After a super scary, traumatizing birth experience that ended in a c-section, it was a relief for my breastfeeding relationship with Oscar to be, if not always comfortable, at least uncomplicated. He latched on as soon as he was brought to me in recovery, and we’ve had no jaundice, latch problems, or plugged ducts along the way for our now 5 months of exclusive breastfeeding. I am incredibly grateful for this, as well as surprised; because, before giving birth, I felt extremely apprehensive about breastfeeding, very worried about seeing it through, and somewhat under the gun to succeed at it since my wife nursed Evan and Asa for 2 and 3 years, respectively. Before giving birth I felt extremely confident that I could handle the labor and delivery, and spent very little time worrying about negative outcomes in that area. Clearly, I had things very wrong.
I did have a postpartum period after 7 weeks. My wife, who’d birthed three kids and who is an L&D nurse, felt pretty confident that it would just be a fluke and that my cycle wouldn’t really return for months. Exactly 4 weeks after that, I had a backache, bloating, and breastfeeding discomfort, and was sure I was about to have another period, but the symptoms went away after a couple of days. Then, two weeks after that, I suddenly could hardly stand to nurse the baby. Each time he would latch on, it would hurt in a way that made my primal instincts want to push him off instantly. With my higher order thinking intact, obviously I still let him feed, but with increasing panic-like feelings with every passing moment. This continued for two days, during which I also had the clearest, most powerful (and uncomfortable) ovulation symptoms I have ever had in my life. The physical and mental discomfort subsided, and Oscar and I continued on our merry breastfeeding way. Until two weeks later, when it all started again with three days of what I can only describe as nursing torture sessions, after which I had another period.
Since then, I’ve returned to having a completely regular cycle*. And, like clockwork, every other week, I’m enduring 2-3 days of grueling breastfeeding Olympics. I should add that whenever I’m experiencing these symptoms, there is clearly something going on with my milk from his perspective, too, because he FREAKS.OUT. during those days. He acts like no amount is ever enough and wants to nurse hourly instead of every three hours (which, when it’s excruciatingly painful is the last thing mommy wants going on), and he alternates between different angry behaviors at the breast – rooting and burrowing fiercely like he can’t get latched, clamping down as though it’s flowing out too fast for him, just screaming while latching on and pulling himself off. Seriously, it’s a real picnic.
The PMS part of the cycle is upon us later this week, and I’m living in dread of it. The poor little baby is already teething (replete with 4 visible eruption cysts**) and already wants to use me as a chew toy. I can tolerate it (easily, actually) with level hormones, but the results of the hormonal swings are just terrifying.
*I read the statistics somewhere, and it’s either 97% or 93% of women who do not get a period while breastfeeding around the clock. Very, very unlucky card to have drawn here. On the positive side of things, ostensibly I could get pregnant again whenever we want, but if nursing is this uncomfortable in relation to a menstrual cycle, I shudder to think of what it would be like with pregnancy hormones on board.
**We are almost certain that he is going to have his top two canines first. So, we have been mistaken in calling him our zombaby, because apparently he is a vampire, not a zombie. Pictures to follow if we end up being correct.