I’m so tired of being in pain. I love breastfeeding, it’s one of the best decisions I ever made. I’ve also been blessed with few problems, except for the first two weeks of adjustment, until two months ago. It started with one blocked duct, followed by another and another. But every time, I was able to treat them with hot compresses and the blockages were cleared. Finally the pain became severe enough that I went to see my doctor. She looked at me and said that I looked fine, prescribed some nipple ointment and sent me home. Four weeks later, I had severe pain every time I nursed my daughter. The  burning pain would shoot through my breasts for two or three hours after every nursing session. Then I spiked a fever, so I went back to my doctor and was prescribed an antibiotic. After a week on the antibiotic my symptoms got worse. The pain kept me awake at night. I would rock myself and weep trying to remember the breathing techniques I used to deal with labor pain. So back I went to my doctor, this time we decided to treat for a fungal infection. I began to treat my daughter for Thrush as well, using over the counter remedies. Two weeks later, my symptoms have diminished, but so has the time spent nursing. I have cut my daughter down from four nurses a day to one in an effort to better control the pain. I have tried practically every home remedy and over the counter remedy I could find. I have now concluded that my daughter is actually chewing on me. My guess is that the chewing caused abrasions which led to the infections.

I never thought that this process would be so difficult. I knew that my daughter would wean eventually, but I always imagined it would be a slow process of her own choosing. Now I find myself counting down the days until we are done, hoping that the pain will subside as well. This is not what I had in mind. My worst fear is that when I’ve finally weaned her the pain will still remain and I will have put us both through all of this for nothing. Breastfeeding gave me a special bond with my daughter and I feel like I’m losing that. There were times when I wondered if she only loved me for my milk. Will she still love me when it’s gone? I know that these are silly questions, and my logical mind tells me that everything will be fine. But it’s hard not to feel insecure about your abilities and decisions as a mother. I find myself constantly wondering if I’m making the right choice. Is giving this up a selfish choice? My daughter is almost 13 months old. She has trouble sleeping, so my evenings are rarely my own. Now what time I do have is spent ravaged with pain. I find myself taking two Tylenol PM and going to bed at 9:30 with ice packs on my breasts, hoping to sleep through the worst of the pain. This isn’t the life I had in mind. I imagined that by one year my daughter would be consistently sleeping through the night, going to bed by 7:30 or 8 so that I could have some time with my husband in the evening. I thought she would nap regularly during the day so that I would have time for myself. Instead I find myself beginning sleep training yet again at 13 months, and every hour of sleep she gets is a struggle.

I knew parenting would be hard. But I don’t think I realized that it really will lay you bare, taking away any small amount of self. While I want to become a selfless mother, I want to preserve something of myself. Otherwise, what will I have left when my children are grown? I have interests, desires, dreams I want to pursue. I always thought that those things could be made compatible with parenting. All I can do is keep hoping that things get better and pray that I won’t have to face all of these same challenges the next time around.