it appears i am running dry.

this isn’t entirely news, as Oscar began pulling off the breast in the middle of feedings at least a month ago. but that didn’t last, and i chalked it up to nipple confusion from too much bottle supplementation. i wondered whether the fact that it happened right at the end of my first cycle back on the pill might have some significance, but my doctor had sworn this pill wouldn’t affect milk supply. as my hormones didn’t sort themselves out well after the delivery, leaving me a wan and prolapsed estrogen-free zone, i’d gone willingly back on birth control in hopes of getting my body and certain, er, aspects of my relationship back in order.

(for Dave’s dad and any other faithful readers who may feel squeamish about the paragraph above, you will be excused if you wish to flee this screen and resume playing Spider Solitaire). :)

i just finished month two back on ye olde pill a couple of days ago. i also spent half the week away from Oscar, up to my nicely waxed armpits in two very lovely weddings, one of which i stood in, as a claret-befrocked and fully decked out best woman. it was fun. but pumping one’s milk in one’s skivvies next to the wedding tent while one’s bridesmaid’s dress pools on the bathroom floor and mosquitoes nibble on one’s thighs is not fun. nor fast. so i probably didn’t do it as much as i should have. and by the time Dave & i made it back into town to our boy (and his kind, babysitting grandparents) the morning after the grand event, i’d apparently lost some of my milk supply.

it didn’t seem so…i woke up that morning with breasts the size of melons, and i faithfully pumped them in the car on the ride back into town – not as risque a practice as it sounds, though i don’t recommend pulling up directly behind school buses. i fed Oscar without difficulty the first feeding back home. but the next, he started to pull off again, almost immediately after we started. i thought remnants of the wine i’d had at the wedding might be affecting taste, so we gave him a bottle of formula.

this continued on and off for three days – him sometimes feeding normally, sometimes not. he also started rejecting his soother, and being in proximity to his crib. yippee.
yesterday, i finally clued in, at least to the feeding bit. i’d taken O to see the pediatrician in the morning, just for a checkup, and i mentioned his nursing resistance and how i wondered whether the pill was affecting my milk, as most of his pulling off seemed to coincide with the end of my cycles. she said nothing. but when we got home, he flat out refused to nurse, though his wailing made it clear that he was hungry. so i tried to pump…and got nothing. i tried squeezing milk out, just with my fingers – which has always previously resulted in a shot splashed clear across the room. i got nothing.

i googled milk supply and discovered that, indeed, any  pill combined with a few missed feedings, or even with the kind of regular once-a-day supplementation we’d been doing, can cause a fairly sudden supply problem. the cure? most sites suggested what they coyly call a “nursing holiday,” where O and i take to our beds – or rather, to the big family bed – and do nothing but nurse for a coupla days. interesting. so much for all the independent sleep training Dave & i’ve been working on with him for the past five weeks.

but we’re trying it. when Oscar peeped at 2 am last night, instead of getting a soother and a pat back to sleep like he’s grown accustomed to, he got the Vegas treatment: free transport to a queen-sized bed and unlimited breasts shoved in his face all night long. he seemed shocked – perhaps my mother’s Methodist streak showing through in him. :) and i’ve been pumping like a mad thing, whenever O’s not at work on the girls. but trying to get them to give again feels futile, at this point. there are drips of milk and little else left, even after 24 hours of stimulation. in a supply-demand system, i was hoping for more.

my boy is hungry, and his routine is shot to hell.

i feel dismayed, and slightly betrayed. partly by my doctors – in one dark corner of my self is a surge of righteous anger, a sneaky, hateful streak of blame that wants to lash out at them for not warning me that this could happen, or for not recognizing it when it did. but like most inclinations towards blame, this one covers for a lot of anger and self-pity and guilt – it is myself  i’m struggling with here. i wonder how i’ll feel if i have to stop nursing my son against my wishes?  i wonder if the formula really agrees with Oscar after all, and what effect it’ll have on him if it’s his only food for the next two or three months? i wonder how i’ll cope with this, if my choice to breastfeed ends up being out of my hands from here on in?  i wonder if four months of breastmilk have given him enough antibodies?

i wonder if there’s something i’m missing, that would bring the milk back?

and a part of me wonders why i care so much…what the breastfeeding really signifies to me.  i’m not sure i’ll know until this story unfolds itself, and i learn whether or not O and i can keep on with our nursing or not.

i do know that, once again, i seem to have no clue what i’m doing.  welcome to parenthood.