I’ve only loved nursing in reflecting on it. I haven’t enjoyed many nursing sessions because neither my son or I can sit still. We both struggled with the stillness that nursing requires. I never said I hated nursing, but there were moments when I felt it. I was never good at wrestling the little animal that my belly could barely contain. But we nursed 12 times a day until he was 6 months old. I’m thankful, I’m grateful, I’m lucky. I know. But that doesn’t change how hard it was for me. Nursing sucks. Literally.
Augustine was born loudly and light weight. And he’s remained skinny and energetic his whole nine months of life. The zippered hoodie from a newborn gift set finally fit his belly just last week. It’s too short in the arms, but he doesn’t swim in the chest anymore. Nursing was never an overtly emotional thing for him. He’d eat until he was full and then push me away so I would him down so he could sleep. My mom said I was the same way.I knew what I needed and communicated it to her. I’d eat every two hours and nurse both sides and then demand to be left alone in my crib to sleep. Augustine looks like his daddy but acts like his mommy.
But now, as I think about not have any nursing sessions left, I feel sad. Which doesn’t make much sense because despite how easily Augustine has nursed, it’s been really difficult for me. He latched in the OR and has been latching well since. But the pressure of feeding myself to feed another person triggers the eating disorder that never completely disappears. I’ll never forget the first time I was low on milk. We’d flown to Seattle, and I was trying to put him to bed in out hotel. I cried for an hour while he fussed and sucked an empty teat until the exhaustion won and he fell asleep in my arms. I vowed to never be without formula again. And I haven’t been. The formula helps me to know that he’s getting the calories and nutrients that he needs. It’s a safety net for a uncertain mama, but it doesn’t stop the question game in my head. “If I ate more fat, If I drank more water, If I ate more predictably, If I ate more healthily, then he will…and I will…and he will…” I don’t know how to teach my son good eating habits, and I don’t know how to trust that his body knows when he is hungry because I don’t know how to trust my own body.
I remember the first time I ever pumped. It was on my due date, and I was only a centimeter dilated but over being pregnant. My nicu-working-lactation-consultant-mother-of-five-babies mom said that nipple stimulation would guarantee labor so I shouldn’t do it because the baby obviously wasn’t ready to come out yet. I pumped anyway. Sticky, yellow colostrum dripped out, and Ted and I could not stop giggling at the way my nipples were sucked into the tube. Just like a cow. Over. And over. and over. and over. We giggle like seventh graders. I can still feel the astonishment and giggle in my cheek muscles as I watched the first drops of colostrum being pulled from me, milked from me. Watching your self be juiced from a place in your body that no liquid has ever come out from before is just bizarre.
Maybe it’s just me, but I never really paid attention to my nipples until I first thought I was pregnant. The only interaction I remember having with my nipples pre-baby is of a college roommate telling me that people’s lips were the same color as their nipples, and we laughed as we checked out the diverse shades of lips around us on the 1 train. Before getting in the shower the next morning I checked, and she was right. At least about me. So Ted and laughed and mooed watched the colostrum slowly fill a bottle as we waited for the labor that didn’t start.
Augustine latched in the OR and nursed several times before I fell asleep mid sentence in the recovery room. My nipples were covered in blisters and bruises after those first few nursings, but my mom was there before he was 12 hours old and taught me how to re-latch his poor latches, and flay his lips so they weren’t in the way, and support my back while I supported his life. She taught me nursing well, but she couldn’t ever quite teach me to sit still. And I haven’t been able to teach that to Augustine.
I won’t miss the way Augustine scratched and pinched the skin stretched over my collarbone, or the way he would slap my neck rhythmically as he drank. I doubt anyone actually believed that those bruises and scratches weren’t from love making. I won’t miss having to wring out my boobs to get the hind milk out. I won’t miss the painful let downs or how other people’s crying babies would turn me into a lactation fountain. I won’t miss trying to wear nursing pads to kickboxing and having them slide out of my sports bra. The male instructor, of course, noticed before I did and still probably wonders why I would stuff my bra when my boobs are already so large. I won’t miss the way my nipples were always hard and shining through my shirts like little beacons.
I will miss how easily I could calm any woe and put him back to sleep at night. The kitchen and bathroom are 3 rooms away from his bedroom, which is even further between midnight and 4 am. I will miss how Augustine has always known exactly what to do with my nipples. I’m proud that my nipples secreted the scent of amniotic fluid and greeted him postpartum and made him feel like home. I love how entitled to and familiar with my nipples he was. I will genuinely miss the way he would launched his face greedily at my boobs for dinner. The snorting, roaring, gurgling noise always made me laugh and remember what little animals we all pretend we aren’t.
My milk is completely dry now, and everyone told me that I would lose five pounds and a few cup sizes when I got to this point. I left my pump out for while because the five are long gone but the triple D’s remain. To my dismay. Yesterday I read an article online about the psychological woes of parent led weaning before the baby is ready, so I wanted to see how Augustine felt about my boobs. Did he miss the nursing? Does he still need that physical connection? So I offered him one last nursing session. He looked at the boob, and then at me, and then back at the boob before roaring a little and latching well. He nursed for a few moments and then he stopped and looked at the boob, and then up at me and then back at the boob. He pinched the nipple, sucked some, pinched the nipple, sucked some more, and then swatted the boob away and tried to climb out of my arms. I offered my other side, but he refused. At which point I held him up to have an eye to eye discussion: “Augustine, you are henceforth relinquishing your claim to my breasts. They are mine again. And your father’s. And you will never again see them. Are we clear?” He squealed and twisted away, and it was done. I set him on the floor and he crawled to his toys to play. I unplugged my pump, wrapped up the cords and packed it away. Until next time.