In this series, I hope to share my initial interesst and hiccups in breastfeeding, including fears, breastfeeding in public, breastfeeding in the African-American community, and possible extended nursing.
On January 8, 2012, I remember cradling my young, un-stretched stomach, and allowing my mind to create the most beautiful fantasies of motherhood. On that day, hours after discovering that life was blossoming in my womb, I closed my eyes and saw myself, sitting in a rocking chair, rocking to and fro in a dimly lit nursery. In my arms was a baby with the most beautiful caramel colored face, looking up at me adoringly. My arms cradled its tiny body, and my baby, my dream baby, nursed from my breasts, drinking up all of my love and pride.
Upon opening my eyes, I felt a wave of nausea overcome me, and it clung to me for quite some time. The nausea didn’t come from morning sickness alone. This nausea, the clingy, unyielding nausea, is more of a bodily response to painful memories of past abuse. As a result, I am afraid of not being in control of my body. I am afraid of my body being used by anyone. I am protective and selfish when it comes to my body. It is mine, and mine alone. So, how was I to reconcile my deep and right desire as a mother to hold my baby to my breast to feed, comfort and bond with him in such a special way, and my brokenness that hated even the idea of having another person demanding my body in such an intimate way?
When I began learning about the benefits of breastfeeding, I knew that the pros outweighed the cons. There were more pros than I even knew could exist, and the cons were, well, few. They were serious, but few. Some of my cons were:
I was afraid that I would feel the shame/nausea everytime I nursed. If you’ve dealt with past sexual abuse, you know what I mean.
I was afraid that I would grow to hate my baby. Even though breastfeeding reduces the risk of Post-Partum Depression, I was so shamefully afraid that having my baby to my breast would conjure up feelings so closely tied to my abuse, that I would hate him. It is still shameful to admit that.
I was afraid of not having anytime to myself. (I didn’t know that this would become reality, and has everything to do with parenthood and nothing to do with breastfeeding!)
I was afraid that my breasts would change. That they would become saggy and misshapen and undesirable to my husband. I was afraid that my breasts would change from being solely sexual to solely nurturing. I was completely ignorant to the fact that my breasts, all breasts, are both sexual and nurturing.
I remember crying during my time of prayer, asking that the Lord would change my heart and bring healing to the small girl in me who was and is still wounded. I remember asking my close friends to pray for me as I prepared to learn everything that I could about breastfeeding positions, methods, etc. I was simply, scared.
Matt and I took Bradley Classes in preparation for Malachi’s arrival. Again, because of my strong desire to be in control of my body, I knew it would be a cold day in hell before I allowed anyone to numb my lady parts, or tell me when to push. (Really. In my birth plan the instructions were “Do not yell or command me to push.” I pushed on my own accord and had that baby out in no time.) During the classes, I met Juli Walter, aka, the Boob Whisperer.When she spoke about breastfeeding, even pretending to hand express milk (I know it sounds weird, but it was just the motion lol), I remember feeling empowered. I believe that was the night that I decided I was going to just do it.
So, upon Malachi’s arrival, I hadn’t bought any formula and all of the bottles were still in their packaging. I had no pacifiers. I went into the hospital with simple instructions in my birth plan. “Please, no formula or pacifiers. Baby will be breastfed.” When in the trenches of labor, feeding the baby is the last thing on your mind. Trust me. But when my baby boy came out, and I grabbed him from the doctor and held him close to me, everything that felt wrong about breastfeeding; every fear and all anxiety vanished, as I’m sure we were in the presence of Jesus. I held my baby to my breast and within the first 5 minutes of his life, I was able to give him the most precious thing that I own. My body.
Ten months have passed, and I am still nursing my baby boy. I didn’t think we’d make it this far. There were some dark days, especially in the beginning. I remember crying to Matt, telling him how I felt like a cow with Chi pulling at my utters all during the night. I can only laugh at that image now. But, here we are, ten months later. Mama’s milk is still his favorite. And cheerios. Not together though. He’s never had formula (this is not a jab at moms who have to or choose to give formula to their babies. We all do the best that we can!). I can count the number of times that he’s had a bottle on my hand. When he’s sick, or hurt, or happy, or silly, or sleepy or over-stimulated, I offer him “boobie” (yea…i should’ve thought of a better word to teach him, eh?), and it makes everything better. Some of my favorite times of the day are holding him in my arms, as he drinks. It is a precious time. Now, he can no longer stretch his legs out in our glider, so he wraps them around my arms. Now, he no longer sleeps everytime he nurses; instead, he hums sweet baby melodies, or my favorite, is when I kiss his feet and he laughs, while still latched on. At night, i rub his soft ringlets and pray for him as he nurses. We sing together, and I know that he is in his favorite place in the world.
I am aware that there will be a day, too soon, when Malachi will not want to spend his time in mama’s arms. And that will be okay. He has spent 10 precious months (shooting for 12-14) cradled in Mama’s arms. And I know that I have given him a gift that has blessed us both. I have given him my body for his nourishment and comfort, and in return, he has given me the ability and desire to give myself freely for the sake of others.