Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Mom and Baby Time

Someone please tell me that I'm not the only mother that has a love/hate relationship with breastfeeding.   The soreness in the chest that reminds me of being in 7th grade all over again, feeling like I'm a constant leaky faucet, and then the mad dash out the door as soon as I've finished feeding the baby so that I can be back from running errands in two hours before she gets hungry again- it leaves me feeling like a slave to the boob in all guilty honesty.  For me, it's one of the hardest parts of having a newborn and at first I find myself counting down the months until I can get a small sense of freedom back in my life. 

But as it was with the other children, as the time approached when I felt like I could wean the baby without feeling guilty, I found myself wanting to freeze time and prolong those tender magical moments between mother and baby.

When I was in nursing school, I remember learning that the distance a newborn can focus is approximately 8 inches.  And who would think it coincidental that the distance from the crook of a person's elbow to their face is just that distance, making it so that a mother's face is one of the first things a newborn can see clearly as she is nursing.

I love observing the evolving relationship that both mother and baby have with nursing as the days and weeks roll on.  At first, the infant feeds greedily and intensely, eyebrows furrowed, breathing rapidly, as this is the one thing they realize they must master for survival.  Mother curls her toes and grits her teeth as her body painfully adjusts to feeling like her infant is literally sucking the life out of her.

A few weeks go by and baby begins to smile socially and realizes that when she does, it elicits all sorts of wonderful smiles and coos from mother in return.  Baby loves the reaction so much that she has a hard time concentrating on nursing.  She tries to nurse out one side of her mouth while smiling with the other, as the milk goes dribbling down her cheek and making a nice little mess of the sweet stickiness.  This is my favorite stage as her fingers open and close, caressing my back with the arm she has wrapped around my side.  By now mother's body has adjusted and has learned to appreciate the mandatory "time-out" that comes every two hours.

Then comes the phase where baby has learned that life does in fact involve more than her mother, and tries to push the limits of observing the world around her as she nurses.  She twists and squirms all while still being attached to mom, earning yelps of pain from mom as razor-sharp chicklets inadvertently clamp down and pull. 

A few months later, when baby realizes that the life doesn't cease to exist during the 15 minutes she is eating, things begin to settle down once again.  Baby, now with longer arms, reaches up and stroke mom's face tenderly with her hands as she feeds.  She begins to realize that mom is more than just a walking, talking milk jug, but that she is in fact a source of love and she seems to appreciate and treasure their time together just as much as mom does.  There are still the occassional and surprising alligator clamp-downs, but they are less frequent.

The weaning process comes with mixed emotions, by both mother and baby.  It's the tail end of the literal union between mother and baby.  It started with the snipping of the umbilical cord at birth, and finished with weaning some months later.  For me, there was a sort of grieving process that comes along with it as I realize that this is their first step towards independence.  Although Calista still has a while before this happens, I find myself wanting to savor each quiet moment with her as I've realized how quickly time escapes.


Trent and Julie said...

I think this entry should be published! It is so true! I know I'm still hormonal-but your last few entries make me cry! Motherhood is the most sacrificing thing a person can do, but like your previous entry talked about we are building something greater than we know! Thanks for the reminder.

Cristina said...

Beautiful written Rita! I loved every word :) My little Evelyn is already done nursing, and although it is liberating in a way, I am sad to know that phase is over.

Cher said...

it always makes me a little sad too. i love nursing, but it's also so nice to be able to leave the baby for longer than 2 hours. totally right about that. i think the 9 or 10 months i nurse my babies is just about right.

The "J" Team said...

I feel exactly the same way. You write beautifully...maybe you should be a writer!

patty said...

I love reading your blog becuase you eloquently write many things i often think about to. Great post.