Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Series of thoughts: Motherhood, breastfeeding, love and comfort...

Recently, I went back through some old posts on this blog and came across one that was posted on June 29th, 2011 called Baby Coma...and the birth of Mama Barknknit.  This was one of those posts that didn't end up as I intended, but I am proud of it either way because of what I had been going through the first 6 months of Carmen's life.  Growing up imagining what I would be like as a mother is so completely different than actually being a mom.  You can think that I'll be like this and do this, but until you actually have a baby, you really can't be certain how you will feel during the moments that come or what you will do to protect that little cub of yours.  Mama Barknknit has come a long way in a year since that post, but essentially I still feel like a Mama Bear loving and protecting her precious cub.

Before I had Carmen, I knew I wanted to try to breastfeed but I didn't do a lot of research on breastfeeding, itself.  In a way, I'm glad I didn't; and in another, I wish I had.  I had a ton of questions those early weeks and I'm so thankful for my sisters and friends who were there to answer all of them and provide me with the support that I needed.  I'm not sure I could have done it without them.
Breastfeeding is confusing, frustrating, and just hard work.  You can't just hand your baby over to someone and say here I'm going to sleep for a couple hours.  You are on call 24/7, especially in those first few weeks where you are building your supply up. You can't just pick up and go anywhere without your baby.  You can't just sleep whenever you want or nap for longer than the baby naps.  It took me 24 days to get more than 45 mins of straight sleep.  That first 5-hour stretch on Christmas Eve was the best sleep of my life!  I felt human again afterwards.

It took me a little bit to get my head around the fact that she was tied to me in more ways than one.  Not only was I her main source of food, but I loved this baby more than anything and I just wanted to soak her up.  I realized that I had to always think of her and put her needs first.  I knew this before I had her, but actually living it is different.  If I wanted to go somewhere or do something, I had to think of how Carmen would fit into this plan.  I am ever thankful I didn't have to remember a bottle, as my boobs were always with us!  Her needs were and are bigger than my wants, even if that meant missing out on some of the fun.  We were never much for going out to begin with, but after having Carmen I realized that just going home was often the best thing for her.  I have left parties early, stayed inside while she napped so I could hear her, and I remember often in those early days simply holding her during naps because she slept best that way.  I could have been doing things I wanted to do, but her sleep was more important.  Also staring into the face of a sleeping baby in your arms is a wonderful thing.
Breastfeeding, for whatever reason, is one of those taboo subjects that you have to be careful what you say and who you say it in front of.   In my opinion, I think "breast is best",  but I know so many who aren't or weren't able to breastfeed for one reason or another.  Those that pump exclusively are amazing in my book, as pumping is seriously so much harder than breastfeeding.  It's uncomfortable, unnatural, and icky!  No one chooses to pump exclusively because they want to.  When you are breastfeeding, you get to hold this smooshy cute little human and look into their milk-drunk face and know that you are providing them with the best sustenance a mother can offer, unless of course, it is unavailable for different reasons.  Your body is literally performing miracles to keep the child nourished that has been feeding from your body since conception. But when you're pumping, everything is very mechanical. From the artificial suction on your nipples, to the monotone humming of the pumping machine, the intimacy feels somewhat lost. But whether your breastfeeding or pumping, the naturalistic feeling of providing your baby with your milk, just feels right.

I will admit, in someways I envy those who choose to formula feed their babies.  They get the opportunity to step away and get uninterrupted sleep.  They can let their baby truly be cared for by someone else, if need be.  You can't do that as a breastfeeding mother.  You are their source of food.  You are their source of comfort.  And in many ways, they are there to comfort you.  Personally,  I wouldn't have it any other way.
When we hit the year mark of breastfeeding and I finally let Miss Carmen wean herself, it was a bittersweet moment.  First, to know that my body was able to produce exactly what she needed for the first year of her life and give her the best start I could, makes me so proud.  It helped me see my body differently as I talked about in this post.  I no longer see my body so much aesthetically, but more for what it can do mechanically.  But finally getting to eat milk, eggs, and peanuts (or in my case cookies, cakes, candy bars, and milkshakes that I had so truly missed) was definitely a welcome notion. Secondly, I knew that she no longer needed me in a way I loved to be needed.  I loved to know that I was the only one who could nurse her and that we both enjoyed that time together, but I was happy to put my pump away and not have to go into the closet twice a day at work and make sure I stored my milk properly.  (That was a real pain in the tush!)  Go back to what I said about pumping; it's uncomfortable, unnatural, and icky!

When we stopped nursing and our relationship began to change, I was pleased because her need for me didn't stop, but just changed a little.  I'm still her preferred comfort and she always lets me know how much she wants and needs me.   At 18 months old, she is a very active, very independent, very loving, and a very friendly little toddler and I just feel so blessed that God has entrusted Special K and I with her quirky little soul.  There hasn't been a day in over 18 months that I have not kissed her, held her in my arms, and told her how much I love her.  I can't wait for the day she starts to say I love you back.
Watching how she cares for her dollies, makes me realize how much she is loved.  She kisses, cuddles, and even sings to them, including her rubber duckies!  She showed me this, a week or so ago, during bath-time by picking each of them up, placing it back into the water, and then moving on to the next one.  That just melted my heart that she had so much love for them to do that.  Once she was done, she waved goodnight to the tub full of toys and we were off to change, read books, and slowly rock into a peaceful night of dream-filled sleep.

She amazes me every day and I'm just so glad to be her Mama!

Happy Day!

As a parent of a human (or a furbaby), are there things you do or ways you think differently now that you didn't plan or think you would before?

This blog post has been edited by Special K.


  1. What a beautiful post! Thanks for putting yourself - and Carmen - out there. Ironically, I had a similar conversation with two new mom friends last night. One baby is still an infant and just starting to move, and the other is roughly twice her age, and has decided that Mama's milk must come from Mama, not a bottle.

    Period. The end. ... and Mama works. ;)

    And yes, even as a fur-kid parent, there are things I wish I'd done differently. I wish I'd exposed Gretchen to more things as a puppy, but she was so little and had her own skin allergies, so we buffered her. Sissy? Gosh no... she's so well-adjusted and confident... I don't know what I'd change, other than that I would have trusted my instincts sooner and (hopefully) would have found Wondervet earlier.

  2. What an amazing post. Thank you for sharing yourself. I too breastfed both of my kids and I know what you mean. It was a bit strange weaning them, but I also nursed at bedtime only until they were each almost 2.

    As for things to do different - well I'm sure there are tons of them, but at this point, I'm not starting over and my girls are grown, responsible, respectful adults who are a blessing. The dogs, well more training and less table scraps. :)

  3. I breastfed my daughter for 3 and a half years. You should see the looks I get when I tell (or she tells) people that's how long we nursed for. But to me, it's just kinda normal.

    I try to not get involved in the choices of others unless they ask, as it is such a hot button issue. But congrats for doing it for Carmens first year.

  4. Love! (When they say, "I love you" back, it is the sweetest thing - you will likely hear it soon!)


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