Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Mom and Baby Time
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.
Posted by Rita