Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Cha cha cha cha changes

In the last week, Esther has:
1. Totally abandoned the previously established rhythm of her days
2. Cut her nursing time down to a third of its usual duration
3. Weaned herself off of the nipple shield that she has needed since birth
4. Begun getting supplemental nutrition to counteract her persistent lack of ability to gain weight
5. Started spitting up significantly more
6. Occasionally refused the breast but accepted a bottle.
Plus, 7. I have stopped leaking breastmilk, which was a constant annoyance up to this point.

Some good developmnts; some bad. Some solutions would be counterproductive to other solutions if implemented. Causality vs correlation has yet to be determined. It hasn't helped that we have been out of town for the holiday.

Yesterday, I was a mess: sleep deprived, worried that I would lose my milk supply, and grieving the fact that my child has been at least a little bit hungry for her entire life (as the doctor said, "She got used to the fact that that was all she got"). Since her rhythm had changed, she cried a lot more because I had to figure out each time what she needed rather than knowing that it was time for her to be hungry, wet or tired and solving the problem quickly. Increased crying creates a wholly unique emotional response in a parent that should have it's own name but doesn't and so must settle for "frazzled" or "harried." These words do not communicate the worry, anger, despair, self-recrimination, violence, depression, and frustration that are wrapped up in the primal sense of emergency that extended and abnormal crying provoke in parents.

Also, not being able to explain for certain why any of this was happening caused massive anxiety to roil furiously just underneath my exhausted exterior. There are theories for individual behaviors but no way of knowing if the fact that they are happening all at once is coincidence or consequence of choices I have made. For instance, many babies become more efficient at eating around Esther's age and drain all the available milk much more quickly than when their mouth muscles were still weak and training. This could also explain why she no longer needs the shield. However, what if her desire to eat without the shield means that she gets tired more quickly and that's why her nursing sessions are so short? If that's true, then she's getting even less nutrition than before and my supply might decrease even further because my body thinks there is less demand.

Or not.

It's despairing for a person like me who's self-identity is wrapped up in being able to figure stuff out. Living in the mystery is a spiritual ideal that I strive for in theory. Putting it in practice is difficult.

What I can do, though, is put aside my personal plans for the day and pay attention to my daughter. Instead of trying to shoehorn her needs into a day that was designed around her old patterns, I can wipe the slate clean and look for the new patterns that emerge when she's given the chance. So right now, she's asleep in my arms, having nodded off when I offered her a pacifier when I realized that her conflicted behavior of wanting to suck but not wanting the breast might be solved that way. Would I rather she were in her crib so I could work on my to-do list? Absolutely. But now that I have slowed down, I have confidence that we'll get there eventually once we're through this transition. If she is well-rested, the transition will go even quicker.

I feel so grateful that I have the luxury of time to parent this way. I am savoring every moment because life will not always be like this. That transience of situation is both to be looked forward to and to be dreaded. That's actually mystery that I can live within.

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