had chosen 5 December to be our last night of nursing. I remember how bittersweet and conflicted I felt as we nursed (unbeknownst to my son) for the last time. The next night, 6 December, was my husband’s graduation from Airman Leadership School (ALS). I would be away at the ceremony at bedtime, so Colt would not be able to nurse. I had waited until my husband was done with ALS so that he could help at bedtime if Colt was very resistant to giving up his Nursh. Turns out he wasn’t as upset as I’d feared he’d be, because I never had to call in reinforcements at bedtime.

Reading through these steps, it sounds so easy, but I definitely struggled at times. Mostly with the emotional aspects of it and the guilt I felt for taking nursing away from my son. I went back and forth on if I was ready (which is part of the reason I took so long to wean) but realized I was starting to resent nursing, so knew it was time to stop! My son was probably 85% ready to wean. He wouldn’t have stopped on his own at that time, but he didn’t fuss much at the end.

He’s asked to nurse a handful of times since, but I just gently say no and try to distract him. A few times, he was having a massive cry and was screaming to nurse; that broke my heart to say no but I learned new ways to comfort him. Mostly he asked just to “check,” it seemed like. It’s been over 4 months, and I still get to cuddle him at bedtime as he falls asleep. That’s always been our special time and I’m glad it didn’t go away when breastfeeding did.

Weaning like that also helped me avoid any engorgement/discomfort <——— huge benefit for mom, as anyone who has experienced engorgement will tell you! I didn’t have any engorgement, which makes sense because by the end, each breast was only getting a few minutes of stimulation every 48 hours (one breast a night, switching breasts each night). Avoiding engorgement helped me reduce my risk of a clogged duct or mastitis. I think there would be nothing worse than having to deal with that while trying to stop nursing! Better to take it slow and just avoid that whole party.two of us

Overall, what worked for me was honoring my feelings while respecting my son’s feelings, taking it slow and choosing a time that was (relatively) free of stress and when my husband would be able to help if needed (partner support is so important at every stage of breastfeeding!). What was your experience with weaning like? Any tips that helped you?