Monday, December 5, 2011


I have finally reached the point where I had to wean Thor. He would not stop nursing on his own and he only liked to nurse in the middle of the night. I was the human binky, sticky and abused. I curl around his body, breast exposed to the night creatures. He paws and grabs and bites and sometimes screams at me for not being right where he wants me just when he wants me to be. In daylight hours, he looks so small to me, so very little. Something to protect. At night, when he stumbles into our room, the digits on the clock all vertical, 1:11, he imposes on our bed, stretches across the vast ocean of mattress that separates the continents of Sam and Angie. He is the ruler. Where his legs want to be, no one will lie in his way. King Thor, Tyrant of the Ta-Tas.

I haven't slept in five years.

It's not an excuse. I have had a random night here or there, but mostly I just haven't slept. Pregnancy. Grief. Writing. Art. Death. Insomnia. Nursing on-demand. I cobble seven hours together some nights, maybe in three hour increments, but mostly, I am just so tired. So last week, I just said, "No mas, mijo. Basta ya." I am ready to come into my body again. I am ready for my body back.

I am a woman who once had a form besides boob holder. I had cleavage without snaps, and shirts without inside secret holes. I wore dresses and heels and long yellow earrings made of gold. I had a stud through that nipple, and one through my tongue. And another that sat in the cleft on my nose. Last night, I fell into a half-sleep and dreamed that all the places of me that once touched jewelry puffed into a purple, angry welts. Soothing them with aloe, I looked like a shiny grotesque caricature of me. The beauty is wrong here, it screamed. I am built wrong. I reject the beauty.

There is the muscle memory of grief in me. It resides in my breast. Just one. I could only ever feed from one side, and she weeps. Last night, in the shower, the other breast wept too. The sympathetic boob. The week after Lucia died, the sheer pain and ache in my breasts would make me want to crawl out of my body, unzip my skin, walk out. My inner core is flat-chested and asexual. It wears no adornment. I would stare at the skin of me, lumped on the floor, breasts hard and stiff against the rug. I am not the shell of me, and neither is she.

I swirl in a kind of grief, hormone panic. She is dead. He is alive. He is growing. She is not. That is why my breasts weep. That is why I am not feeding, because he is 20 months now and he eats two sausages for dinner. I want my body back. I have to remind myself that I chose this path, because everything is exactly as it should be. But all this engorgement reminds me that there was once a baby who did not feed.

I cut a cabbage in half, place it in the freezer. I brew sage tea. These are the ritual of early grief for me. And yet it is almost three years later, she didn't just die, but the ache reminds me of her death, like a thousand things throughout my day. I try to unzip myself from my body and lounge in front of the fire, soothe the welts of beauty, drain the breast. But this body made those babies, it is inextricably part of the core, even if it is the shell of me.


  1. Oh God, Angie. I felt a familiar milky tingle reading this and wept for you at the end. And this:

    stretches across the vast ocean of mattress that separates the continents of Sam and Angie

    Wonderful writing. Wonderful.

  2. Beautiful, Angie. Weaning is emotional, it's the beginning/end and those transitions are always, well, something.

    George was the only baby I breastfed, so when feeding him I often thought of Sam, it made me aware of how much I missed with him. George weaned on his own when I returned to work; I kept trying to get him to continue but when I would put my breast in his mouth he would just look up at me and laugh. Funny boy.

    My milk didn't come in with Sam, I was spared that cruel irony as I took the drugs that prohibit lactation. I have heard though that it is so fucking painful and cruel.

    I hope you start to get some sleep - it is amazing what it can do for the mind and body.

  3. Having my milk come in was the most shocking and cruel part of the days that came after losing my baby. It was so traumatizing, in fact, that it scares me to think about it happening again with a future pregnancy, even assuming I'd have a live baby to breastfeed.

    However, googling some panicked version of "engorged breasts no baby" led me to the glow in the woods website. And that place kind of saved me.

  4. From one human binky to another, I wish you the best of luck and hope the weaning is smooth as possible.

    I've been ready to stop nursing for a while now, but I'm not sure I'm ready/exasperated enough to deal with the fallout yet. Until reading your post, I only thought about the fallout from Dot's end, and now I'm struck by what a big old veil of denial I'd put up over what it will feel like to deal with waiting for the milk to go away again.

  5. Even when weaning is what you want, it is a hard thing to do. Thinking about you.

  6. thinking of you. i was so engorged after my baby boy passed away at 4.5 months. it was so painful, yet part of me was hoping that the pain of my engorgement would lead to my death. and so i really didn't do anything to relieve the pain.

    i wonder if breastfeeding my future children will trigger my grief. i'm sure it probably will. so many memories with this body and the children it created. *sigh*

  7. Weaning is such a roller coaster of emotions. I am thinking of you as you navigate this with Thor and intertwine it with your grief over what should have been.
    Like Brooke that google search also led me to glow.. and what a place that is.

  8. Oooh yep, that's tough. It was my pregnancy with Juliet that got Angus off the boob at 15 months. He seemed big in our bed then. Though he's still in and out of our be now, I'm glad he's off the boob, though of course now Juliet has taken up that position. Funnily enough, I read this post in the dead of the night, while feeding her.
    Like Monique, my milk never came in with Hope as the drugs to stop lactation were put in my mouth the day after her birth before I even had time to question what they were. I think I'm glad for that, but at the same time that was traumatic as well. I was all geared up to birth her and she died. I was all geared up to feed her, but there was no milk. It was like the world was really saying to me "sorry, you're just not going to be a mum". Nursing Angus and Juliet when they were born were just about the happiest moments of my life and I dread the day when it all comes to an end (though I will most certainly welcome the extra sleep).
    Lovely piece of writing.

  9. Beautifully written, Angie.

    I have so many memories intertwined with nursing. One of my worst memories after losing C. (besides my milk coming in--they do not give anti-lactation drugs in Canada, at least not in that hospital) was when we had just arrived back at the house, all memory box and walking wounded, and there on the doorstep was the stack of breastfeeding books I had ordered from the online bookstore. I felt like I'd been punched in the gut.

    I think that's part of the reason why I fought so hard to make the nursing relationship with Naya work (we got off to a really rotten start and it was pure hell for two months). On an emotional level, I just needed to follow through with what I had intended with C. While friends and family were either begging me to quit or tenderly suggesting that it might be time to toss in the towel, I just put my head down and plowed through. "You don't get it," I thought, "it has to work for me. This one thing. I've lost so much already."

    Eventually, she went on to nurse for 3.5 years.

    Her brother weaned himself earlier this year at just over 3 years old as well. I'd been breastfeeding continuously since 2004--two kids, through pregnancy too. To say it was bittersweet was an understatement. It was difficult to say goodbye to that part of my life and motherhood, and on some level I'm still processing it. There will be no more children for us, so this was the first big change in my role as mother. The next will come in 2013 when both are in school full-time and I'm left with an empty house.

    Even when we're ready for our relationship to change, or they are (as in my son's case), it's still an emotional time.

  10. We just finished up over here, too--and my damn body just would not give it up. Over a week after the last nursing I was still having to pump just a little to relieve the pressure--which, I am sure, was the wrong thing to do. It just hurt too badly.

    After Calla died I swear it was nearly two months before the milk totally dried up. I'd be watching TV, look down and my shirt would just be soaked. I used to think it was my body crying, too.

    Oh, these babies.

  11. I too felt that milky tingle. But for other reasons.

    I miss my milk. It was the thing my body did right. My living kids both nursed for 3.5 years. 8 years apart. I hate that it will be almost another 8 years between kids, if ever, before I get to nurse again.

    A few drops stuck around in my right breast for Juniper 18 months after he died and then was born. 18 months.

    Then I got pregnant and my milk came in AGAIN after she died at just 13 weeks of gestation. 13 WEEKS. The whole deal, sticky yellow colostrum turning white.

    It's gone now, which makes me sad.

    I have the opposite problem. I don't want this tired old body back. I want so much to share it.

    I wish wetnurse were still a thing. Not pumping, which would be nice if my body liked that kind of machine. But the physical act of nurturing another child is what it screams for.

    I wish you luck in your endeavor. And much sleep. SO much sleep.

  12. Oh, the ache in this....I get it. My milk coming in after George died was awful, traumatic - the kick when I was way down. I still have my sage tea on the shelf. My other older children self-weaned but one stopped suddenly and it was brutal - but not as brutal as making milk for my dead baby. The nursing relationship is so complicated and wonderful and you know your body and your boy best. Thinking of you as you wean him. As well as heartache your post speaks loudly of love. (((Hugs)))

  13. We have a tiny tyrant in our bed too! Someone so small by day and so long and powerful by night. He will be two in January. We still nurse and I am happy and he is happy and the world around me is not. I think, at first, most people didn't comment on my "extended" feeding because, well, I'm the lady with the dead baby so it's not surprising I want to coddle this one a little more. Maybe they're right. Maybe feeding Toby this long is a symptom of my grief or maybe it's just a good thing to do. Who knows?

    I know that I dread what you describe - milk and no nursing. A physical reminder of those awful early days of pain and leaking milk. much love to you (and Thor) as you wean.

  14. I never thought about that. I never put the two together. Feeding another living baby will trigger all sorts of grief. The feeling of engorged breast as a teasing reminder of what it once felt like to produce milk with no baby to feed.
    Just another to add to the list.


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