I have had a really difficult 36 hours. On Sunday afternoon, without much fore-thought or planning, I decided to wean Aisha.
I know that this is way past due - she is already 2 years and four months old and breastfeeding at this age seems to be unacceptable. Initially, my main concern was our religious ruling on breastfeeding children beyond the age of two, but we were reassured by our Imam that it was perfectly acceptable to breastfeed beyond this age (obviously within reason).
So I relaxed, and continued to enjoy bonding with Aisha this way. She absolutely loves her boobies, using them mainly for comfort and not really for nutrition at this point. Many a tantrum has been averted simply by flashing them - it is incredible to watch how her face changes from outrage and frustration to sheer happiness within seconds. I love watching her face as she breastfeeds - the contentment and joy warms my heart. Recently, when she catches me watching her face intently while she's breastfeeding, she will give me a thumbs-up signal. Really funny and cute.
Recently she fell off a high fold up chair, as it crashed to the ground. Her forehead hit the ground, as she had fallen head-first. The shock of the fall had her in a state of hysteria. It was absolutely amazing how she calmed down instantly after she'd lifted my top to seek comfort from her boobies. After a few minutes the violent sobbing was replaced by gentle peaceful breathing.
I didn't breastfeed this long with my other three kids. There had not been a need for a weaning process, since all of them had just naturally moved on to the bottle. If anyone had told me that such emotional turmoil would be the result of weaning this one, I might have stopped sooner.
A while back I started to do a blog post on the sadness I was feeling about the prospect of weaning her. I researched other such cases on the internet, but did not find anyone who was suffering to the extent that I was. I felt alone and weird - and like a weakling. But I could not finish the post, as it became too painful. I kept bursting into tears.
I feared the prospect of weaning her. I knew that the sadness would escalate into full-blown grief. Nobody could relate. Other mommies who had weaned kids, who were born more or less around the time Aisha was, laughed when I told them how sad I was feeling. (In their defence, their laughter was not mocking - they were merely responding to the jovial joking tone in which I mocked my own silliness- in the hopes that someone would say they understood and that they were feeling the same).
My sadness can be attributed to the fact that it feels as if the bond between us will break. Our relationship will change - she will need me less. But more importantly - much more importantly - I'm heartbroken about the fact that I will not be able to provide her with the comfort I used to. I feel as if I will be robbing her of something which gives her so much joy, contentment and solace. Since she does not take the dummy/pacifier or bottle, there is no substitute which I can offer her.
I chatted to moms about how they had gone about the weaning process. I got advice which ranged from applying Mercurochrome to the nipples (to resemble blood), chocolate (to resemble poo) and bitter aloe (which apparently tastes so vile that the horror and disgust is said to linger long after the child has tasted it). Most moms recommended the bitter aloe, swearing by its effectiveness. But when I raised the topic with our family doctor, she reiterated what I'd thought - this method was cruel. She suggested that I explain to Aisha that she was hurting my boobies and try to get her to see the reason behind the decision to wean. I knew that there was no way that would work.
But I tried it - I told Aisha that she was hurting me, which upset her, making her cling to me even more.
A few weeks ago I, once again, found myself around other mums who had weaned. My embarrassed admission that I had still not weaned was met with shock, surprise and the usual advice. As usual, nobody could understand what the big deal was, making me feel really alone - and annoyed at myself.
On Sunday afternoon, without prior warning and very much on the spur of the moment, I decided to apply some bitter aloe to my nipples. My heart broke as I did it. Very dramatically, I kissed and hugged Aisha just before I did it - it truly felt as if I was saying good-bye to her (or at least to my breastfeeding baby). I had a lump in my throat the entire time.
I called her over and offered her her boobies, which she willingly took. Nothing could have prepared me for her reaction when she tasted it. She looked shocked, she panicked and then gagged. She started to rub her tongue with her sleeve, desperate to get the taste out of her mouth. I panicked - what the hell had I done??? I was such an idiot! A cruel stupid people-pleasing idiot!!! How could I have done this to my baby? And why? Simply because I was feeling the pressure from other people. I hated myself - I truly hated myself. I still do.
I quickly applied toothpaste to her tongue. Eventually she calmed down - but she was clearly affected by the experience. She kept repeating to her older siblings ''Kakka (Yucky) boobies'' and pointing at me. She was uncharacteristically quiet for the rest of the night.
During the middle of the night, she awoke as usual for her boobies. Unaware that the taste could not simply be wiped away, I offered them to her. She started to cry - for about an hour. It was not her usual middle-of-the night tantrum. She was crying bitterly. She was angry. She sat up and started to suck on her hand. Then I started to cry. I sobbed and sobbed, feeling helpless and full of regret. I could not console my baby at all. She pushed me away when I came near her, whimpering, ''Kakka boobies, kakka mommy''. I reached out to touch her, but she pushed my hand away, saying, ''Kakka mommy's hand''. I was heartbroken, but I deserved it.
Mo brought me a facecloth to attempt to remove the taste once again. I rubbed and rubbed until my nipples were raw. Then he gave me some golden syrup to rub on my nipples - in an attempt to undo the damage I had done with the aloe. Hesitantly I did so ( I realised that the harm done by a bit of sugar did not outweigh the harm that I had already done to the child). I offered her her sweetened boobies, but she pushed me away. She eyed me suspiciously, crying all the time. I wept along with her.
I told her that her boobies were tasting better now - I put a tiny bit of the syrup on her lip to illustrate what they tasted like now. She swiped my hand away. After another fifteen minutes of crying, I picked her up and quickly put the sweetened boobie in her mouth. She did not resist (I'm not sure if it was from exhaustion).
Although she has been back in her tantrum phase for about two months, she had always been pleasant, funny and lovable in between her tantrums (of which there would be about two or three a day - which includes her middle-of-the-night tantrum).
Yesterday was a complete nightmare. Although she took her boobies the morning, she kept talking about the kakka/yucky boobie experience. She was quiet, angry and aggressive all day. The number of tantrums were too numerous to count. She was particularly aggressive toward me, which was strange since I'm usually the one who comforts her and calms her down. I felt depressed, powerless. I missed my happy baby. I felt as if I had broken her.
Last night's middle of the night tantrum was particularly bad. She did not want boobies in bed (which is VERY VERY UNUSUAL). She wanted to fall asleep with her head on my shoulder, which under any other circumstances, would have made me so happy - but this was because she still did not trust that I would not give her yucky boobies again. She fell asleep on my shoulder after screaming for more than an hour.
She awoke again at about 06:00, insisting that I apply 'medicine' to my boobies - she was referring to the golden syrup which had fixed them when they were kakka/yucky. I complied with her request and asked if she wanted her boobies. She didn't - she had simply wanted to ensure that her boobies were no longer yucky.
This post has been written over a half-a day (due to lack of time to sit and write it in one go), and at this moment I am feeling so much relief. She has just awoken - happy. However, being the idiot I am, I forgot that I had applied the golden syrup at 06:00 am, so when I offered her the boobies, she shrank back with panic at their unusual (albeit pleasant) taste. But, it doesn't matter - for now she's smiling again. I hope and pray that she remains happy for the rest of the day.
Which still leaves me with the problem of a possible weaning method. But I shall worry about that another time - right now I'm just happy that she's happy.
(If anyone has suggestions regarding methods of weaning, please feel free to share it. I will really appreciate it)