I knew there would be consequences. When you quit breastfeeding, the primordial gods of mammaries visit hexes upon you. For one thing, I’m stupider this week. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you know I forgot about Drew’s first-ever soccer practice like it was an episode of Jim Lehrer, despite the fact I wrote 875 words about it last week on the very day it was scheduled. You’ve heard of total recall? This was total retardation.
The other affliction has been the one-two punch of the croup plus an ear infection. Madeline woke up Tuesday morning at 1 a.m. crying. Along with her crying, we heard what sounded like Drew yelling “Hey! Hey!” But it wasn’t Drew, it was Madeline’s cough finding awful little punctuation points within her wails – deeper, richer tones inside the cadence. I sat with her in a steamy shower until 1:30 when she took a bottle and went back to sleep. I could almost hear the La Leche League clicking their forked tongues from afar.
I knew there would be other risks to weaning. For one thing, my boobs might completely disintegrate into my chest. I thought they were caput with Drew, but now after Thing Two, who could say what would become of them? They might steal away into the night to die along a river somewhere, like tired little dogs. They might even become, gulp, CONCAVE. I would need a reverse bra, one that sucks instead of supports.
The other risk was going on food stamps due to the high price of formula. And Madeline is no dainty eater — she weighed in at 17.4 lbs when the nurse put her on the scale. That was before her angus burger.
Risk number three was that I’d put on a few pounds. Lord knows my appetite is the mob boss of the refrigerator, and without the fail-safe of lactation, was bound to start offing dense muscle mass. My solution? Buy smaller jeans to blackmail myself. (I live in a dark societal underworld, apparently.)
But wean we did. And now she’s sick. First time in seven months.
When the doctor entered the appointment room, Madeline gave him the biggest megawatt smile I have ever seen. I, however, was noticing he had grown a goatee and was wearing glasses and thought how I wasn’t confident the beatnik look was right for him — I didn’t SAY this of course — but for all Madeline knew, he was Tom Cruise playing Tom Cruise in a movie about Tom Cruise. Under other circumstances this would have delighted me. But now she was making me look like a liar. THIS is your sick baby?
He pronounced, rather definitively, that it was the croup. (Well, he didn’t say “the croup” because he’s not a 19th century Old South physician.) I was relieved to know “the croup” usually crops up late at night but leaves babies alone during the day, which fit her symptoms perfectly. Then he pulled out the ear-looker-thingy and pronounced that Maddie also had her first ear infection.
And while there’s no way to freeze her ear bacteria, inflate it into visibility, and put it in her baby book for remembrance, I think that won’t be necessary because I’ll never forget this week. Main reason: the burping.
There I was, minding my own business after the doctor appointment, feeding Madeline some rice cereal after her bottle. At first it looked as though she was about to vomit. She dry-heaved once or twice like I had gagged her with the rubber tip of the infant spoon, and then she let out the manliest belch you’ve ever heard. It was somehow amplified; by demons maybe. And it was extended like when people TRY to fake burp. I was stunned. If she had pulled a lederhosen-wearing lobster out of her ear, I would have been less shocked.
This happened again last night. Same scenario: stomach full of mucous she had been coughing up and swallowing, along with 6 oz of formula and 2 tsp. of rice cereal down the hatch. She gagged, and then she actually DID vomit. And then about five minutes later, out came the roar. Drew was coloring a worksheet next to us and he looked up in amazement, in the way only a 3-year-old can. There was an instant where we both braced ourselves for her head to start spinning around in 360-degree revolutions, but she smiled instead and went back to her feminine little ways like she had just overcome a minor bout of indigestion.
Every woman has to decide for herself when is the best time to wean. There are a lot of pros and cons. And sometimes, frankly, you just don’t have a choice. But when that month comes, that week, that day, just remember this: a brave new world awaits you. A world of greater freedom, cuter bras and fewer risks of indecent exposure. But just be prepared for a little mucous, a little mayhem and a little bit of grieving. It’s the end of an era, after all. But it is the beginning of the rest of your life, and possibly the impetus you need for “reconstructive surgery.”
If you’re smart enough to remember your appointment.