“Are you going to bed?”
That’s Italian. He is holding the baby, and trying to usher me into the bedroom to get some sleep. It’s 8.30pm – beginning of shift one, and my turn to check out. If all goes well, he will wake me up around 2am, and we will switch.
“Almost”, I reply, as I shove half a pint of raspberries and a heaping spoon of peanut butter in my mouth. We had dinner an hour ago, and I am hungry again. I also pre-fill a bowl with Cheerios and leave it on the counter with a banana. That’s going to be middle of the night snack. There is a bottle of water and an energy bar by the rocking chair.
This is hunger while breastfeeding. Honestly, it’s freaking exhausting. In my non-mommy days, my hunger is as predictable as sunrise. Every three hours like clock work. You could practically hear the humming of the body machine. Now, hunger is like Canadian weather – both random and frustrating.
In the last year, my appetite has been exhaustingly all over the place. Non-existent in first trimester, insatiable in second, unpredictable in third.
Then I misplaced my appetite somewhere after giving birth. The sense of hunger just… disappeared. For the first time in my life I knew what it meant to forget to eat. When I did eat, food did not really taste like anything – I might as well as have been chewing on hay. I chewed slowly, then lost interest two minutes in. Two weeks of this resulted in rapid weight loss, and dizzy spells. Standing up seemed to take all of my strength, and every breastfeeding session felt like an episode of Matrix – with any little energy that I had left being sucked out of me.
“Are you eating enough?”, a girlfriend asks. I shrug. I am eating some. Is it enough? I don’t know. Then again, I don’t really know what day of the week it is, and November somehow turned into December, and I didn’t notice.
“You should be eating more”, she affirms. “But”, I protest weakly. “I am not really that hungry”. In the previous years I learned to respect my hunger and been teaching others to do the same. Surely, if I was not eating enough, my body would tell me. Through HUNGER, perhaps?!
My sage girlfriend shakes her head. “What do you tell others when they say that they are never hungry?”.
Sigh. I hate when my friends and loved ones use this trick on me. Mostly, because it works. “I tell them that sometimes hunger presents differently, and to pay attention to what else is going on”.
I am weak, dizzy, and even more tired than can be expected. Right. So, the WAY my hunger presents has changed. Gotcha.
I am also constantly dehydrated. I wake up in the middle of the night with parched lips, down a bottle of water and look for another. For someone who usually gets her hydration from coffee, tea and fruits and vegetables, this is very different.
Italian starts following me around the house with food. He makes scrambled eggs with hidden extra cheese, and insists I finish the whole plate. He brings home donuts, and cuts them into pieces, so I can eat and breastfeed. He also places bottles of water on every horizontal surface in the house.
A thoughtful friend sends me energy bars in mail. I place the bars on my nightstand. I remember reading a tip in an article somewhere to pre-open the bars, so you do not have to mess around with the packaging in the middle of the night. I scoff at the suggestion. Surely, I can open a damn energy bar. Twelve hours later, I almost throw the bar out of the window, after unsuccessfully trying to rip it open with one hand and teeth. Next day, I sheepishly pre-open all of them.
Now that we are nine weeks in, my weight has stabilized (for now), and the hunger seems to have re-surfaced. I am still drinking a lot. I still miss my everyday predictable run-of-the-mill eating-for-one hunger. But I am also settling into this new normal for now.
Off to have a snack. This too shall pass.