I had an entirely different post planned for today, but something has happened and it’s pretty darned important in the “big picture” of my life these days, so I thought I’d share.
I got my period!!
All you squeamish folks, please exit quietly to the left…
….or stay and learn about postpartum menstruation!
Why am I sharing what might be considered TMI? Well, because just a few days ago I was seeking out the same information. It had been nearly 14 period-free months since my son was born, and I was beginning to think my cycle would never return.
Would it ever return?
When was the normal time for it to return?
Would I have to stop breastfeeding in order for it to return?
I had so many questions.
Anytime it came up in girl talk at the office or with friends, I always got a shocked look when I mentioned that I had had no Flo yet. I was assured by my doctor, LLL leaders and various reputable online sources that while some breastfeeding moms return to their normal cycle quickly, the AVERAGE is 14.5 months for moms who practice “ecological breastfeeding,” which is, for the most part, what we did without knowing it for months. Ecological breastfeeding includes not only nursing on demand both day and night, but keeping baby close to you, nursing in a side-lying position for naps and nighttime, comfort nursing, and NOT using bottles or pacifiers. (Source: http://www.kellymom.com/bf/normal/fertility.html)
But still, I worried. All those shocked women would tell me that they had breastfed, too, and that their cycles returned after 6 weeks, or 12 weeks, or 4 months. They looked at me like I had 4 heads.
So, I wondered, “What was wrong with me?”
What I realized after a while is that many of those moms told me they breastfed, when they actually only breastfed for a short time, or non-exclusively, or did not practice ecological breastfeeding. I caught on when I realized that the moms that told me they breastfed and got their first period back at 4 months were the same moms who told me their babies slept through the night at 8 weeks of age. (Most babies who are breastfed do not–yet another area where I doubted my parenting and then found out we were totally normal!)
Note to self: Scratch those “judgy” moms off my “Who to ask for advice” list. Not to criticize, but the experience is just too, too different, and I spent way too much time feeling like something was wrong, when everything was spot on.
So, last month, I started to see signs of ovulation. My first attempts to conceive and 2 subsequent pregnancies – one successful, one lost – left me much more in tune with my body’s signals, so I thought I sensed a beginning to the return of my cycle. Lo and behold, one day off from the day I predicted, my period returned!
I never thought I’d be so happy to hear from that particular visitor! But I felt like it was the end of something, too. The return of my fertility means that my body is ready to support another child, which means my pregnancy is really over. I know, it was over a long time ago, but I don’t really see it that way. I will definitely view my next pregnancy as a 2-year process that will require my body to be physically involved with my baby for the entire time. But that’s OK with me. I’ve loved every demanding, draining, exhausting, totally rewarding second of this one!
The most thrilling part for me is that I might be able to concieve now without having to wean my son! I really thought I may have to, and the thought of taking from one to give to another just didn’t sit well with me, and I was getting quite anxious about it. If I was 25, it might not be such an issue to wait a little longer, but I am most definitely NOT 25.
For those of you out there wondering about your first postpartum period, I can only tell you my experience. We have breastfed totally on demand for 14 months, with the introduction of solids around 6 months. I pump 8 ounces at 5am, another 8 ounces at 2pm, and then he nurses when I get home from work at 6pm and throughout the night. (He has never slept through the night.) I used to pump before bed each night (around 10pm) but I cut that out about a month ago. I do believe that change in our routine may be what brought the Big O back (No, not that Big O, silly. )
I expected what I used to call “the week of h*ll” to be awful, but it was quite easy. While many might begin with an anovulatory period, I believe that I did ovulate because I felt some familiar pain. But that was the only pain I had. No cramps, just a little bloating, slight headache and a very light 4-days. Easy peasy.
And so begins my foray into mama cloth! With the love I have for cloth diapering, you didn’t think I was going to return to those nasty plastic feminine hygeine products you buy at the drugstore, did you? No way! If my son is worth cloth, then surely I am too! I used my cute new cupcake-printed liners for a couple days and I give them a definite thumbs up. I can’t imagine going back knowing the toxins involved. As soon as I have enough info compiled to do some complete mama cloth reviews, I’ll be sure to update you!
If we don’t get pregnant first, that is!