A resource to inspire, inform and empower parents.

Suckin’ Me Dry

I have shared many blog posts lately about the tough times in parenting, breastfeeding and breastfeeding a toddler. The most frequent response I get, even when talking about how weaning is not right for Jack and I just yet, is that I should wean Jack. “It’s just time. You need to wean him.” Besides how obnoxious this type of “advice” is, it’s not really the point when talking about tough times.

Why is it that I need to wean my toddler because I am overwhelmed and stressed out? If this is right for you and your family then by all means do it! But I believe this perspective is directly related to the stigma in our culture surrounding breastfeeding toddlers. It’s not something we see very often, it’s seen as optional, extra, not really necessary; so if things are not perfect for you then breastfeeding that toddler must be the problem and you should knock it off!

If there is something going on with me then shouldn’t I be focusing on me? It’s not my kids that are victimizing me and causing me to feel certain feelings. It’s me. The breastfeeding relationship is a 2-way street, yes. And my feelings are just as important as my son’s, yes. But when considering emotional health it’s not the first place to look. The first place to look is within. What is going on with me?

Jack has adjusted to the birth of his brother pretty well. Those first few weeks were a nightmare, then it got a bit better, then a bit more, and today we feel chaotic and busy and crazy, but we also have a good routine and our family unit is full of love. We have come a long way in this short time. We are in a place I feared we would never get. We are so lucky.

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But Jack has continued to struggle with sleep. Since our lives are more hectic than ever and this affects Jack in many ways we decided it was time to get some help. Something that I had been avoiding for a long time. Something that is a bit taboo in the Attachment Parenting community where we are taught that things will even out if left to their natural devices. Well, I have learned, through my breastfeeding relationship with Elxey, that sometimes people need some help. And it’s OK to ask for it. I have thought for a long time that a sleep consultant might be in order for us, but I avoided it for fear that she would reprimand us for our parenting style. “You need to get that kid out of your bed, get him into his own room.” And the ever dreaded “Wean that toddler.”

I was referred to Rebecca Michi. We have been working with her for about a month or 2 now. We have gained a ton of knowledge about how Jack’s natural temperament affects his ability to fall asleep, how the brain makes melatonin, things in our environment that affect the ability of Jack’s brain to make melatonin, tips for day and nighttime routines, tips for gently handling tough behaviors and so much more. We have good days and bad days, but when I sit quietly and look at our lives the good days are building on each other every time they circle around.

One of the unexpected things that Rebecca has provided for me personally is a place to vent. I can say anything to her and she responds with support and no judgment. She also always has some tips or thought-provoking questions. This was her most recent message to me when I expressed to her that I was having a hard time remaining calm with Jack at bedtime.

When do you get some time to yourself? What do you do for yourself? I understand if you don’t get much, you have two young kids after all! I feel that you are not taking care of you. You are on the go from the crack on dawn until late at night and caring for two people who are so dependent on you is exhausting. I want you to be able to fill your cup, when your cup is full you are able to help everyone more. When your cup is empty you are running on empty and having nothing to give. So what do you do to fill your cup? What can you do to fill our cup? Going for a walk without the kids? Going to the gym (ugh!)? Painting class once a week? A quick coffee date with a friend at the weekend? Think of some ways you can fill our cup and give you some much needed time. 

My initial reaction was that it was true, but what am I supposed to do about it? A few seconds later I was literally having a panic attack. This. This was the answer to everything right now. Where am I in all of this? I am barely treading water. I have given up showers, eating, peeing, getting dressed, combing my hair; not to mention reading, sitting quietly, writing for enjoyment, hot baths, listening to music and other things that fill my cup. It seems that we moms are always putting ourselves last. My husband says, “You have to remember that thing about the oxygen masks on airplanes. Put yours on first and then help those around you.”

So where could I find time for me? What would I do with that time? Would I even know myself well enough anymore to be able to plan something? Holy shit, someone was actually asking about me! I started to feel excited. I mean, I like me! How cool would it be to spend time with her?! Less than a day later I am here, by myself, at a local café, writing this blog post. I am writing it for me. I am writing it so that I can process my feelings about this. I am writing this so that I can rediscover who I am, how I got so far away from me and how I can rekindle this romance with myself.

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I was going to put a picture here of me alone, but turns out there aren’t any. Anywhere. 

There is a belief in the extremist AP community (in which I spent most of my early motherhood) that you shouldn’t spend time away from your kids and if you do you should at least hate it. I remember when Jack was very young I couldn’t imagine being away from him. Noe of my friends ever left their kids. I read all sorts of posts about how balance means something new now. “Free time is family time.” I left him for short periods of time a couple of times when I absolutely had to like to meet with HR to quit my job. Besides that I never left him. Ever. I believed that self-care now had to involve him; involve the whole family. I felt I wasn’t truly AP if I ever left him to be alone. That would be selfish. I think I am starting to believe that self-care isn’t truly self-care unless you are alone. Or maybe what I believe even more than that is that self-care looks different for each mother. And only she herself can decide what that is. Which is why Rebecca was asking me how I can fill my cup.

For me, self-care is fully disengaging from my family for a period of time to recharge my batteries, center my thinking and stimulate myself in a very different way than I am stimulated most of the time. I’ve spent 3 years now identifying myself as, “mother, blogger, social worker, advocate, public speaker” that I forgot to identify myself as Abby. Abby Theuring. Abigail Teresa Theuring. Individual. Fucking ME.

What do I like? Green Day. Loud music. Punk Rock. Heavy Metal. Books. Writing. Walking Fast. Magazines. Hot Bubble Baths. The Bachelor. Crocheting. Painting. Laughing With Friends. Photography. Talking Loud. Crossword Puzzles. Shopping. Eating. And so much more that I have let slip away since Jack was born. This is ME!

Turns out this really has nothing to do with breastfeeding.

Oh, what a tangled web this parenting stuff turned out to be.

Abby Theuring, MSW

 

 

Comments

  1. I’ve breastfed a grown man with cancer!!! I didn’t want to post this on facebook out of respect for many people that knew him, but I wanted to share my story with you!!!! I posted it tonight on my blog just for you. 🙂

    thegentlewitch.wordpress.com

  2. *Knew him/Know him– I’m still not positive of the outcome 🙁

  3. Tears in my eyes… I love it! Thank you so much for being you!

  4. I saw your post on fb about BF pics/memes and have a hilarious pic of when my now 13mo old was very tiny. Is there somewhere I can email it to you rather than post there?

  5. Lisa Pusch says

    Abby Theuring!!!
    We are old childhood friends. I have started to get to know you again through your facebook page and now througha blog here and there when you catch my attention. I love this one. I breastfed all 3 kids well past their 1st birthday and was happy and poud to do it. I totally get the idea of loosing yourself in your role as mother, wife, etc. My oldest is 10, my youngest is 6, my middle child is 8. My husband is like a 4th child half the time. Everyone needs something and I have found that I have lost myself. I don’t want to be the selfish bitch that I feel like when I hoose to do something for me, but more and more I realize I hvae been sucked dry and I will only have something to give to them when I feel fulfilled, happy…even joyous again. Us women, approaching our #*!% are coming into an amazing time when we finally know and accept ourselve for who we are in spite of everyone elses opinions and I am relieved to have a chance to focus on me again. Also remember that when we value ourselves, we teach our children to value themselve too. That was the kicker. I need my children to know that through my example.
    Good luck with everything! I love you and your boys are so lucky to have a mom like you!!!
    Lisa

  6. This is me reading it made me tear up. I don’t even know who I am any more. I’m so busy being a mom to four girls and working 40+ hours a week with at risk teens that I never have time for me. And when I do try to do something I feel guilty the whole time bc I should be with my girls.

  7. I absolutely adore how honest you are about everything – breastfeeding, parenting, and your personal evolution and journey. I see so much of myself in you. My kids are a bit older (8 and 5) but I can relate to so much that you are going through. My daughter was 3 when my son was born and still breastfeeding – I only hacked tandem breastfeeding for a couple of months before deciding it was time for my daughter to wean (luckily she has started going longer stretches and falling asleep without breastfeeding so it wasn’t (too) traumatic.

    But I totally agree with you about how everyone’s answer is always “Wean them!!” I didn’t have much support for continuing to nurse Marisol. Even my midwives (different ones, once when she was 1 and again when she was 3) pretty much told me to wean her. I think in a more supportive environment I might have persevered longer. I respect you so much for continuing to do what you believe is best for Jack – even when it’s very challenging for yourself! And the thing that people don’t appreciate is that WEANING doesn’t mean all the problems will go away. SLEEP is likely to become MORE difficult for a while because now they have to learn how to fall asleep without it – (I know, my son just weaned a few months ago). People fail to recognize that often breastfeeding isn’t the problem at all – and in fact it is probably making a lot of things easier in both the mother and baby’s life.

    As for self care – again I totally feel you. I wrote a while ago about how I don’t like the phrase “me-time” at all because I feel it puts me at odds with my kids. And it is also true that I have found many ways to fill my cup without getting away from my kids. But like you I have realized that 1) I DO like to get away (hello yoga, I love you!) and 2) every mother is different and has different needs (duh!)

    When my kids were little I literally went weeks without time to myself. I remember one week staying in the house at home ALL WEEK with my 3 year old and infant – and I actually was ok with it. I can’t even do that now! I really looked forward to my “vacation” time with my parents and family – so I had help. I really don’t think we are meant to live this way at all. Even if I could go back I probably wouldn’t change much because my kids have always been super attached to me, but jeez it is hard sometimes!

    Keep up the good work mama and keep finding those moments for yourself. I love to hear how you’re doing.

  8. Thank you for posting this. I have been in a similar spot lately. I have a 7 month old boy and a ten year old step son that I’ve been a full time mom to for some time. Life is full of stressers and I’ve been taking no time for me. I’m glad your finding yourself again. Hopefully I will be able to do the same soon.

  9. Thank you for writing this!! I’m currently breastfeeding a 7 week old and a 2 1/2 yr old. I am having such a rough time and am wanting to wean my toddler because I’m having such a hard time but I don’t want to do that to him! Makes me feel better that I’m not alone . Like you I’m going to look for ways to fill my cup as well. I’ve spent 2 1/2 years glued to my son but I’m feeling like that might need to change. Thanks for this inspiration!!

  10. Thank you Abby, our second babies are close to the same age and tho I’m no longer nursing her older sibling I’m still experiencing serious balance issues in my mommyhood. This is exactly what I needed, I too gave foregone most personal pampering and gone with yoga pants and a messy bun, and I agree sometimes us mommies truly need to recharge our batteries. Thank you 🙂

  11. For starters, I think I love you. :p As for the rest of it, I totally understand. I completely lost myself when I had my son. I still breastfeed, I breastfeed him to sleep for his nap and bedtime. I’ll be damned if anyone tells me to stop. You need encouragement, you need support, you need to be able to bitch and have people listen, and I am a firm believer in having time alone. Wether it is to clean or watch tv or whatever floats your boat. Sometimes i just stare at the wall for a bit until i can move. I didnt realize but i am fully into attachment parenting style. What works for us is when daddy gets off of work he takes the babe out and I stay home for me/cleaning time. I read a ton of your posts and I think you’re amazing. Keep on being badass Momma!

  12. If you feel overwhelmed it is clearly not for you because you should be enjoying your children. Also, in times of stress and panick attacks try praying and focusing on how blessed you are to have children because for those of us who have lost our unborn children and would do anything for a healthy child, we would happily take what you are complaining about. Sounds like you have a great therapist, I just think you should take more time to reflect with yourself and God to realize what you have and it might help you with what you are struggling with.

  13. Jess Yablonski says

    I have been having bouts of anxiety the past two weeks. Ever since learning we are expecting our third baby. The oldest is three and he is the payback my mother always said I would get lol. Our second is nine months and is so sweet but does not sleep longer then 3-4hrs…I have a job I love but it’s 12hr days and nights. I am grateful for my husband my children my life…but I feel I’m losing myself just trying to keep my head above water. I definitely hear you!

  14. I feel exactly this. I’m always tired stressed,overwhelmed I have a 2yr old boy who is always in the go and doesn’t know the meaning of settle down. A 1 yr old girl who cries all day for no reason and a 3wk old baby girl. And since my son I have never taken any time for myself. And when I think about it I feel guilty, like I’m being selfish wanting some me time.I mean how can I everyone depends on me my kids my husband… I’m a stay at home mom so I do everythin, if it weren’t for me nothing would get done around the house. But lately I’ve been wanting a break. I feel like I just can’t go on like this anymore. I don’t even know who I was before kids, I don’t even think I can hold an adult conversation anymore. I’m around cartoons and kids all day everyday. So reading this made realize its ok for a little me time. Maybe if I take some time off I’d be way better help for my family. Less stressed and not always on the verge of yelling and crying. So thank you.

  15. Thanks so much Abby, this is truly how I feel right now. I have tried to explain this to DH but he doesn’t seem to get it. He’s tired too but he goes to work, he talks to friends and has gone for the occasional movie or running group. He said we need to make a schedule of when we are going to work out (not together, just each our own) I said, I don’t even know how to do that right now. How can I, I can’t even take a regular shower. One day when I was nursing I swear I literally felt the last piece of myself float away. We don’t really have anyone to help. So how do I do it? How do I put me back into the equation?

    • Elizabeth says

      I just had twins a few weeks ago, and the other kids are 7, 5, 3, and 1. When the twins were born my mil said she’d love to be the type to come over and help but… I have been ago stressed for so long that I’ve even forgotten how to pray.

      A few weeks ago my husband got me one of those adult coloring books, and as tired as I am, I’ve started getting up before the kids so that I can drink my coffee hot and color in peace. I’ve found that if I don’t have that time to myself the whole day falls apart.

      So for practical advise: stay the day on your terms. Don’t let the kids, or anyone else, dictate you first mood of the day. It’s hard to give up that extra sleep but it does make all the difference to be able to set the tone of the day yourself. Figure out what you need, a quiet walk, a hot bath, a coloring book, whatever works for you, and take the time to do it. And start small, two days a week. Then work up to every day.

  16. It is so wonderful to read this! I had become one of those mother’s who feels instantly guilty when I want to be away from my children. But I realized how much calmer and more patient I am if I just let myself have real ‘me’ time. Not mom ‘me’ time, like having a shower or grocery shopping by myself! I do a weekly yoga class now and it is so, so rejuvenating. Now that I feel less guilty, I’m planning a girls weekend away…let’s see if I go through with it 🙂

  17. Oh, girl. I’m not BF 2 babies, but I am bf my almost 18 month old, who sleeps with us, and nurses ALL NIGHT, and freaks out if I’m not next to her when she wakes up. So if she’s asleep, I’m in bed. If she’s awake, I’m with her. Hubs works from home, but I know he actually has to work to support us, so I know that it’s up to me to take care of her, and I love that, and yes he helps when I really need him. She is with me ALL THE TIME. I’m a huge BF advocate, for as long as you want, whenever you want, wherever you want, cover, no cover, pumped, straight from the tap, just BF them! My oldest (that are now 22 and 17) breastfed for 22 and 17 months (isn’t that odd). We just passed 17 months, and I still love BF, but I want to sleep more than 2 hours at a time and not wake up feeling like I rode through the desert with my head out of a window. I WANT SLEEP, I want to put makeup on and not feel rushed or like I’m abandoning my child. It’s not because no one else helps (hubs and my teen help), but it’s me feeling like I have to tend to her 24/7. It’s me, it’s not her. I don’t want to wean her, but I can’t say to people “I JUST WANT SLEEP” because the first thing they say is “she’s 18 months, she doesn’t need breastmilk, get her out of your bed.” I don’t want her out of the bed…for many reasons. Neither does hubs, I just want sleep. Alone…without being on watch or waiting for the tap and the “mama, boob” whisper while she kneels over me with her eyes closed. Haven’t told anyone I want sleep and 5 minutes alone, because the first thing they’ll think is that I want to wean, and I don’t.

    This…is me “I was going to put a picture here of me alone, but turns out there aren’t any. Anywhere. “

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  19. Kay Hagan-Haller says

    Telling a mom who is stressed to stop breastfeeding is crazy! Breastfeeding a toddler is not for nutrition but for comfort and to be the place he can come when he is stressed. If you take that away before he is ready to let go, then your stress level is going to be much worse! Think about if you said you were stressed about bedtime–should you be told to skip bedtimes? Let the kids sleep whenever they want. People who have not nursed a child just don’t understand.

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