Written by Guest Blogger Caroline Powers
In this first experience of mine with having a baby, there have been so many times where I am overwhelmingly impressed by the design of pregnancy, childbirth, and babyhood. It really seems that a wise and compassionate entity who has definitely been a mother themselves played a huge role in figuring out how having a baby was all going to work out.
Nine months really seems like the perfect amount of time to become mentally prepared to have a child and to get everything ready for the baby. If it was any shorter, I don’t think I would have been ready. If it was any longer, I would probably have started to go crazy.
The indescribable intensity of childbirth seems to me, in retrospect, the most appropriate way for my tiny, innocent, helpless infant to enter the world. A warning of sorts from that entity I mentioned above: “He might look harmless, but don’t be fooled. Nothing in your life will ever be the same again.” (the duration of clean outfits, the luxury of sleep, going to the bathroom alone, the ability to have a completely present mind regarding anything other than my baby…) Life after having a baby is not the same and I think that the experience of birth appropriately sets an infinitely powerful memory delineating the before and the after.
And nap times! In the first months of my son’s life, when I was trying to figure out all the intricacies of taking care of a baby while existing in a fog of exhaustion, those initial newborn naps of to three to four hours (I can’t believe there was ever a time when I would wake my son up from a nap) were just what I needed. The naps gradually became shorter and fewer as he became older, but his sleep maturation seems to correlate so well with my body becoming accustomed to sleep deprivation and my mind becoming accustomed to getting things done while he is awake.
And similarly so I feel about breastfeeding. In addition to providing great milk, breastfeeding has been supportive in several other ways such as fostering strength, peace, and love. It feels like it was perfectly designed to do so.
I had planned for a home birth with my midwife, but ended up in the hospital with my son delivered by cesarean. At first, I was totally open and comfortable about the cesarean birth. However, gradually I started to question if it had been less of an emergency and more of a weakness on my part. This feeling, coupled with other’s comments that my petite frame couldn’t have handled a natural birth, left me feeling drained of my feminine worth. Breastfeeding has helped to slowly build back confidence in my strength. To watch my son grow, and to know that I have nourished him with my milk from his tiny newborn self to the beautiful big chub that he is now, has helped to gain back the trust I have in myself as a woman. Every time I nurse him, it is a reminder that I am doing the best that I can as a mother. His health, supported by my milk, shows me that my best is indeed enough.
Taking care of a tiny human is a full-time commitment! Even during nap times, the laundry and cleaning and preparing leaves a few precious minutes to do something baby un-related. It feels like my brain has become a non-stop multi-tasking machine. It’s so easy to get caught in a mentality of always getting something done, but it’s so hard to just stop and take a break. I can count how many naps I’ve taken since he was born on one hand. And that is where breastfeeding steps in! I find nursing my son requires me to stop checking off tasks and instead sit with my baby, feed him, and relax. He focuses on nursing the best when the environment is calm. Therefore, about every 2 hours, I need to provide him this calm space and, doing so, I provide myself with a moment of peace as well. I can sit and breathe and not feel any guilt about taking a break because it’s an entirely necessary one!
I find the act of nursing my son to be such an important part of bonding with him. He is a really social guy, eagerly smiling and reaching out his arms to anyone within sight. He happily spends time with others and separation anxiety isn’t (yet) a part of his personality. Breastfeeding is wonderful because the act of nursing him makes sure that we have our one-on-one time…even if he’d rather be babbling at strangers. The time when I am feeding him is something that only him and I share. He doesn’t take a bottle and, though this means we can’t be apart for more than two hours, I see this as a sign that he needs our nursing time together to balance out his social personality. I like to think that every time I feed him a block is being laid for a foundation of trust: trust that I will always be here to nourish him. I think of my milk as a symbol of the love that I will always strive to give him: a love that will evolve to care and support him in the best way possible as he grows. I love that when he is nursing, his usually-energetic self becomes calm. I can study his face and stroke his hair and look at his tiny fingers. When he looks up into my eyes with that wide-eyed, sweet, and innocent trust, my heart feels like it is going to explode. It is incredible how the distance between his eyes and mine, when he is nursing, seems perfectly designed for optimal bonding. Breasts are positioned in such a perfect place, close to the heart and the eyes!
Photo Credit: Esme Westerlund
Breastfeeding has been so beneficial to both my son and I in these first months. It’s awesome to have a go-to cure-all attached right to my chest. Hungry, thirsty, sick, tired, hurt, fussy, cold…breastfeeding has never failed to provide us an answer. I feel thankful to be able to breastfeed as I know it is not always an option. I also am thankful that with practice and time breastfeeding becomes second nature and pain-free (except when he bites). It was so hard at first between teaching him to latch and working through the soreness. I’m happy to be at the other end of that tunnel, in a place where I can admire the incredibly designed process of breastfeeding and cherish the many gifts that breastfeeding bares.