Category Archives: bonding

And Now You Are Three

Dear Peter,

It was a beautiful September morning just like this one when you were born in our bedroom in the tiny one-bedroom apartment.

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I knew I would love you as soon as I saw you, but my pregnancy was full of worry. Unemployment, food stamps, job hunting: it seemed like the worst time for our family to grow. But there you were, growing in my belly.

I knew how patient and forgiving you would be. My easy child. My mild one. But it was hard for me to trust, with all the worry that filled our lives then.

Labor with you was hard. You were in some weird position. Not quite posterior, but not quite anterior either. I kept telling the midwife: “He’s stuck, right here,” pointing to the spot where I felt you not quite descending. But everyone reassured me that things were progressing normally.

The only way I could push you out was on all fours. No other position worked. As I lay there with my head in your dad’s lap, my first thought was: “I can’t do this.” My second thought was: “I don’t want to do this.” And then I realized that I simply had to. So I mustered up all the energy and vigor and strength I had even though I felt nothing but doubt and dread and fear. And I howled you out of my body.

I had to stop pushing for a second, though, as the midwife gently rotated your shoulder. I was right. You were a little bit stuck. But with one little tweak, you came flying out.

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The boy who taught me to trust in love. The boy who asks for so little and gives so much. The boy we needed at just the moment when we thought our world was falling apart.

And now you are three. And Daddy has the job. And we have just what we need. But most of all, we have you. And we are eternally grateful.

Thank you for coming just when we needed you most.

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Love,
Mommy

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Right Now

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Right now my two-year-old has a cough and a cold.

Right now he can’t sleep alone so he calls me in.

Right now I am tired and my muscles ache.

Right now my face is buried in the top of his head, his fine hair bristling my eyes.

Right now he needs me this much.

Tomorrow he will need me less.

Every day after this day he will need me less.

Right now he doesn’t need to nurse, he just needs my body against his.

Right now I smell him.

There is no way to describe it, but it is entirely him.

Right now my older son is asleep in his bed across the room.

I don’t remember how he smelled at two-years-old, but I remember loving his smell, inhaling it.

Right now I realize how deeply I miss it.

Just the two of us, alone together.

Right now the snow is melting and another storm is moving in.

Right now other mothers are lying in the dark with their children.

Or without their children.

Right now I’m trying to consume it all—

This vast, cold night in early March.

These boys.

My tired, tender aches and longings.

The heat creaking.

The way our lives move up and out, stir and become still.

Right now I am listening to sleep rush over us all.

Cloaking us in memory.

Reaching for us in waves.

Salt in our eyes.

Brine in our dreams.

To The Mom Who Didn’t Breastfeed

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Maybe your baby never latched.

Maybe it hurt so damn much and nothing made it better.

Maybe you were given bad advice in the hospital, or by your pediatrician, your obstetrician, your midwife, your mother, your friend.

Maybe you just didn’t want to breastfeed.

Maybe something happened that is none of my business that made the idea of breastfeeding frightening or repulsive to you.

Maybe you couldn’t produce enough milk and you never figured out why.

Maybe your baby was adopted and adoptive breastfeeding wasn’t in the cards for you for whatever reason.

Maybe you tried all kinds of gadgets or interventions to get breastfeeding to work, and it made you feel inadequate and disconnected from your body and you needed to stop trying.

Maybe you couldn’t nurse because of a medical condition, or a medication you needed to take that was incompatible with breastfeeding.

Maybe the things that went wrong with breastfeeding crushed you so hard you needed to stop trying for your own sanity.

Maybe you just didn’t like breastfeeding.

You don’t need a reason.

You don’t need to explain what happened.

(But I will listen if you want.)

You don’t need to figure out why breastfeeding didn’t work out.

(But I will help you figure it out if you want.)

Maybe sometimes you go through all the possibilities in your head:

if only you’d gotten help from a lactation consultant;

if only you’d gotten a second opinion;

if only you’d had an easier birth;

if only your postpartum depression had been treated sooner;

if only you had waited for the storm of the first few weeks of new motherhood to end . . .

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I want you to know that if you feel a hole in your heart because breastfeeding did not work out, I understand. After birth, it is a mother’s instinct to breastfeed. It is an ancient, primal longing. That is part of why it can feel so traumatic when it doesn’t work out.

I want you to know that you are not alone in that feeling.

But maybe you have no regrets and feel at peace with not breastfeeding.

I want you to know that it’s OK if you made a clear decision not to breastfeed and you enjoyed the conveniences and freedom of bottle feeding.

Whatever it is—whatever your reasons, your feelings, your regrets, your peace—I want you to know this: Breastfeeding is about more than the milk.

It’s true that breastmilk is full of antibodies, antiviral agents, perfect nutrition, and life-long protections. Any amount of it that you gave your baby was a gift. But if you gave your baby none of it, you did not fail. You found ways to keep your baby healthy. You are a mother. You do anything for your children.

Breastfeeding is about more than the milk.

It’s about feeding your baby against your body, the two of you gazing at each other in wonder.

It is connection. It is touch. It is two souls who spent ages looking for one another and are now earthbound, nestled together.

Breastfeeding is about the relief of holding your child safe in your arms.

You can do that no matter how you feed your baby.

Period.

I am tired of the judgment and shame over not breastfeeding.

Love is what’s important.

So let’s choose love over fear. Connection over division.

And let’s talk to one another. Let’s ask for help if we need it.

Let’s hold our children against our beating hearts. Let’s inhale their perfect baby scents. Let’s breathe together. Let’s rest awhile.

erika

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