Salt Lake City Based Photographer Timbra Wiist owns/operates Landslide Photography & Photographs the Journey of Motherhood (see bottom of page or sidebar for more info. . .depending on what this blog is choosing to do for the day).

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Tandem Mommyhood

Welcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival!

This post was written as part of The Breastfeeding Cafe's Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to For more info on the Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today's post is about your first experience nursing in public. Please read the other blogs in today's carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 18th through the 31st!
Until I began writing, I did not realize that this was more the story of my motherhood, how it surrounds breastfeeding my children. You are welcome to stay a while and read it through, it's a bit lengthy.

I guess when it comes to breastfeeding and multiples, I've done it all now. . . :) And I only have two kids. It's been a journey I never would have ever in a million years even imagined I'd have taken, I probably didn't even, in a million years, imagine it was one that COULD be taken.

The day I found out I was pregnant with my second child, I cried. I cried because, the thing that prompted me to take a test, was how sick I felt. . . I couldn't believe I didn't have ANY moments of enjoying the news without already feeling icky and I knew I'd be dealing with that for two more months. I cried because I knew everything would change. My firstborn would no longer be my only baby. I knew it was possible this pregnancy would cause her to wean (she was 2.5 at the time). I cried because things were rought in our house at the time, not necessarily between my husband and I, but because of his job, which he hated, he was always tired and mostly depressed, and I was on my own, even when he was home. . . how would I deal with 3 months of feeling like crap? AND taking care of a toddler? How would I survive months of getting bigger and bigger, and CHASING a toddler? We had so little to do when I was pregnant with my first daughter, and I knew we would not, could not, sit around enjoying this pregnancy, just watching and waiting, as we had the first time around. Everything was different, and I cried! And then I nursed my baby, because she needed it and I needed it. And I took photos of my daughter nursing, because I was afraid that would end too soon.

Little did I know, it would take YEARS for that part of our relationship to come to a close. She nursed straight through my pregnancy. About 3 weeks after I found out I was pregnant, New Year's Eve, she night weaned suddenly and I assumed it was the beginning of that transition. The night weaning was fine with me, she only nursed one time at 3:30am at this point. Okay, it happened one night and then we were back and forth for a few weeks, by Valentine's Day, she was the HARDEST sleeper I'd ever seen. This, a child who would wake to nurse any time I got up to pee or stirred her in bed and HAD to nurse back to sleep, could sleep through anything now. It was sort of a lovely little blessing. I laugh when people tell me how they had to "train" their children to sleep SO THAT they would be good sleepers when they get older. . . it actually causes the opposite affect. My kid is a FANTASTIC sleeper now, she still sleeps with us, and she nursed at night until she was 2.5.

The months went on, soon, she was not nursing to sleep anymore. For nearly 3 years of her life, this was of NECESSITY, I could count on one hand the number of times she's EVER gone to sleep without nursing off to slumber. We began having milkies for "twinkle twinkle little star" and then she'd kiss me goodnight and I'd hold her until she fell asleep. This was a surpising one for me, I'd always heard that those "favorite" nursing times were the last ones little people give up, even after they were almost completely weaned. This was another blessing for my pregnant body, it became difficult for me to nurse on my right side, because I just felt so sick at night and frantically wanted to turn to my left side. We still enjoyed sweet cuddles and I wasn't feeling crazy because she wouldn't stop nursing.

There were times it was irritating, times I'd have to ask her to relatch because it was driving me crazy or hurting me. But we'd built a relationship of sensitivity to one another's needs, between us, and she, little as she was, somehow seemed to understand, to be willing and forgiving as we paved the unwalked path.

By the end of my pregnancy, at term, I'd had stripping and cohosh twice. The second time worked well. But it was my daughter's nursing I would credit with the final move into hard labor. Around 5pm she nursed off to sleep (she was still nursing to sleep for naps and mornings, I found out, were her ACTUAL favorite nursing times, she always wanted to nurse first thing in the morning) it was then that my contractions went into full force, while she slept, I labored at home. She woke, wandered out into the living room and found her mom leaning over a huge labor ball that was on top of the couch. I tried to sweetly say hello and welcome her to the next part of the day, I scooped her up and sat her on the ball, leaned over her little legs and worked through another contraction. She didn't seem upset, maybe a little worried, she'd held my hand late at night once while I puked my guts out in the bathroom earlier in my pregnancy.

Little girl 2 came into our world just 2 hours after this. And after introductions and checking over, we all went to sleep in one big bed, I nursed one, and the other. I was thankful at this time that my little one no longer needed nursing off to sleep, that we had a good night time ritual established and she was easy with it. She would nurse and be held until sleep.

Three days into this adventure of tandem MOMMY-HOOD, my littlest one ended up in the hospital. I wasn't able to nurse her for 20 hours. I had to pump. I became very engorged that same evening, I was also separated from my toddler for the first night EVER. Four the following four days I had a schedule of seeing my older daughter sometime during the day, around the hospital, and then coming home late in the evening to shower, grab things for the next day and nurse my little girl, even if she was already asleep, with my sister in the living room, I'd take her off to bed and nurse her. We both needed it, for reconnect, and I needed it because of the relief, I was thankful she was still nursing. She would fall asleep with me, and because she was such a hard sleeper now, I would leave her, head back to the hospital and she'd wake up with daddy in the morning.

We landed in the hospital a second time four days after discharge, and went through the same schedule, except, at least this time, my older daughter could come into the room to see her sister and I. But I slept four nights away, which was rough on everyone.

For some period of time, after we were finally home and settled for good, I was able to nurse my girls at the same time together, it didn't last long, maybe 3 or 4 months. Around October (only 6 weeks in to my tandem mommy-hood) we had an incident at a friend's house where my daughter was sick (and I didn't realize it yet), she got upset during the party and asked in front of all of my friends if she could have milkies. I shot her a horrible glance, and quickly whispered in her ear not to talk about it again. These friends were already a little weirded out by my nursing so blatantly in front of everyone at the party.

We spent about a week with my older daughter being sick, but she didn't want to nurse much, something I found very strange, since nursing had ALWAYS been the thing she wanted to do constantly whenever she'd been sick. We had a talk one day about whether she'd been saying no to nursing because I'd given her that mean look at the party, she admitted that was why. I had a good cry over that. I realized I wasn't ready for her to wean and CERTAINLY not because her mommy had been MEAN to her about nursing. If she was going to wean, I didn't want the last memory between us to be how I'd shamed her in to never nursing again :( We had a good talk, but I geared myself up for this being the end, she wasn't quite 3.5.

I never thought I'd be nursing a child over the age of 3 (there were times I never imagined over the age of 6 months, a year, 2 years. . .along the journey). I NEVER thought I'd be nursing TWO children at the same stage of my life, unless I had twins, and I CERTAINLY never imagined being sad about weaning my child at this age. But, here I was, gearing up for the heartbreak of weaning and sadness of having made her feel ashamed about something that she loved so very much, that we both loved, together, so very much.

A week later we headed to CA, she was still nursing a little here and there, I'd written a couple of dear friends to tell them the story of the week past and to say I was gearing up for her possibly weaning, they assured me, loved me, said kind things and gave me good reminders about extra cuddles and creating special times. I still had a nursling. . . I still had an itty bitty baby who needed every part of me! This was a strange balance indeed. During that trip I had a little talk with my big girl one day and said "You don't need to talk with Auntie and Grannie about milkies okay?" "Okay." And an hour later, at dinner, she announces to my mom, "Mommy says we don't need to talk to Grannie about milkies". . .CAT OUT OF THE BAG. . .funny moment for all?!

Sometimes nursing two children was very frustrating, particularly because my older daughter still required nursing to sleep for a nap, and I HAD to have her napping!!! But my younger daughter was not a fan of being away from her mother for more than about 30 seconds at any given time. It seemed that whenever my eldest would be fluttering her lids, slowly letting them get heavy, that would be the time my younger would start squawking with her daddy in the livingroom and we'd have to start the whole thing over again. But those moments, those IN the moment frustratations, I stopped feeling those the second one or the other would go off to sleep, and the overall memory of being able to provide two very different, but specific needs for two different girls, is worth it. Nursing my younger was more difficult because she rarely let me put her down for a nap until she was about 11 months old. It was difficult to get in a lot of extra cuddles with my older daughter during the stage when my little one was too big to share a lap but still wouldn't sleep alone for a nap! We've made it through.

It would be another 8 months from that party incident, before I'd have to finally encourage weaning. We began pushing for the "4 year mark." Two days after this little girl turned 4, she got a horrible ear infection . . .again, glad I was nursing her and that I hadn't been "hard core" about the timeline. A friend asked me one day, online, whether that "4th birthday" was "hard and fast?" I had to rethink my feelings on the matter. I decided no, that this would be a year of weaning. For two months she didn't ask to nurse, and then over the next year, every 2 or 3 months she would request it once in a while. I noticed every time we visited family, she would come home after a week of visits and ask to nurse. Sometimes I said no and distracted, sometimes I allowed it. Even now, she's 5. . . she's nursed a couple of times in the past month since her birthday, it wasn't my plan or intention, but I've always tried to trust my child. We have had good, age appropriate discussions along the way about moving into new parts of our relationship, that don't include nursing. It's hard for her, it's hard for me to watch my baby grow up, but she will never outgrow the need for ME, because of the relationship we have established.

On the other side, it has been funny to watch my younger daughter "offer" her milkies to her big sister on occasion. They share a sweet sister relationship that I believe was set off to a good balance because the thing that was MOST important in my older daughter's life, was not "taken" from her as she journeyed into big sisterhood, she was not "replaced" by this little person. They have their sister quarrels, but there is love and honesty and respect growing between them. This was not the journey I ever expected to take, but it is the one that has fit us and served us well. I lamented to myself along the way about how my younger daughter and I, have never had an exclusive nursing relationship with one another, but I just realize that every child has a unique story, and this is hers.
Here are more post by the Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival participants! Check back because more will be added throughout the day.


The Happy Hippie Homemaker said...

I can totally relate to so much of this! Someday I may have to ask for tips on the talks you have with your older daughter about weaning. We're not ready yet, but I have a feeling I will probably be ready to wean before little Gigi will!

Natural vegan doula mama said...

I would love to hear.more about the feelings u had about ur first born not being your only anymore. O recently.miscarried but in.that short time.being pregnant I felt really different firstborn and I.cried.for.days.