Having a rainbow baby was not what I expected. There are things that I expected to find difficult that were in fact easy, and things I never expected to burden me with worry. Weaning is one of those things I didn’t expect to evoke so much emotion.
I think some of my reluctancy comes from the close bond I have built through exclusively breastfeeding. For me, suffering postnatal depression, it was extremely important to breastfeed. It forced me to have interactions with Leilani even when I struggled emotionally. The lack of choice meant inevitably, with so many feeds a day, the bond grew.
Of course, I was never in any doubt I loved her to pieces but we all know just how difficult it can be to understand your emotions after a loss. There was pure joy mixed with guilt, a strong cocktail of hormones and mental health issues. It was bound to be a rocky road.
Before I get distracted thinking about rocky roads and my gurgling tummy, I want to explain why on earth weaning is a problem for me.
I’ve always found it appealing to know that with breastfeeding it was something very special between me and the baby. The unique bond which no one else could have. The knowledge that I was in fact the only person who could feed the baby. It makes me feel special but also wanted. This is probably emphasised by my diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. A common symptom is fear of abandonment so I guess knowing that I will always be wanted and needed is a soothing and cathartic feeling.
The dependency and knowing I can sustain life is both beautiful and if I’m honest, a bit of an ego boost. I feel like I’m actually doing something right and what is best for my child. I always try and do my absolutely best for my child but I am naturally very cynical and self-critical, so having something I can confidently say I am doing well gives me something I can challenge my negative thoughts with.
I often feel very judged for being a mother and suffering mental health problems and yet I am so proud to say that at any time of day, no matter if I am in crisis or not, I will ensure Leilani is fed. If I am in crisis I may not have a strong emotional response but I will always calmly respond to her feeding cues. With my borderline I can at times completely shut off my emotions or can easily become suicidal. Feeding her is often a reminder of what I have to live for when I am feeling low.
Recently I was falsely arrested due to a mental health crisis and breastfeeding was my saviour for the twelve hours I was incarcerated. As soon as they arrested me, one of the first things I said was Leilani needed feeding. Despite being unwell and in a crisis, she was my priority. It was an excruciating two hour wait before they made arrangements and allowed her to be brought to me so I could breastfeed. They tried to push for expressing milk but thankfully we do not have a breast pump nor do we own a single bottle.
I can’t tell you how much it meant to me that day to be able to feed her. It was the only reason I was able to keep going, the only thing keeping me sane. I have never treasured a feed as much as I did that day and soaked in all the happy hormones that came from her warm body against mine as we shared our special little bond, just me and her against the world. I’m so scared of weaning and losing that bond that was unique to just me and her, to think that other people get to enjoy that part of her which I’ve had six months to indulge in.
The fear that people can also take her away too now and that there is no reason she would have to stay with me is worrisome. I’d like to think there would never be a reason for someone trying to take my child away, but I know I would not have got through that day if she had been that little bit older and I was restricted from seeing my child, especially after losing a baby. Unfortunately, professionals such as the police have no understanding of mental health nor baby loss unless they have suffered personally and it is hard to convey just how detrimental and traumatising it can be to not be able to freely access your rainbow baby, even if just for twelve hours.
I barely got to feed her older sister Silver at all. She had mouth care with my milk on a cotton bud every six hours and they did try tube feeding through an umbilical line but due to a blockage they had to stop. I have had mixed feelings regarding breastfeeding because of this. Even with Beau I tried my best to always focus on feeding and not sit on my phone. I find it so important to treasure the opportunities I have to feed a living baby.
That being said, I wont lie. Having two children is harder than expected and I barely ever have any me time. When you lose a baby, you are so desperate to have your rainbow and want to cherish every moment. In reality this isn’t always healthy. I obviously treasure my feeding moments with Leilani but I do at times sit on my phone whilst feeding her because that might be my only five minutes of me time that I’ll get for the next three hours. Mentally I need that break and it’s so important that I’m looking after myself so I can look after them to the best of my ability.
In that sense I do partially feel ready to wean. Despite all my worries and fears of someone else being able to feed my baby; despite my fears of losing that bond, I am also looking forward to sharing the workload and having a bit of freedom back. I think mentally in the long run it will probably benefit me, easing some of the stress and the pressure that it is all on me.
I’m excited to see her reactions and hopefully feeding her fresh fruit and veg might just encourage her brother to go back to eating veggies more often! I’m excited that we will be skipping puree and going straight to baby led weaning since she will be at least six months when we start compared to Beau at five and a half months old. I love the fact she will be eating food in time for Beaus third birthday and can join in with the party food!
I’m excited about the future, certain things seem to be falling into place and I’m loving watching my children grow and learn. At the same time as much as I am so grateful to have two children who are growing up, I also feel like I’ve blinked and missed everything. It’s been a stressful journey and I think sometimes we forget to be mindful and appreciate moments until we realise they’ve all blurred into one.
I find milestones pretty hard because it not only reminds me of the things Silver never got to do but it’s also a reminder that change is happening and time is moving on. Silver is moving further and further into the past; my little ones are growing up and I feel like I’m constantly chasing my tail to keep up. They always say you get used to one stage and then it changes, and it’s true. I become adjusted to one way of doing things with my children and before you know it, they’ve grown and learnt something new.
Change is generally hard for me with my borderline, it makes me feel quite unstable so emotionally trying to compartmentalise the upcoming weaning has been a challenge. Add a good old dose of grief to the mix with other personal stress and it actually starts to feel like it’s a much bigger deal than it is. That being said, I think I’m as ready as I’ll ever be!
I’ll be documenting my progress on both my Instagram’s and possibly doing some blog posts regarding baby led weaning, vegan weaning and the mental health side on my other blog Guiding Rainbows, Chasing Stars.
Until next time,