Monday, September 14, 2009

Mommy's A Cow

All right dudes, this one isn't for you. So, please leave now or forever hold your peace.

Admittedly, I had a lot going on in my life in the way of "stressors" when Elsbeth was born. Oh, like say, hurricanes, deaths, deployments, and a particularly high number of people from Nigeria wanting to give me a lot of money for no apparent reason other than the fact that I am a "Dear Sister or Brother in Christ". So, when I attempted to breastfeed I was a little preoccupied. And it was hard. My mother who had breastfed both my brother and I and had gone on and on about how amazing it was and how she could practically eat her weight in powdered donughts every day and just about wither away, was not with me. For the first few weeks I was alone in Mississippi and she was in Indiana. I needed help. A lot of women do. It's not always as easy as we are sometimes led to believe.

I relied on what I had been told at the hospital for my success, and that was that babies need to eat every three hours. So that's what I did. I put her on a schedule of feedings every three hours. Even in the early days. It breaks my heart to look back at videos from those first few weeks of her life to see her fussing and rooting looking for food while I am standing by, oblivious, because, well, it hadn't been three hours so she SURELY couldn't be hungry. As women I think we have grown so accustomed to relying on the advice of books and Doctors that we have forgotten how to hear that little voice inside of us that guides us in the ways of Mothering. It is our Mother instinct and I had practically muzzled mine for the advice of men who had never borne a child but claimed to be experts in the ways of this womanly art.

So because of this schedule I had poor Ellie on, my milk never really came in. And when someone suggested after I had fed her that she still seemed hungry and that perhaps I should give her some formula to top her off, well that's exactly what I did. And without my knowledge, this further decreased my milk supply. Because with the 'ole udders, it's all about supply and demand. Baby demands it; my body supplies it. But I just didn't know. I was ignorant. And the women of previous generations either weren't there to instruct me in this ancient and intimate process or had no experience themselves in the era of easily accessible formula.

And just like that, in the course of only a few months, the nursing of my firstborn was over. And, I'll be honest, in some ways my life was easier. I could wear whatever I wanted without having to ponder whether or not my kid could have easy access to "The Milk Bar". Anyone could feed her and I could get a few minutes to myself. But ultimately, the bigger part of me felt a tiny light go out in the newly developing part of my soul that is reserved for the Mother in me.

With my second pregnancy, I vowed I would not repeat my past mistakes and do it differently, and this time I would succeed. And so when the whole thing with my eye came into play and I was told I wouldn't be able to breastfeed because of the medication I was on, I felt crushed. Because that's how important a goal it had become to me. I would rather risk losing my eye than not be able to nurse my baby. And so I refused my medicine. That's right, I REFUSED to take medicine that could potentially prevent me from going blind. I just started listening to that little voice that urges me on and sometimes tells me to relax. Luckily, so far it hasn't asked me to go to the kitchen and grab a knife. That's quite a relief.

In preparation for this monumental task I read. A lot. I was better informed this time and resolved that every time that baby made a peep, blinked an eye, or hiccuped I was going to stick a boob in her mouth. And that's what I did. For several weeks. My Husband commented that it seemed like all I ever did was feed the baby because it was true. So I fed and I pumped and I pumped and I fed, and by the end of six weeks you could have tanned leather with my nipples but, by God, I was finally a cow! And I mean that in the most, glorious and reverent way possible.

It was my body alone, and what God had provided me with that was keeping my child alive. And not only keeping her alive, but nourishing her,growing her; fattening her up. It was the biggest boost of self confidence that I have ever experienced. Even more than the time that I fit into my Mom's size four pants.

And so here we are four and a half months later and we're still going strong. She has never had a drop of formula, not because I think that's wrong, but because I haven't had to give her any. I have shifted from one school of thought to another. Before I guess, like alot of women in our culture, I viewed these things on my chest as something to be admired and hidden away. Now, they are even more beautiful despite the fact that they are love worn to the point of being almost unrecognizable to their former, more perky selves. They have become a life source. And the source of me. Coming into my own as a Mother.

As most of you who have followed this blog for some time realize, I'm not one for mushy, estrogen laden sentiment, but the bond I have with this child at this stage is beyond my comprehension. It is she and I. Me and she. We function almost as if the cord of blood and water was never severed. The fact that she's my bunk mate night after precious night doesn't hurt either.

Oh, and my eye. It's fine.


Lauren said...

I seriously give it up for you nursing mommies. Breastfeeding is such a time commitment and large responsibility to be the sole nutrient provider for your child and I applaud your efforts and success. Congratulations on being more informed and in charge this time around, I'm loving all of this free advice!

PS: Whenever you come back, I want to sit again.

Niki said...

I didn't realize the complexity of breastfeeding until the past few years & especially after reading your post.

But more importantly, the thing I worried about even more was your eye & you're saying its all better now??? Really?! So happy for you!