A Formula for Success

I’ve decided to wean Ivy.
This is the third time I’ve had to face this decision now, and if anything it just gets harder. With Eli I had hoped to reach six months and we just made it, amongst frustrating supply issues. Hudson weaned himself before three months also due to poor supply but mainly because he preferred the speed at which a bottle could deliver its contents. With Ivy, she is, on the face of it, a good feeder, though it is so hard to tell when she is finished as she would happily suck for more than an hour if I had the time and the inclination.
It has been a difficult week, full of mind battles and shadowboxing. I would vacillate between deciding firmly to continue feeding and throwing my hands in the air wondering how long I could last. Ivy has been ‘catnapping’ for three long weeks now and it is driving. me. crazy. After each failed sleep cycle I would try and rock her back to sleep in the pram but inevitably the boys would disappear to raid some cabinet or plug things into other things that shouldn’t be joined… Having to face another long feed session after that where i was limited in my means to supervise the boys just became too much.
First I tried to control the failed sleeps, desperately reading forums and flicking through pages of my parenting books for any helpful hints. But as I implemented each bit of advice to no avail, my frustration began to turn towards Ivy instead. Like she was doing this deliberately to screw with me. Yes, writing that makes me realize how stupid it sounds, but when the words are merely echoing in the dark corners of your mind they are very powerful.
It’s no secret that control is an issue I regularly struggle over. I will continually butt up against this as the root cause of a lot of my less than desirable reactions and behaviours.
I’m starting to realise, though, that lamenting whenever I try to control things is not an answer either. It’s like Rohr says- your gold and your weakness are two sides of the same coin. If I can just use the positive elements of my ability to manage things and see the consequences of a multitude of actions, I suspect I will be a lot more satisfied. There are some things I can absolutely control- like my response to the situation, my emotions, the timing of when I choose to do household tasks, what level of difficulty dinner I hope to achieve, the quality of interaction I have with my kids, when I go to bed at night and how I process my mistakes.
Then there are the things I wish I could control but can only ‘manage’. Like the number of minutes of sleep my children have, the amount of food they choose to eat at dinnertime, the way they react to situations, the way they play with each other, whether they hurt themselves and the way they behave in public. There are definitely elements to these ends that I can contribute, like teaching behavior strategies and rewarding good choices, but my children are (fortunately) not robots through whom I can exact my will upon the world.
With Ivy, I have pretty much zero chance of forcing her to sleep longer (though she may well succumb to my strong encouragement of longer sleep cycles in due course). So I’ve focused on the element I can control- the length of feeds. With a bottle now Ivy can feed in 15 mins flat and I now am certain she actually is getting a sufficient amount. No more ‘boobie bikkies’ and endless mugs of Activite between skulling gallons of water… You could say that breastfeeding and I are not exactly natural bedfellows!
Already I’m feeling so much better for having made the decision… Following the two day battle of incessant sobbing that I was a complete failure as a mother, of course! Dave has remarked a number of times that I seem like a new woman… It’s funny how a lack of emotional energy can sometimes screw with you far more than mere physical tiredness can.
I’m so lucky, too, to be surrounded by people that can validate and support a tough decision, rather than attempting to enforce a worldview where shame is the only appropriate response for a mother who chooses anything other than breastmilk to enter her baby’s mouth. Friends who can celebrate with you without expecting your path to look like their own. I’m truly grateful for the privilege of this being the ‘norm’ in my life. I’m keenly aware that this is not a common experience for many mothers.

It did just strike me as slightly ironic that I wrote the whole of this post while breastfeeding…Ahh well, to the many inconsistencies and ironies that make up life as a mother-  Salute! (Because there is only one way to celebrate the cessation of breastfeeding… Why hello, wine glass!)


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