(Note: I wrote this on June 29, 2015.)
Today I comforted you.
On the eve of your six month birthday, your evening routine is well established. We go from play time and giggles quickly into pajamas and a book, because you will rapidly descend into hunger for your evening nightcap bottle. You still are breastfed, but we’ve been giving you an evening bottle since you were about a month old, partly because Daddy wanted to help and partly because you sleep better. Seven ounces later (your evening appetite is huge!), you doze off in Daddy’s arms, and he holds you maybe a minute or two longer than needed before tucking you into your crib in a loose swaddle.
This evening was different. After your 7-ounce nightcap, instead of settling, you wailed. Sometimes your cry means that your hunger wasn’t satiated, and we add a little more to your bottle to top it off. But you wanted nothing to do with the topper; you rejected it and wailed. Your trusty Wubbanub wasn’t comforting. Daddy swayed with you held to his chest, facing out, the way you’ve liked to be held when you’re fussy since you were a newborn. You paused, watched the dog, looked around, and wailed again.
I was in the kitchen getting ready to go to work, but hearing you cry so hard made my arm hairs prickle and raised a lump in my throat. Mommy instinct got the better of me, and I ventured up to your room to offer my help to your daddy. He said that the one thing he couldn’t try, the one comfort you might want, was to be nursed.
I held you to my chest.
And today I comforted you.
Nursing has always been a little more on the practical side than the emotional side for me. The first few weeks were a struggle as we fought issues with latching and tongue tie and oversupply and satiating your hunger. To this day, we still wear a shield to protect each other, a thin film of plastic between you and me that signals it is time to nurse. The early struggles made me wonder where that magical glow of nursing was, when it would appear.
There are glimmers of that magic, though, as we grow together. I see it in your smiles when you looked up at me from the breast. I certainly see it in your sweet milk-drunk face when you nurse yourself to sleep, with a full belly and full lips and glistening cheeks and chin. I even see it in the adorably vicious way you dive into and attack my chest when you’re hungry.
My favorite nursing session is the first one of the morning, when you’re smiling and eager to greet the day. My second favorite is any one after we’ve been apart from each other all day. In the midst of those busy evenings, we slow down and reconnect, probably developing a good habit that has been a long time coming for this overcommitted working mother who is still trying to squeeze in extra deadlines.
When I transitioned back to work after 12 weeks at home, nursing sessions gave way as I developed a relationship with a cold plastic pump. My milk is important to you, and I work hard for it. On most working days, I only nurse you once or twice, and the rest of my milk comes to you in a bottle as you are in day care or daddy care or taking that last bottle of the day. I find myself missing nursing, sad when I spend more time with the pump than with you. I can tell you miss it, too, because you dive for the breast when we get home, even if you aren’t terribly hungry.
We relax together in those nursing sessions, after those early weeks of being tense and worried.
But today I comforted you.
Sure, you’ve comfort-nursed before. Those sessions started as a feeding, but the real intent masqueraded beneath the light snack, as you clung to the breast for my nearness, often alternating dozing and gentle suckling.
Today, there was no masquerade. Your purpose was clear. You took the breast with no intent of eating, just to hold me near. Your cries quieted instantly, your eyes grew heavy, and your rapid clenching and unclenching of the cottony cowl-neck fabric of my shirt relaxed as your hands fell to your sides. You were there only for comfort.
And today I comforted you.
I held you long past the point where you fell asleep, because I wanted to be sure you were completely soothed. When I gave the nod, your daddy, sitting on the floor next to us to be of assistance at a moment’s notice, lifted you from me and tucked you into your crib in a loose swaddle.
We quietly faded out of your room and into the kitchen so that I could finish getting ready for work and he could get ready for bed. I floated down those stairs, and I’m sure that I was glowing.
Because today I comforted you.