For more than a week, Felix’s appetite and need for comfort have hit a crescendo I feel I can no longer comply with. Any moment I’m sitting down, he’s climbing up asking for ‘ma ma ma’. Almost hourly throughout the night, he wakes and stretches his limbs out in sleepy demand. Always, I’m there to warm him and feed him and (please, please, please God) lull him back to sleep.
The journey has been something of far more importance than I ever imagined it would be. I knew breastfeeding had many positive health benefits, and that it would save us money. I didn’t know how emotionally tied I would end up becoming.
When he returned from his circumcision, I was racked with guilt and shocked by how fiercely he suddenly could nurse. I was his comfort and his pain relief, this wasn’t just about food.
I felt completely overwhelmed, totally uncoordinated and frantic to know if Felix was really getting enough milk. Six days after his birth, my sister drove me to a “baby cafe” meeting at the hospital. I wore makeup and dressed like I had pre-baby. I broke down when I tried to explain to the nurse how things had been going.
Those first weeks, we struggled to rouse our little baby for feedings. I felt so triumphant when I realized that I didn’t need to use those awkward shields any longer.
After someone rear-ended us running a red light, I frantically nursed my eleven-week-old baby and didn’t care who saw. I was a wreck of tears, terrified that the rear window glass which had shattered onto little Felix was somehow embedded in him or that he had suffered an internal injury.
That night cemented my devotion as a mother, nursing my son on the street, in the back of a cop car, in the back of our friends’ car, in the emergency room, willing to put my own excessive modesty aside in order to comfort my baby and keep him warm in the January night air.
For seventeen months I have taken no medication outside of the lowest dose of Tylenol. I stopped painting my nails, stopped using most beauty products entirely.
My wardrobe changed. Shirts needed to be easily pushed aside, pajamas couldn’t have high collars.
All the small inconveniences were worth it to me.
My favorite nursing moment was when Felix began to fuss during an outdoor mass for my brother at Isle la Motte on Lake Champlain. We slipped away and found a private spot on the lakeshore, and I fed him while watching the water meet the clouds.
My aim was to make it to two years–the World Health Organization’s recommended point. Maybe we will, maybe not.
Today I deflected his request for ‘ma ma ma’ and gave him some almond milk and crackers instead. I know that Felix will still feel loved, still feel comforted even without nursing. A real part of me feels sad, though.
Nursing is something I’ve been able to do so well, the most natural thing. It gave me a confidence as a mother that I really treasure. My baby isn’t much of a baby anymore, and for weeks I’ve considered weaning.
These next days and weeks will be a new challenge, and I hope we are both ready for this transition.