After years of wearing my breasts comfortably as identifiers of my sex, lures for affection, I am thrilled to see them now as utilitarian tools to feed my family. I’ve watched with longing as some of the mothers I know lovingly make their bodies available to their children in this way. I had no idea how exhausting, stressful, and tense it would be in those first weeks as we, Naz and I, found our grace in this process of feeding together.
I remember very clearly the moments Adam brought him to me in the recovery room after the cesarean section. For my wee babe two precious hours in his life had passed and I was not there to protect, welcome, and nurture this young soul into the world as I’d always planned to be. Thankfully, his Dad went with him directly from the operating theater to the nursery, held him close, and whispered to him as they fell in love.
Adam stood vigilantly in the nursery as the well intended nurses attempted to feed our new son formula as his first meal on the outside. Adam, in his calm, easy going way, simply didn’t let it happen. They were adamant, and this man’s first act of fatherhood was strong, defiant, and courageous as he closed his ears to the pleas of “but the baby is hungry” from the nurses and held out so that my first act of motherhood, face to face with my son, would be the way we envisioned.
When I held him, Naz, for the first time, we looked in each others eyes, and I offered myself to him. At this moment in time I again joined the ranks of the millions of mothers who went before me as we began this new mediation of intimacy, breast to breast, as it were. He immediately wrapped his tiny, new mouth around my nipple and in those moments a wave of relief washed over us both rinsing away the previous hours of labor, fear, discomfort, and pain. In those moments we found one another, and we’d need this love to carry us. The journey of breastfeeding for us was just beginning and full of another set of challenges Id never have imagined.
My milk was “slow” to come in. That is to say, that Naz lost too much weight in those first few days for him to fall comfortably into a spreadsheet or chart. The first time he tasted that sugary water in a plastic nipple was late in the night, the first night he really cried. I had no idea what to do. Adam was not allowed to room in with us as this was a private Arab hospital and men were not allowed in the ward during the night time hours. I was exhausted, scared, and felt failure stealing this most recent act of motherhood from me.
The doctors did not want to release him from the hospital and so we committed yet another act of defiance in those days at the hospital (there were so many: no bath, no vaccines, cloth diapers, etc) and pumped him up on formula. We grinned at each other as they reluctantly signed the release papers and we heisted him out of there, back to the safety of the birth center where we’d left, him comfortably inside of me, three days previous. Felt a lifetime had passed in those short days.
In the next few days I spoke with anyone and everyone about nursing. Some people advised he needed his tongue clipped, others said he had a funny chin and so that was the reason he wasn’t finding his way. I knew my milk wasn’t coming, not in the supply that he needed, and this just intensified the feelings of defeat engulfing me. I cried often and easily those days, so afraid that this new body and old soul were suffering because of my ego and attachment to breastfeeding my baby.
We heard of a “witch lady” who provided cranial-sacral treatments for newborns and so we made an appointment. Upon entering her home, I felt warmth, calm, and a sense of surrender take over us both. Naz laid on her table, quiet and still. He looked directly at her as she touched him, gently activating the points he’d not felt being denied the tight squeeze down the birth canal. When she pressed a point close to his sacrum, he smiled, and for the first time since exiting my body seemed to really be awake. Welcome, my son. We’ve missed you.
I adore the feeling of Naz latching on, him suckling a few times, pausing for what he knows is the result of his hard work, and then the flush of the precious nectar as he begins to drink. I feel unbelievably blessed to have a husband who said all of the right things, went out of his way to get a breast pump those first days to help things along, and who always looked at me without judgment as we, Naz and I, struggled to find our footing those first days.
My small son took his first bites of food that was not me a few days ago, and a sadness found me later that day. Our time in this intimate bubble of newborn bliss is fleeting, and I will miss it terribly. I remind myself of this at 1 am, 3 am, 5 am and all the times of the day and night when I am weary. This is the most intimate dance I will ever do with another human, and I want to drink every moment of it in. Deep.
So with that, I will turn off the computer, drink my “milk making tea” (full of the things they feed dairy cows, no kidding!) and wait for the ache I know we both feel after too much time away from another. And then, we will find each other, sigh, and settle in for what, for us, is nothing short of the sweetest time we know.
My breasts are your breasts, my son, enjoy.