While I was pregnant I thought about breastfeeding a lot. I'd only seen a handful of nursing babes in my time, but knew that when it was my time, I'd nurse. I didn't seem like a choice to me. There was no question of if I should breastfeed, simply that I would, no matter what it took. And so I read and read and asked questions galore. But more than anything I dreamed. The thought of nourishing my child, of providing all the sustenance he'd need seemed like such a glorious thing. I played this scene over and over in my mind- of giving birth to my child and bringing him to my breast for the first time, that moment of purity and grace and connection... drinking each other in...
As we know it is a rare occasion that reality matches that which we've dreamed. And my dreams were a far cry from the reality of our first days, our first weeks really. But the joy I feel every time I nurse my baby is beyond anything I could have imagined. Breastfeeding my son is one of the most amazing (and rewarding) things I have ever done. So let's start from the beginning...
Due to Xavier's prematurity (born spontaneously at 28 weeks, 1 day) he went without food for quite some time. An IV concoction was enough to keep him going until his digestive system was developed enough to get things through. Leaving me to pump (what fun hospital grade breast pumps are!) and store my milk until he was ready. Soon, little by little milk was gavage (tube) fed straight into his little tummy and as he was able to keep down more and more it became time for that glorious first nursing session right? Wrong! The neonatologist insisted he needed to learn how to eat from a bottle first! What?! Even though I planned to nurse exclusively?! No way!? We put up a huge fight, and after a few tears (ok LOTS of tears) and staunch resistance we won the fight. He said we could "try" nursing... once...
Xavier was able to nurse for the first time at 26 days old (It was 4:00pm on Monday, January 9, 2006 to be exact!) Despite the doctor's "medical opinion" and the hilarity of the size of his head compared to the size of my breast, my little man latched on perfectly and began chowing down ... he lasted a few minutes before falling fast asleep still attached to me. I was all tears as I sat there and savored our moment I had longed and waited for. (David was so proud he excused himself to go call our family and friends! )
Because he was so small we had to take it slow, the calories he burned working to nurse were just barely canceled out by what he took in. He had been 'fed' on a 3 hour schedule so we gradually worked from substituting nursing every few feedings to nursing every 3 hours, to feeding on demand. It was a long time coming and wasn't without hiccups but I loved every second of it. His belly on mine, his little eye's fluttering, working so hard to suck and swallow and breathe.
What once was hard work is now second nature and while commonplace still spectacular. The best excuse to stop everything and snuggle up together. As we begin he now looks into my eyes with thanks and love. Slowly they become foggy and heavy, until inevitably they flutter closed. About this time a little chubby hand bounces around finding first my fingers, then my chest, until usually it rests softly on my cheek or chin. If we're lying down he kicks his legs off my belly and then scoots himself in to just the right spot. I get lost in the rhythm of suck and swallow and begin to melt away.
I am still amazed that every ounce of chub on my darling boy has come from me. I am his sustenance. God gave me the ability to provide him with everything he needs! And while nursing provides nourishment for his belly it nourishes the spirit as well. If Xavier's hurting or sleepy or simply missing me he'll put his mouth to my chest or tug at my shirt and he's back to his happy place. And if I'm having one of those day's where my thoughts are scattered and I feel like I'm missing something it's a wonderful time to reconnect.
16 months later, we're still a happily nursing pair, and hope to remain that way for as long as X would like. It is amazing to see how this thing I thought I was doing for my baby has in fact done so much for me. Not only has this special relationship provided such validation and love, but has brought with it nourishment and sustenance for me. I relish every moment. And realize it for the gift it is.
Others contributing include:
Spit up on my Shoulder
Adventures of a Breastfeeding Mother
The True Face of Birth
Down With the Kids
The Spice Choir
Mama Know Breast