Monday, August 3, 2009

Stop and Smell the Baby: Prepared for Life

Welcome to August's Carnival of Breastfeeding! This month our posts are on the World Breastfeeding Week themes "Prepared for Life" and "Breastfeeding in Emergencies." Be sure to check out the posts from our other Carnival participants linked at the end of this one.

I'm not entirely sure I'm doing this right but I've come across so many posts in response to this that I was inspired to write, too. So,here goes!

By the time my first was a few weeks old I could make a great case for breastfeeding based on the benefits to the baby alone. I was completely unprepared, though, for how it would change my life. There is something almost magical about the way nursing a baby makes a mother feel. The very first time I looked into my daughter's eyes, it took my breath away. She was so...sentient, so aware and so uniquely HER, right from the beginning. The first time she latched on and took sustenance from me, the hormonal rushes combined with intense pride about knocked me out of the bed! I chose to breastfeed before knowing anything about nursing, though. I chose it because it was FREE and natural. Therefore, it made loads more sense to me than the alternatives. I was to discover, though, that it is so, SO much more than just a free meal. I learned SO much in the first year about the benefits of breastfeeding for my baby but I was completely innocent of how much breastfeeding would change ME and prepare me for life.
You see, breastfeeding is natural, yes. For some of us, it's even easy (has always been for me, though I realize that for many, it's most definitely NOT). But it comes at great personal sacrifice. I know, I know, that's not trendy. Trendy moms juggle a career and a family and find a way to make it work: and my hat's off to them. But breastfeeding requires a great deal of personal investment. It's TIME CONSUMING. Yes, much easier than lugging bottles and checking water temperatures and measuring and sterilizing, to be sure. But you can't take your boob off, prop it up with a pillow for the baby and go back to doing dishes. Nope. You cant take your breasts off and hand them and the baby to a friend and finish cooking dinner, either. Nope. If the baby is hungry, everything stops so she can eat. If the baby hurts herself and needs comfort, you sit down, wip it out and give comfort! If the baby is sick you thank God, the universe or whomever you thank that breastmilk, at least, stays down when nothing else will...and so do you, on the couch, for the entire day/night until bub feels better. Nursing our babies forces us to literally give of ourselves. It's as if nature has built in a platform for forming that connection from day one. I'm not suggesting that women who bottle feed do not give of themselves. I've known plenty of fantastic, selfless, bottlefeeding mothers. I just have to wonder, though, if it was harder for them. I suppose this is the sort of thing that varies from woman to woman anyway, we are all so different. But for me, at least, breastfeeding my babies has underlined everything else. It's like a srpingboard that vaults me into other areas of self-giving that help prepare my children for life.

Nursing my children has taught me patience (trust me, when you've been interrupted during a growth spurt for what feels like the 400th time that hour for a quick nibble, you learn patience). It's taught me humility (I mean, come on, when one is wearing a 40G you learn humility when the baby isn't particularly interested in who you are flashing when nursing at Walmart).
Out of all the things I've learned, though, I think one of the most profound is to STOP...and smell the baby. This has been particularly true since my 2nd daughter was born, as I'm sure any mother of more than one can attest to. I just get SO busy, so stressed about this and that which needs to be done. Then, that call, those eyes and that forced rest. So, sure, the laundry is only half folded and taking over my kitchen table and perhaps child #1 is over there "helping" in an entirely unhelpful way while I'm nursing the baby but STILL, I'm forced to sit down, take a few deep breaths and look my little one in the face and spend just a few minutes with JUST her. If nothing else, I've learned to let go a little and relax. RELAX.

If I'm able to relax, to let rigidity give way to routine, to allow my children to impose upon MY plans a bit, I'm a better mother. I'm also far less stressed out. This not only prepares my children for a life that's actually happy (you know, without a stressed out, spastic headcase for a mom) it molds and shapes me into a better persn in general. Breastfeeding my children has been a door that has opened up onto a new outlook of life for me. I have learned (and continue to learn) how to truly serve. I've learned how to love with my whole being. I've learned that it's OK if the priority is my children and not having the Better Homes and Gardens thing DOWN. I've learned to stop and smell the baby. And really, what could possibly be more wonderful?

Check out the other participants in this month's Carnival.

Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: Breastfeeding in Emergencies
Hobo Mama: Prepared for Life: Breastfeeding in local and global crises
Zen Mommy: How breastfeeding has shaped my toddler's view of breasts
Pure Mothers: Marketing away real milk
Chronicles of a Nursing Mom: Tips for consistent & long-term breastfeeding success
Cave Mother: Three moments that make me thankful I breastfeed
Blactating: Breastfeeding news and views from a mom of color: Infant feeding and disasters

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