Today I found myself seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s a light I didn't want to be seeing.
I've been breastfeeding my son for 12 months now, it’s been a rocky, but amazing journey, and one that I hoped to continue until such a time that we both felt ready to stop. Unfortunately, MS seems to have other ideas, and after some relatively relapse free pregnancy and post natal months, it has come back with a bang. I had a small amount of activity a couple of months ago, and then last weekend just in time for my sons 1st birthday, a whole host of new symptoms made an appearance. So it seems the MS is returning to its aggressive ways of pre Tysabri and pre pregnancy and throwing me a relapse every couple of months. With this one being as debilitating as it is, it is clear that I can no longer ignore it and I need to do something. The only something that I have up my sleeve is to go back on Tysabri, and to do that, I have to stop breastfeeding.
I always thought I’d put my son before me no matter what, but now here I am faced with - what feels like - a decision between my health and his well-being and happiness. He loves boob, it nourishes him; it comforts him, it settles him to sleep for naps, for bedtime and for the multiple times he wakes up in the night because he’s a normal 12 month old baby, it provides him with a boost when he comes in to contact with germs that his underdeveloped immune system can’t fight, it soothes his pain when he hurts himself, it is a special relationship for which we have both worked hard to get this far. I am a strong believer in ‘attachment parenting’ as is in vogue to label it these days, I prefer to call it simply, ‘parenting’. I firmly believe that if dependency needs are met in these precious formative years then independence will naturally follow and our children will flourish. So here is my struggle, my son does not want to stop breastfeeding, neither of us are ready for this part of our relationship to end, it goes against everything I believe in as a mother to wean him before he is ready. But he needs me to be healthy too. Breastfeeding meets a lot of his needs but it in no way meets all of them anymore. Gone is the newborn for whom the answer was nearly always boob even if it wasn't the original problem. He is one year old and his needs are more complex now. He needs me to cook him healthy meals, he needs me to dress him and change his nappy, he needs me to be able to pick him up and cuddle him when we go new places and he is scared but curious and he wants to see the world from the security of mums embrace. He needs me to be able to take him places, to lift him up slides and push him on swings, he needs me to chase him and tickle him, and most of all he needs me to be able to laugh with him. MS is stopping me being able to do those things, he needs me to be a whole mum to him, not just a pair of boobs that can’t do anything else. So that is how I have reached my decision to put my health first, because I can’t be a mum to him if I don’t.
Now, you’d think that was the hard bit, making the decision. Oh no, carrying it out is the hardest part by far. I have no idea how to stop breastfeeding, no idea at all. And when it comes down to it, on a day to day basis, seeing as that neither of us want to stop, it makes it pretty hard. I've read countless articles on weaning, and the loud and clear message is don’t stop cold turkey. Okay, so, now what? We've had limited success at cutting out daytime feeds, there are distractions; spinning tops and spades and toast and the cat and the cat’s biscuits, and other things that factor highly in the world of a one year old. But night-time feeds are a whole other story, he’s never fallen asleep for the night without boob, he wakes up at night a lot and boob settles him right back down, it makes life easier for everyone. I have no idea where to start and it breaks my heart that I have to. He’s only ever drunk from a doidy cup, which is an open topped cup and therefore not practical at all for night. I've never been able to get him to use any other kind of cup or bottle. This evening however, he drunk his water through a straw, and very pleased he was too, and closed beaker with a straw spout and he sucked away on it excitedly in between mouthfuls of roast chicken. And so there was the little glimmer of the light at the end of the tunnel that I hadn't wanted to see. I could finally see a way of him at least being able to have a drink in the night that wasn't boob and without it waking him up fully by getting the inevitable doidy cup drenching. No big deal, just learning to use a straw, just another step in the journey.