It was this time (almost!) three years ago that I was told my progesterone was so low that I couldn’t be ovulating. The same day that I found out I was pregnant with Rory (so much for that no ovulating theory), and I was sure I’d lose him, just as I’d lost the previous pregnancies, because I didn’t have enough progesterone to safely carry a pregnancy through those first weeks.
My periods only returned when Rory was 18 months (11 months with Arlo). Since then, for the first time, I’ve been able to properly keep an eye on my cycles, and, low and behold, I have luteal phase defect once again. For the uninitiated, this means I have a shorter second half of my cycle. The bit after ovulation and before your period starts. I usually get 7 days at best. This means I am on my period every three weeks. It means that my luteal phase is not long enough to sustain a pregnancy.
This time, I’m not trying to get pregnant. The problem is that alongside my messed up cycles comes a load of not particularly amazing symptoms. This is my main concern for now, and the thing I am desperately hoping to change for the better.
My hair has thinned and lost body. Meanwhile, in other areas, it has flourished – most definitely unwanted. My body is holding on to weight more stubbornly than ever before. And I am getting what can only be described as actual proper cystic acne. It doesn’t let up at any point throughout my cycle. As a result my skin constantly looks a mess. There is no recovery time, it’s constantly angry and very noticeable. I’ve never had issues with breakouts before. Not even as a teenager. And now it’s off the scale.
Being a woman is bloody great sometimes, eh?
All of this has culminated in some rather negative feelings. Luckily, body confidence has never been something I’ve given much thought to, until now anyway. And I’m grateful that I am experiencing it now for the first time rather than during those emotionally-wrought teenage years. It’s an uncomfortable feeling.
Meanwhile, I find myself asking “What support is there for breastfeeding mothers with hormone-related issues? In the grand scheme of things, it’s not the worst problem to have, but even so, I do worry whether five years of pregnancy, breastfeeding, imbalanced hormones and weird cycles is “OK” because it’s “natural”, or whether it’s a chronic problem that could affect negatively on my health if ignored.
I am also aware that ceasing breastfeeding might not provide the cure-all that I suspect. If everything is down to elevated prolactin, then yes. But I’m just blindly guessing at that. If it’s PCOS, or high testosterone, then it might not be so easily reversible. I guess I won’t really know until I stop having babies and breastfeeding. And I’m assuming that’s what a GP would suggest before anything else.
What I do know is that in January I had six days away from Rory whilst I was in New York. And I also had a 28 day cycle that month. An actual standard 28 day cycle! The likes of which I don’t think I’ve ever seen since pre-Arlo days.
Emotionally, I would happily give up breastfeeding now. Rory would be fine, and I would actually really like it.
But breastfeeding is what I do. It’s all I know. It’s how we all, literally, sleep at night. It’s how we get by. It’s so far ingrained as a parenting technique. If you’ve always fallen asleep lying down in a bed and then suddenly someone tells you you are now going to always fall asleep standing up, you could work out a logical plan in your head for how to go about it, but that doesn’t necessarily make the reality possible, and certainly doesn’t make it easy.
Short of someone physically taking him away for a few weeks, and crossing my fingers that he’s forgotten about breastfeeding when he returns (unlikely), I actually have no idea how to cease breastfeeding until Rory is ready, as happened with Arlo.
I would like to say that we continue breastfeeding because of the benefits (health, social, and confidence-wise), but the reality is, it’s never felt like an active choice, as such. I am trying to hold down my own business working from home with no childcare hours, and at night in a two bedroom house, I’m doing my best to placate and resettle a child without disturbing everyone else – breastfeeding has always been my answer in these two circumstances.
I took advantage of a window of opportunity when I was away for two full days, and Rory was slightly removed from his usual habits, to impose a few time restrictions. This way, we are very nearly milk free during the day time. It’s the nights where he still feeds like a newborn.
As with most parenting dilemmas, there are no clear answers to this, no prescriptive path to take. As usual, I’m just muddling through, doing what feels best at the time.
At some point it all sorts itself out, one way or another.