Thursday, November 23, 2006

Nursing

I am nursing Charlie. In a perfect world I might go to 1 year but I would at least like to make it to the 6 month mark. I decided to nurse because I had no reason not to. The evidence is fairly clear that if you can, breastfeeding is the way to go. At the same time, I can't say that I particularly like it. I read accounts by other women that make it sound like this transcendental experience making you at one with the moon and your baby and mothers everywhere. I can't say that I ever feel like that. At best, I feel fairly indifferent about it and at other times I have fervently wished that something would happen to make it necessary to switch to formula. I imagine that some of my feelings about the issue are shaped by the fact that Charlie was a frequent and slow nurser up until the last couple of weeks. Nursing sessions generally lasted 45 minutes and happened every 1.5-2 hours with a 3 hour stretch in the dead of night if I was lucky. I got plugged ducts and thank my lucky stars that I didn't get mastitis. In the most notable instance I spent 2 days clearing 7 plugs. Even then, I thank my lucky stars. I've actually had it fairly easy with nursing. While Charlie and I took a couple of days to really get the hang of things I haven't had supply issues, latch problems, infections, etc. I must confess that I visit my nursing message board and see these women become very distraught over nursing problems, going to great lengths to continue nursing or mourning the end of their nursing days and feel befuddled. I am told to cherish the cuddle time and closeness with my child. I am advised to relish the smell of my child and the satisfaction of knowing I can feed him from my body. I do love to cuddle Charlie but I get to do that to excess when trying to get him to sleep and could cuddle him just as well while feeding him a bottle. More often then not, my child smells of spit up and dubious diaper. We certainly don't neglect keeping him clean but more than 1 bath a day seems a bit excessive... And, knowing I can provide all he needs sometimes makes me feel more like livestock than Earth Mother. At times, it seems my only identity is as a provider of food. In my darkest moments, there is resentment that yet more sleep is lost, that I will never get that 45 minutes back, resentment that my body is no longer my own. The enforced down time of nursing can be a blessing but also a source of a great deal of stress to say nothing of wondering just how much daytime television one person really needs to watch.

Over the last week or 2 Charlie has finally begun to go 3 hours during the day and at least 1 4 hours stretch at night. He has begun to become more focused while nursing so we sometimes finish in as little as 15 minutes. This is certainly helping me feel that I might actually make it to the 6 month mark but I still don't seem to feel as warmly about nursing as some do. Is this just a function of time? Maybe I would feel quite differently if I hadn't had a choice and hadn't been able to nurse.

Nursing has made me feel somewhat bad for my husband and men in general. I have been able to participate in life in a way that women always have. I bore a child and now feed him in the same way that women 3000 years ago would have. My husband, obviously, had a hand in the conception of Charlie but doesn't get to experience the same connection to the past that I do. While he does provide for the family in the pseudo-traditional sense of being the main income earner, he doesn't provide in the most traditional sense. At no point will he likely ever create shelter or hunt food for his family. He lacks the generational connection that I have now experienced. While this doesn't particularly help me feel all that more positive about nursing in the here and now, it does, at least provide an abstract solace to mull during the 4 am nursing session.

1 comment:

Anne said...

I nursed both girls and am planning on doing the same with the third. It was never easy for me, altho for some reason, Emma created a lot more problems for me (tenderness, infection, blocked ducts) than Lily had. I went a year with Lily, almost a year with Emma, and who knows this last time around but I am not looking forward to it. It was never transcendental to me but I understood the importance and stuck with it. Plus, formula is so expensive! Good luck to you hanging in there with Charlie; I totally understand your feelings.