Sunday, March 13, 2011

peace cometh after a run

I know that Biblically, peace comes in the morning (with God's always unfailing new mercies), but a lot of the time for me - peace comes after a good run. Our doctor told us to put Cohen on formula Thursday morning, and I set out for a run of 4.5 miles on Friday morning. I do a lot of thinking when I run and for whatever reason, seem to have more clarity than any other time I have.

In the first mile of my run, I found myself trying to figure out a way to keep nursing Cohen. After pumping while Cohen gets his bottles, I know that he just wasn't getting enough milk. I want to wait to talk to the doctor this week to make a final conclusion, but I think the problem is a milk supply issue not a calorie issue. I tried to think of everything I could do to increase my milk supply, but then realized that I was already doing all of them. I drink a ridiculous amount of water, eat oatmeal almost every morning, drink milk boosting tea, upped my calories with healthy fats, and have been taking Fenugreek four times a day since I went through that stretch of sickness a couple of months ago.

I couldn't help but come to the conclusion that the supply I have right now is my boosted supply. If I weren't doing all those things, I would have even less milk.

Somewhere around the second mile of my run, I began to get angry at myself. I wondered if it's my fault for trying to lose weight and exercise. I wondered if the stress of moving took a hit out of my supply from which I couldn't recover, or if being sick for so long caused my supply to just slowly diminish. I struggled with thoughts of feeling like I'm giving up and that if breast feeding were really important to me that I would hook myself up to my pump every hour and a half and pump until my supply was adequate again. Or maybe there's just something wrong with me that I'm just not capable of breast feeding past six months.

At about mile three, I found myself letting go of and mourning my breast feeding experience. I came to the realization that the only supply boosting efforts I hadn't tried were to get a prescription to boost my supply (which I did do when we went through this same thing with Jude. Because of that, I know that the prescription actually doesn't help nearly as much as Fenugreek - hence why I was already taking quite a bit of Fenugreek), or to pump every hour or two (which is just not realistic with a toddler, a small business, and a house to take care of). And to be honest, I don't know that I can ever go back to not being able to measure how much milk Cohen is getting. I have no doubt that it would stress me out and worry me to no end to not be able to control the ounces he's receiving. After realizing that breast feeding is over for us, I allowed myself to fondly remember nursing Cohen. I remembered nursing him moments after he'd been born and marveling at how beautiful he was. I remembered nursing him with Jude cuddling up next to me on the couch and feeling like my heart would burst with happiness. I remembered our middle of the night nursings where it seemed like he and I were the only ones who existed in the world as I sang and prayed over him. I remembered our last nursing session right before we left for the doctor on Thursday, and all the fears I was feeling. I let myself feel sadness that things didn't go as I had planned and that I needed to say good-bye to breast feeding.

It took me four miles of running to remember that I had been pumping every day since Cohen was six weeks old (I said running helped me think clearly...not quickly). It suddenly dawned on me that if the issue was lack of supply and not quality of supply that I had an entire chest freezer of milk for Cohen! I don't have an accurate measure of how much I have, but I think it's enough to give him breast milk for a month or two! I realized that Cohen could get breast milk and I could eat dairy! My running pace picked up slightly as I realized how different my life would be without breast feeding.

I got pregnant with Jude in February of 2008. I nursed him until he was 9 months old. I got pregnant with Cohen in November of 2009- when Jude was 1 year old. In case math isn't your strong suite, let me spell it out for ya. I have been pregnant or nursing for four years straight (minus the three months between weaning Jude and getting pregnant). Don't get me wrong, I've loved it. But my body has been on loan for as long it takes to get a college degree. I realized that if I wasn't thirsty, I didn't have to drink water! I could eat dairy - all kinds! I could have two cups of (fully caffeinated!) coffee in the morning and then get a latte in the afternoon if I wanted! I could excercise and cut calories! Alcohol isn't my thing, but I could drink alcohol! I could just toss a bottle in the diaper bag and not give a thought to where would be a good place to breast feed! After I was able to let go of the pressure and guilt, I found myself rejoicing in what it would look like to have ownership of my body again.

If a four mile run can help me sort through all of those ridiculously mixed emotions, I have a feeling that running a marathon could help me solve world hunger and cause world peace.

I spent the last half mile of my run thinking less about breast feeding and more along the lines of, "Just make it to that tree. Just run to that house up ahead. Just keep breathing. Just keep running, just keep running, just keep running."

I know that I have done my best to give Cohen was I believe is best for him. I can already see my supply diminishing even further, but I will continue to pump as I can and add to my freezer stash until I have no milk left. I do believe though, that letting go of breast feeding - while heartbreaking - is the best thing for our family. And with that, my mind is at peace and my heart is at rest.


  1. Jen, I'm glad you're finding peace in your situation. I felt angry and guilty when I couldn't make my body produce enough milk with Kate. My supply took a hit immediately when she had jaundice and the doctor made me use formula instead of breast milk. It just never recovered. I felt guilty that I could only make it last six weeks, but I was glad I was able to at least give her that boost. It's so hard because we feel like this is what our bodies are made for, obviously we should be great at it. It's just not always that easy! I'm glad you're at peace and glad to know I'm not the only one who has struggled with these feelings. You're a great mom!

  2. Yay! So glad you're feeling better about it. And maybe even looking forward to it a little! I was only able to nurse 2 out of 3 of mine for any substantial amount of time, but it didn't mean that I loved the other 2 any less! And you know what? I think they turned out ok. (Alright, Noah might be a little crazy, but I like him. :)

  3. Thanks so much for the encouragement, guys - it means so much!

  4. Hi Jen. I just found your blog, my 9 month old is going through the same thing! How did you get Cohen to take formula? My son is refusing it and even bottles of breast milk completely which is heartbreaking.