This is going to be way too much information for most people, so feel free to just waltz on by this one. But if you’re pregnant, may become pregnant, nursing, or the SO to anyone who is, it’s probably a beneficial read. Or maybe not, who knows.
I’ve been pretty level my whole female adult life. Once I figured out what a period was, I kind of quickly figured out how my body dealt with that. Basically, I would have some fairly significant physical symptoms, and so I would maybe get a little more impatient and “crisp” under stress, but otherwise emotionally I’d be pretty even keel. No super mood swings. No unnecessary drama. Just a lot of barfing and general death level cramping.
Even pregnant I feel like my moods were fairly stable. Again in times of particular discomfort I might have gotten a little snippier than usual, but who wouldn’t when a giant fetus is tap dancing on your bladder while simultaneously trying to birth herself out of your ribs?
I think I documented fairly well the dip in my emotional stability after Hannah joined the world, but again it was fairly consistent. Just consistently lower and sulkier than usual.
Now – TMI Overload here – my period came back almost immediately. I had Hannah in November, so bled most of November. I took December off to, I don’t know, not die, but then started having a regular period again in January. No breastfeeding break for me. My body was like “You wanna go again? Let’s do this!” The only difference has been that my physical symptoms all but disappeared. I don’t have debilitating cramps (maybe labor gave my body some perspective?) and generally the only warning I get that “Aunt Flow” is coming is the date on the calendar and maybe a little tinge of discomfort in my left hip.
I was trucking along in the shallow end of the happy pool for a long time. I wouldn’t say the last year and change has brought me to the deep end; drowning in my own happiness, sense of self worth, and feelings of awesomeness at rocking the working mother thing. But I would say I have made it to a weird middle, where I can still touch the ground but can dunk my head under without too much effort.
I always knew I wanted to breastfeed as long as possible up to a year. No hating on those that decide to carry on, but 1 year was going to be my limit. Given the drama I had when Shelby fed Hannah her first bottle, I firmly decided to extend the “weaning” time as long as possible. But then life caught up and got in the way as it always does and my plans got changed. Theatre.
I started by reducing the number of feedings per day. By this time, I had long since quit pumping at work as I wasn’t getting anything but sore nips. On an average work day, I was feeding Hannah 3 times; once in the morning before work, once immediately when I got home, and once before bed. Weekends and WFH days, she’d get another 1 or 2 midday snacks. I decided to start by cutting out the morning feed and letting her sleep in when she would. It would help me get to work faster (ummmmmm) and let Shelby sleep a little longer and was by far the easiest to cut out. And then I cut out the midday snack feedings on the weekends.
And then, two weeks before our target end date (which by this time I had decided was a floating target because neither one of us reeeeeeeeally wanted to give it up), Shelby’s stage manager dropped out. Suddenly I was going to need to be at the show every night. Shelby’s parents were already coming into town for Hannah’s birthday, so it worked out OK. It just meant that I would rush home after work to get a sneak feed in before heading out to rehearsal/performance. But then sometimes she had just had a bottle and didn’t need me. So a day or two got skipped entirely. And then I started to wonder about my supply. And then suddenly, it was over. I don’t even remember getting to think “this is the last time, better soak in every minute…”. It just was the last time this one time.
We haven’t breastfed in several weeks. She will still occasionally look down my shirt and raise her eyebrows at me. If she is particularly fussy or blue, she’ll put her hand down my shirt for comfort. If I don’t have a shirt on, she’ll follow me around like a tiny drunk person trying to rip my bra off. But it’s been strictly bottles since a few days after her birthday. And we switched her to cow’s milk a week after that (ish). She’s happy, healthy, fine without momma.
But this is my first cycle since weaning. I started getting a few of the physical symptoms back. My back aches a bit. My tummy hurts a bit. Nothing like pre-pregnancy proportions, but still physical discomfort that hasn’t been there in like two years. My emotions, on the other hand, are stupidly out of control and tend toward the steps at the shallow end of the happy pool, or maybe sitting on the side with a toe in, on a rainy day. It’s bleak over here.
A typical day in the past week…Wake up with the alarm, feel anxious about the day ahead but largely excited to be busy. Take a shower and start to feel clean and happy and pretty. Get out of the shower and start to feel anxious and depressed about what to wear. Start to feel fat and bloated. Start to feel overwhelmed by all the things waiting in my email. Start to feel a tear well up in the back of my throat but choke it down and stare stoically at all of the clothes I hate in my closet. Put on a skirt that mostly fits and even makes me feel a little thin and pretty. Start to regain confidence and feel like the day is not insurmountable. Choose a sweater and feel like a sausage in a too tight casing. Plummet into shafts of self-doubt and feel ready to give up because I’m not going to be able to handle anything the day throws at me anyway.
It is like this the whole damn day. I start crying for no reason. Today, I was just sitting at my desk when an email came through. I opened it, read it, got supremely overwhelmed by the content and started silently crying. I didn’t even realize it was happening until I had to wipe my nose on my sleeve. For over an hour, tears just streaked my cheeks while I did nothing but stare at an empty google search page trying to decide what to even look for..Depression 1 month after weaning? Stupid hormones and their stupid effects on stupid post weaning moms? Is this the end of the world? How to move to St. Lucia.
Finally I decided to try working from home to see if elastic pants and the comfort of the couch would help. I walked in the door at just past 3 to hear Hannah babbling up a storm, running towards the door to greet me with a huge smile on her face, and I burst into tears for no reason. I wasn’t overwhelmed by her cuteness or the exhaustion of having to care for her. I wasn’t sad at her impending growth milestones and loss of innocence. I wasn’t even thinking she deserved a better mom, one more under control and less emotionally unstable. She was just there, Shelby was just there, and I just lost it.
This has been the hardest thing ever. I can handle the physical discomfort. I can handle the pain and nausea. I can power through cramps and frequent trips to the bathroom, but I have no idea how to navigate this emotional minefield. I have no idea what will set me off, it doesn’t seem like anything is needed. I don’t know how to exist without a constant low level panic that I’m about to shred or that something unpleasant is about to happen. Is this what most women are like every month? Because this is straight up insane.
I am hopeful that the return of some of the physical symptoms means that my emotional ones will stabilize. But there isn’t much information. Most google searches turn up with folks that are just getting their periods back after a year or more of breastfeeding. I suppose the hormonal concept is the same, but I have been “normal” for almost a year so how does that translate?
Shelby has been a champion. He’s been sweet and helpful, but I think today kinda pulled things into focus a bit more. There’s slightly blue Amanda who can still coordinate schedules with his mom and take vids of the baby for grandparents and discuss load-in and holiday travel. And then there is the Amanda who can’t even hang up her coat without devolving into a melted pool of tears.
It’s going to be OK. And if it is not OK in a few days when being a female adult human has run it’s course for this month, I’ll consider professional help. And if it is this ridiculous next month when being a female adult human comes to bite me in the butt again, well I don’t know what I’ll do. For now, I’m going to focus on being a better human for my daughter tonight. And maybe going to get a Christmas Tree tomorrow. But beyond that, I have nothing. And for today, that’s OK.