When I learned I was pregnant I committed right away to breastfeeding. My husband and I knew we were a “one and done” family, so I was going all in on this kid. We read up on the continuum concept and borrowed Dr. Sears books from friends, embracing the practice of attachment parenting. New words – like ‘cosleeping’ and ‘babywearing’ – entered my vocabulary and quickly became tiny obsessions. Really, I was scared to death to be a mother, and I was looking for a system that had some answers. And while I couldn’t imagine what the reality of having an infant would be like, I was pretty sure if I could feed my child with my body, I wasn’t going to complicate things.
Luckily, breastfeeding came fairly easily to us. My daughter and I were not without our struggles, but she got it down pretty quickly and we fell into a comfortable rhythm. She was an intense baby and a voracious nurser. You could see it in her eyes first – even then they could practically burn a hole in your soul – and the lips would start to smack. I nursed her on demand, which meant that we sometimes nursed around the clock. Having her in bed was the only way I’d get any sleep, and more than a few times I woke up to her latched on while I was passed out.
Those first postpartum months are powerful and exhausting. Extremes of joy, sadness, overwhelm; the unending expectations; the obligation to keep another human – the human you all of a sudden love more than anything in the world – alive. And amidst all of this, you must also literally transform into a person you’ve never been before – a mother.
I had a glorious pregnancy. My life at that time involved a ton of external upheaval – I left a job I loved and moved to a city where I didn’t want to live. Pregnancy was my excuse to ignore it all, to glide through it unfazed and with a singular attention to self-care. For the benefit of the person growing inside me, of course. Regardless of the chaos around me, I focused on daily yoga, mantras and affirmations, and visualizing a smooth birth; I centered myself by counting grams of protein and servings of kale. Better do it now, I figured, because soon that energy would need to be redirected.
While meditating one morning around the 36-week mark, I was confronted by an old fear. I suddenly remembered that I was a person who had struggled with anxiety and depression. This hadn’t really come up during the previous eight or so months, probably because I was taking optimal care of myself physically, mentally, and emotionally. But in that moment, I knew I had to be aware of my patterns during this transition, and ready to draw from strategies and healthy coping mechanisms that had served me in the past.
So I made the intentional decision to incorporate cannabis into my postpartum routine. I read all I could find about the effects of mom’s cannabis use on developing infant brains, and I learned nothing that would dissuade me from reestablishing this ritual now that my daughter was in the world. I’d discovered how to use cannabis, along with yoga and meditation, as a remedy when I was 21 years old. By this time, I’d been successfully managing my mental health for seven years with these natural, holistic approaches.
I used a variety of medicinal herbs throughout my pregnancy, and after I gave birth, my nurse and lactation consultant recommended other natural solutions to help my milk come in and boost my energy. Cannabis was simply another tool in my postpartum toolbox, and it worked like a champ.
Conscious cannabis consumption allowed me to maintain my health, wellness, and energy during my daughter’s first months, and it kept my anxiety and depression in check. It helped me get back to my pre-pregnancy weight by regulating my appetite and metabolism. Cannabis enabled me to connect with my daughter in a deep way, right away. Because it gave me a place to put any resentment, overwhelm, or other pent up feelings; it gave me a space to process rather than project. By choosing cannabis, I prioritized my own wellness in a way that was safe for my baby, which can mean everything when you’ve spent six hours out of ten with a child attached to your nipple. I took minutes for myself, to unwind and indulge, and I felt like I was a person – whole and multifaceted – even if just a moment before I’d felt only like a milking machine.
I didn’t ever smoke near my baby. I was fortunate to have an incredibly supportive partner who wanted to help me achieve my breastfeeding goals and so took over almost all other duties during that time. He would also grant me moments of respite from the sucking monster so I could duck into the room at the back of our house, far away from baby. Door closed, I would sit on my zafu, take a few deep breaths, and inhale. Afterwards, I had another ritual. I’d wash my hands and face, change my shirt, rinse out my mouth before returning to my daughter. I never worried about the cannabinoids she might be ingesting, but smoke is smoke. As a person who wouldn’t hold a cup of hot coffee while holding my infant, there was no way I would take that risk.
I look back at this time as one of the most blissful of my life. It was hard, I was tired, we worked constantly. I breastfed my daughter for over two years, and I loved it. Breastfeeding helped me establish an identity as a mother and an important connection with my child. And cannabis helped me balance my needs with my baby’s so I could honor both my identity and our connection.