Thursday, August 30, 2007

Always close to my heart

If someone had asked me the year before I got pregnant with you if I would breastfeed, my answer would undoubtably have been, "No, I don't want a baby hanging off my boob, thank you very much." Things change.

In the weeks after you were born, feeding you was one of the most excruciating experiences I'd ever had. Maybe I wasn't prepared enough. But it hurt so bad everytime you latched on. Almost as painful as hearing you scream because I couldn't feed you enough in the five days it took my milk to come in. And you wanted to be fed all the time. At least every couple of hours - days and night. Probably more, but I couldn't fathom it in my sleep-deprived mind.

But we got the hang of it, having to try less and less to get positioned properly. I never even thought to give up, always assuming it would get better. After about three or four weeks, my boobs weren't quite as sore - they even stopped bleeding. It felt wonderful and satisfying to be your sole source of nourishment. Just like all mama mammals feed their babies.

You slept with us at night so I didn't have to constantly haul my tired body out of bed. (And because you screamed when you were more than a foot away.) I remember the first time I fell asleep nursing you in the middle of the night. I woke up with a jolt; you were passed out beside me all peaceful and sweet. The next day I rushed to the Internet to find out if it was okay to fall asleep while nursing - it wasn't in any of the books! Poor, delusional new mom... Thankfully I wasn't the only one so my guilt slowly subsided and we could go through most nights with me barely waking up. Or not remember waking up to feed you. We were both happy with the arrangement.

And you grew. And grew and grew. You had these delicious, chubby thighs that I could not get enough of. (When we took you to get immunized at six months, the public health nurse was very impressed with your abundant leg and arm rolls - you know, for a 'breast-fed' baby.) We had a nice routine of nursing and playing and napping. Oh, the napping. And squirting your dad in the eye with milk.

When we started seeing the pediatrician-referred feeding specialists when you were 11 months old to address your lack of weight gain, I remember them asking me what I planned to feed you milk-wise when I returned to work, and suggested getting you on 3%. I was floored - not having thought about it. Not wanting to. Not wanting to go back to work. And then thinking about it and not being able to imagine separating you from my milk, the only thing you took when you had stopped eating everything else. So I ignored it - kinda. Actually we just went along as we always had when I went back to work. And that worked for us. You nursed in the morning, when we came home for lunch, after work and at bedtime. And little by little, you started eating more and gaining a little more weight. (Now you're a giant, kinda - 23 lbs. and 33.5" tall.)

Until recently I had the idea that nursing past a year was uncommon - and weird. Just for hippies. This one-year time limit to breastfeed must coincide with the year long maternity leave we get in Canada. Do you think it was the same when the leave was only six months? That nursing past then was odd? Sometimes I need a little reassurance that we are normal, so I scour the Internet for 'facts' that suit my situation. Fortunately I don't have to look far as both Health Canada and the World Health Organization both recommend nursing to the age of two, and after that for as long as mutually desired. (Do I sound like a public service announcement?)

Sometimes when I look at you, I can see that little tiny baby you used to be. From the day you were born, your demeanor has always been the same. You want what you want when you want it. NOW. Whether you were two days old, two months old or twenty-two months old, you are happiest in my arms suckling away. I've struggled to justify your needs and your happiness versus my hang-ups about society's acceptance of nursing a toddler. Some days I decide that this HAS TO STOP. The next day I decide that I can hang on a little longer. It really keeps you as my baby - and without a new baby on the horizon, this arrangement works right now. (Baby polar bears are weaned when they are two and a half so the mommy polar bear can regain her fertility and have another baby polar bear. Hint, hint.) It is also the best way to diffuse a tantrum, cure a bad mood or knock you out for a nap - in three minutes flat. It's like magic.

Of course, you really drive me crazy when you are sick (which is often) or having an attachment relapse and want to nurse ALL THE TIME, but I suck it up and think about how happy it makes you. And what a nice opportunity to reconnect when I come home from work. There are much worse things than laying around with you, your warm little body cuddled up against me as we watch t.v. or I tell you stories. Who could say no to a face like this?

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