Breasts. A perfect topic for my first entry in my Mommy-blog. I am actually on the breast pump whilst writing this. It is one of the moments in my day when Zeke is asleep and I take a few breaths. Let me qualify that by saying that I am taking a few breaths if you count sitting at the kitchen table with my top off, suction cups strapped to my boobs, typing at my computer. But yes, I can relax for a few minutes knowing that my sweet little guy is safely wrapped in his knit blanket, sleeping in his pack-n-play. My nipples are killing me. Okay, “killing me” is a gross overstatement. The nipple pain I’m experiencing now pales in comparison to contractions. Really, it pales in comparison to the nipple pain I experienced when Zeke and I were learning to breastfeed.
When I was pregnant, I actually thought that breastfeeding was, get this, weird. I wasn’t sure I could do it. Not mechanically, but I just wasn’t sure I could get used to a slobbery baby sucking on my boob. The thought of someone suckling on a part of my body to extract his food was just too strange. I’d hardly seen anyone breastfeed a baby, and if I had, it was under a “hooter-hider”, or I’d turned away, lest I see a mom’s dreaded nipple. Breastfeeding was unfamiliar. And, while I’d never particularly sexualized my own breasts, they were mine, and they were private.
I felt that way until I met my baby, and in an instant, my thoughts and feelings changed. I had no problem with my precious, helpless little newborn latching right on and sucking the heck out of my unsuspecting nipples. It became my sole purpose in life to nourish my baby, and all I wanted was to be as close to him as possible. And what could be closer than having him gain sustenance from my very own body? It was amazing and gratifying to be able to provide this for my child. In the beginning, my nipples became incredibly sore, chapped, bloody, you name it. We had trouble getting his latch. But as the sleepless days, nights, and weeks went on, Zeke and I fell into what seemed like a perfect rhythm. Okay, the breastfeeding itself was a nice rhythm. The sleeping, or lack there-of, not so much.
My husband commented many times that he couldn’t believe how we had it down pat and could breast feed anywhere. He said I was like “a machine”. It was a dance that Zeke and I had momentarily mastered. We could breastfeed while standing, sitting, walking; we could breastfeed here, there, or anywhere. And my response to my husband truly was, yes, we are lucky, but you just can’t take anything for granted because nothing is static with a baby.
And I was right. I’m so grateful for those breezy days of breastfeeding. What could be more natural and less weird than breastfeeding my precious little baby? I know the phrase “precious little baby” sounds a bit cliché and trite, but he really is the most incredible little being I ever could have imagined.
Of late, we’ve been having more difficulty with the breastfeeding, and I hate it. The ease of breastfeeding only comes at the 4am feeding when he’s too tired to protest, and, frankly, I’m too tired to enjoy it. I once read a comment from a mom who loved her middle-of-the-night feedings with her little one (ps. It took me WAY too long to figure out that LO meant ‘little one’ on all of these chat websites) as she so enjoyed the quiet, peaceful times with her baby, no interruptions. I wish I could say the same, that I enjoy being pulled out of my already weak slumber to feed my baby, the half an hour that it takes, and the following half hour it takes me to fall back to sleep. Am I glad that he’s breastfeeding easily at 4am? Sure. Am I haggard and tired as all get- out? Yes, indeed.
Here’s where I start to sound like the whiner that I intend to be in this entry. Okay, perhaps I’ve been whining the whole time. Trying to put a crying, arching baby to the breast during the day is much more difficult than it sounds on paper. He doesn’t want it, and I can’t figure out why. I’ve done everything, have been on the phone with our pediatrician’s nurse a million times, have consulted two separate lactation consultants and nothing. We’ve now gone through a few weeks of fussy breast rejection. Of course, he gobbles down the bottle like he’s never had food before. I don’t feel so much rejected as inadequate. “Breast is best”, or so the motto goes, and I can’t seem to provide that for my son right now. It’s frustrating. I have no reason to complain when I know that some moms would give their right arm to have the five solid months of breastfeeding that Zeke and I have enjoyed so seamlessly.
Perhaps what I really need to do is think about what it means to be a mom and realize that the importance of my being a good mother to my son has very little, if anything, to do with breastfeeding him or not. If there is one thing that I learned in my work for the county, it’s that children need their moms. As a mom, I am not just my breasts. I am more than a boob. Thank God. I’ll try to keep reminding myself of that when my son insists that he wants nothing to do with my delicious, milk-producing appendages.