22 March 2011

Random thoughts of a lactational nature

Nursing BabyOne was difficult for me, physically and psychologically. While the mechanical difficulties were trifling compared to what others have experienced, they were sufficient and persistent enough to make me regularly threaten (albeit emptily) to give over the whole endeavor. I also felt quite keenly what I perceived at the time to be the solitary burden of the experience and the restrictions it placed on my activities and schedule (said baby being averse to a bottle--which was a terrible nuisance anyhow-- and quite attached to nursing on a schedule—his schedule). People would sometimes reference the “magical moments” of breastfeeding and I would do my best to smile and nod, hoping no one noticed that a mere earthling had accidentally landed on Planet La Leche League.

Here’s the thing about breastfeeding: No one else can do it for you. When your infant nursling is hungry, you must feed it. It doesn’t matter if you yourself are hungry, or tired, or in a very inconvenient public place, or in the very crucial middle of making supper. You must stop what you are doing and feed the baby. And if this is your first baby, or if the baby is newish, or you are shyish, even the “publicity” of a room containing friends and relatives may be too public for you, and you must withdraw to the solitary confinement and possibly painful appeasement of an impatient, ungrateful guzzler. (And if you are at times employed away from the baby, you must still make provision to feed the baby, likely necessitating that your breaks are consumed by quality time with uncomfortable apparatus.)

But! Here’s the thing about breastfeeding, that over the course of three subsequent nurslings, I’ve come to discover: No one else can do it for you. No one else gets to see that contented curve of her cheek, just so, in the moonlight. For you alone is reserved that first amazed look when, at several weeks of age, she finally becomes aware that she is not exactly dining solo: “Hey! You’re here too?! ” You get to see the chubby legs kick in excited anticipation of a satisfying meal. Yours are the little sideways glances and quick grins between gulps. When she’s tired or strung-out and no one else can comfort her, you can have her nestling in shuddering contentment within seconds. If you feel like she’s been passed around enough at a family gathering, or if you need a break from the family gathering, you can plead baby’s nutritional needs and seek a quiet corner of escape.

No one else can do it for you. As with so much of motherhood in this mortal vale, the burden is joy; and the joy, burden. Some days, the balance tips toward joy, and some weeks, the burden seems likely to break the balance altogether. Often, it’s just pretty darn hard to tell the difference, but grace gives us enough glimpses to keep us going until the Day when things are finally sorted out for good. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!


Emommy said...

So beautiful and true! THANK YOU! Even the breast-pad break-downs reminded me of a hidden, er, perk, er...

Untamed Shrew said...

>>When your infant nursling is hungry, you must feed it.<<

Yes, hungry. Or tired. Or too hot or cold. Or bored or overstimulated. Or scared. Or hurting. Or affectionate. Or jealous. And so we nurse, and then it's maybe 20 minutes before he has another feeling that requires me to neglect my other duties.

*sighhhh* Only one of my four would take a false nipple, and it ain't this one. There's only so much I can do with a baby in a sling.

DestinyP said...

"As with so much of motherhood in this mortal vale, the burden is joy; and the joy, burden."
I think that about sums it up. Well put. :)

MooreMama said...

amen, and amen.

Rebekah said...

>>“Hey! You’re here too?! ”

:D So true.

Leah said...

Why are love and suffering so inseparably intertwined?
I remember well the physical pains that accompany the beginning stages of nursing - the ones that come each and every time, regardless of how many babies I've had before (although I do believe the first time is the worst).
But oh, how much more memorable and treasured are the moments when my baby looks into my eyes like I'm the entire world... because, well, to them, I am.
I would never trade it.

Sarah Osbun said...

I've been nursing my first little girl for six days now.

Thank you for this post.

Katy said...

Congratulations Sarah! (For having a sweet baby and nursing for six days).

My favorite part is my babies always make their first non-cry/grunt/snuffle sound while nursing. That content cooing and humming. I get to hear it first :)

Elizabeth said...

"Why are love and suffering so inseparably intertwined?" Leah, you are so right!
Not much compares to that pain - and not much compares to that smile (even the ornery one that comes months down the road when they are supposed to be nursing but have decided that whatever you are doing is far more interesting).
Thanks for posting, Reb. Mary!!

Reb. Mary said...

Leah & Elizabeth & all: so true, so true.

Shrew, this baby's been a pacifier-rejecter too, and although she's slowed down in her demands somewhat, I like to think of it like this, on the days when I need to twist my sanity back into shape with the tool of humor: Hey! Apparently, breastfeeding is my hobby! How nice that my baby shares my interests, and that we can devote so much time to it together! :P

Katy, there's nothing like a baby that positively hums with contentment :)

Sarah, wow, you're right in the midst of it! Congratulations, and keep up the good work!

Kristi said...

Love this post! I nursed my twin boys and stopped before a year. But my daughter is 2 1\2 and still nurses one time before bed. A comfort thing. And while I have put her to bed for the last 2 1\2 yrs, I wouldn't trade it for anything! All those magical nursing moments are mine to keep forever! Even worth mastitus x's 2!! :)

Emily Cook said...

HEY! You're here too?

That's exactly the face! I love that face... if my eyes are uncrusted enough to see it in the middle of the night that is!