For six years of my life, I’ve fed my babies from my own body, and now my last baby is a busy toddler, and she isn’t interested, I’m nearly finished with this part of my life. I can feel it, like the shift in weather I sense in the collar-bone I broke when I was six years old, yes.
So I want to remember, for the real rest-work, and for the metaphors of struggle and let-down and release and feeding, and for the weight of responsibility, the lightness of giving, and for the ordinary, every day, pausing holy-wonder. I want to remember that I was here, over and over again, and I was profoundly changed.
Here I am: 27 years old, blackened and bruised eyes from the exertion of a posterior delivery of a nearly 9lb baby girl, and she is curled up on me, fresh-baby-vernix-skin-to-stretched-out-mama-skin, and she’s nursing and I’m born again with the release of birth and the knowledge that this is one thing I can give and do for her, and a longing for the lost babies I won’t hold until heaven.
Here I am: 29 years old, sprawled in the backseat of our old Trailblazer, holding another nearly-9lbs baby, in front of a crowd of strangers, and without thought, I’m trying to wrestle my shirt off through my laughter, I just want to get that baby to latch onto me, I miss him inside, I’m empty, already, but I have something to give him, it’s nothing but raw instinct. The ambulance workers make me wait until we’re in triage at the hospital. That night, I sit awake, all night, and I nurse him, longing to take him home, to be quiet together. I hold the perfect dome of his soft unstitched head in the palm of my hand, and cry with relief.
Here I am: thirty-two, nestled into my own bed, freshly washed with damp hair, and a nearly 10-lb brand new baby girl beside me, her hungry mouth on me, and I look up to see my husband, wonder in his eyes, beside and around us like a parenthesis, and he says softly that this is the favourite sight of his life, always, ever, these moments.
Here I am: crying with pain and longing, bleeding, googling correct latch videos at 3:12 in the morning.
Here I am: arranging blankets in the church pew for discrete purposes only to have chubby arms yank blankets off and suck with noisy bluster and longing, until everyone in the radius is grinning.
Here we are: on the pier by the ocean, in the coffee shop, in the mall. Here we are: at the market, at the church, in our family bed. Here I am: nursing one baby, while a toddler boy sits beside me patting her hair gently, and a kindergarten girl sits on the other side, cradling baby feet, and the baby keeps popping off to grin her gummy smile at them both.
Here we are: in the middle of the night, first thing in the morning, noontime, all times, sleeping, awake.
Here I am: snapping open nursing bras, tucking in bamboo cloths, applying Lansinoh, praying for grace, avoiding dairy.
Here I am: being changed, transformed, worshipping God in the sacred everyday gift of this radical act of giving.
Here I am: in the early days, falling asleep and snapping awake, crying when the milk lets down, drinking water, balancing on the nursing pillows, staining shirts, burning with a fever from mastitis a time or two.
Here we are: together, always together. Here we are: connected, carrying the same blood and milk and bones.
Here I am: with a real breathing metaphor of contentment and peace, with a milk-drunk, blissed-out, flour-sack of a baby, thick with goodness, and something breaks through the veil between earth and heaven, I understand down in my marrow and now I can’t think of God as anything other than Abba.
Here I am: stronger, bolder, fearless, empowered, soul-quieted, a giver, nourished by nourishing, a mama.
And here I am now: nursing a squirming and disinterested toddler, every once in a while, and knowing that one of these times, it will be her last time, and it will be my last time to lay skin to skin, tummy to tummy, with my own babies, breastfeeding, and that time is coming soon.