Its been sixteen days since I cried and for someone who knows me, that would sounds unusual. After Malcolm suddenly stopped nursing right before he turned ten months old, I think that finally broke me. In my last blog I tried to convey the feelings of rejection and despair I felt, trying to pacify an infant that seemed to now hate everything. He resisted every other means of hydration, and continues to get virtually all his hydration from baby purees.
I decided to start taking an anti-depression/anxiety medication to see if it could help me manage my days better and I think it has. Although I feel more even-keeled, it also feels like I’m more two-dimensional. Lately I don’t really miss the three-dimensional depth of feeling, as it was mostly negative. I don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed of being on medication, but I plan to stop as soon as things even out around here.
We had a good week. Nothing seemed too overwhelming and I think we have adjusted to the new normal around here, as well as Malcolm’s new feeding pattern. He still does not get any formula or breast milk, but I plan to try and get him some home-made formula in small quantities when he’ll tolerate it. He eats constantly, so I just try to keep up with it and try not to let him get constipated. My milk supply is now gone and I feel the familiar tug in my gut that aches for the connection he and I had, but its like I can’t access that part of myself fully anymore. Crying was always so cathartic for me, but for now I suppose it will have to wait until life settles.
Its hard to sum up what has unfolded the past week since Malcolm began a nursing strike. I’m not in the mood to detail the whole situation, as I am exhausted in more ways than I thought possible, and I’d like to go to bed. In short, Malcolm hasn’t nursed in five days and does not take a bottle, drink from a sippy cup, and resists open cup feeding and syringe feeding. The only hydration he gets is from watered down purees and the occasional forced teaspoon syringe feeding. He’s not sick. He is just going through something that I hope will pass and happens to some kids around his age.
Its difficult to describe how I’m feeling in words. Anxious. Devastated. I never thought I’d feel “devastated” by something like this, but its like I’m looking at my baby through a glass window and watching him scream and cry and I can’t help him. Except there’s no glass. He is in my arms and still crying. And he wants nothing to do with me.
I spend all day trying to give him some solid food, but terrified of constipating him. Trying to give him watered down purees but it doesn’t seem to be enough. I feel like most things Eric and I have done since he was born for hasn’t quite been enough, and that has been difficult by itself. One of the only things he liked was nursing. I’m considering seeing a doctor about anti-anxiety medication, or something that can help me manage better. After ten months, this has finally broken me.
He’s too little to wean yet, and at the very least his hydration is minimal. I feel devastated not only because of his rejection of me, but that was our quiet, bonding time. No screaming, no carrying around a 20 lb baby until my back ached. Just quiet time to be together and I would know his tummy was full. And now I don’t know. Our pediatrician is keeping close tabs for the next few days, but we are all just waiting to see if he will change his mind and start nursing again. Meanwhile, my milk supply is drastically reduced and I don’t know how much longer it will keep up.
The past few days I feel like I’m unraveling. Like my insides are being twisted and wrenched every time Malcolm looks at me and screams, like he needs something I’m withholding. Its the worst feeling.
As I nursed Malcolm last night, some thoughts had occurred to me concerning my path in life as an artist and how my focus has shifted since having my kids. After Vi was born, I had a very hard time accepting this new roll as a stay at home mom and I ached to work. My last contract as a designer was a gig in Maryland as a props designer for a college producion when Viola was arounf six months old. Aside from a social media marketing job part part time, of which I was laid off, I haven’t formally worked in theatre for two years. After Malcolm was born I was so relieved to be unencumbered by a job, no matter how part time, because such an endeavor would have been impossible.
Why do we work? For a time I realized it helped fulfill my identity and worth. After Vi was born, I struggled to find my footing as a mom and a woman outside the realm of my skill set. It was hard. After Malcolm was born, I barely gave working a second thought. as I did not have the luxury of time to think about it. Plus, I had become accustomed to my identity as a mom.
So as I nursed my nine month old last night, I thought, “What would I do if I was free to work now?” I would likely try to find a scenic painting contract with a local theatre company that at least paid, leaving my scenic design and stage management training in the dust. Scenic design wasn’t feasible any longer, as I don’t have a decent autoCAD program or the finances to market myself as a scenic designer. And Stage Management isn’t appealing once you have a family. Period.
Having two little kids less than two years apart has been hard and Malcolm has his high-maintenance issues. But even so, there is something to be said for home-making. Not “being-a-home-maker”–that makes me think of 50’s women massaging their man’s feet after work in full make-up while the pot roast cooks in the oven. But we as moms are the ones defining home life, aren’t we? That’s why we work–to come HOME. I feel I am apart of the very crux of why we do what we do every day.
Someday I might pick up a scenic painting contract. Because I love telling a story and being a part of a shared experience. For now, I can plan painting projects in my home and help create the story that really matters, even if that means less sleep and seemingly mundane tasks. But I am glad to know that working is simplya means to the end I get to live in every day. And that is encouraging.