One of my favorite memories of nursing my babies has to do with the color PURPLE.
Anyone familiar with Gentian Violet? My first baby got a good case of thrush and so did I. The doctor prescribed some creams and that lovely purple Gentian with which I was to paint my nipples after feedings. Well, guess what? The purple stayed on me for hours which meant that when nursing time came around again, my babe got a mouthful of color. To which everyone asked Oh, what's up with your babies mouth??
I discovered that it's hard to talk about purple nipples.
And I have plenty more memories of cracks and blood and plugged ducts and pumping and learning how to nurse discreetly sitting at a round table in a restaurant with 12 teenagers. Did I say discreetly? Whatever.
But years after nursing those 5 babies I'm starting to understand just how much good nursing did. Not just for my kids, but for ME!
The way God designed babies and their moms was spot on. Imagine that.
Tiny babies snuggle closely to their mommies and take nourishment right from their bodies. We moms understand how much our babies need us and depend on us. And that does something really good for our hearts.
I used to think that infants were just takers. They ate and they pooped and we fed and we changed. Times a million. We gave and they took.
But now I understand that my babies gave me something invisible during those early nursing months. They gave me attachment. They gave me soft tender feelings. They let me know how important I was. For nursing babies, NO ONE is equal to mom. And at the time it was like, Let me go Little Gremlin! Go to Daddy! Go to Grandma! Go to Nursery Worker Angel! Give me a flipping break!
But deep down it felt good. I knew that I was the Un-Expendable. And I loved them for it! It cemented their place in my heart.
P.S. I'm writing this from my own experience where I breastfed my kids for 6-7 months. I'm guessing that you moms who bottle-fed your babies have the same feelings going on in your hearts, especially if you were your kids' primary caregiver. I mean you no slight. This is not a breast vs. bottle thing.
Eva is 3 and has been with us for 6 months. The first 6 months of being with my other kids, I had them pressed up against my body for 5-10 (28!) hours a day.
I know it would be awkward to nurse my 3 year old and I really don't want to and yet, part of me really wants to!
You see, I don't yet feel the same way about my newest daughter as I do my first 5. And it has nothing to do with blood. It's not that they don't have my DNA running through their bodies.
I think it's the time. I think it's the touch.
I think it's those many many early moments of dependance.
My heart feels a little sad.
We try. We have bonded. I bring her to bed with me in the mornings just to snuggle and rub her back and remind myself that she is something special to me, that she is my very own.
What can I do to convince my heart that I treat her in the special ways that only a mom treats her kids? I only nursed MY babies. I cuddle and kiss other babies. I even change my friends' babies poopy diapers and let them throw up on me. But I only nursed MY babies.
When kids come to my house to play, I love them. If they scrape a knee I wash and bandage it. If they are rude I remind them to play nicely. But what do I do that says You are MY KID?
I know it takes time. I know that Eva will FEEL more like my very own in a few years than she does now. I know attaching takes time. I think of all the times I locked eyes with my firstborn, fed him from my own body, cleaned up his potty accidents, listened to him ramble on about a football play, saw him smile when I made his favorite dinner... all those times were like strings connecting my heart to his. So we probably have the equivalent of a Redwood between us.
And my deep heart connection to Eva will come too. It will come a little slower then it did with the babies I smashed up to my body to feed all day long.
But it will come.
For now I'm a little sad knowing how much I missed with her. Imagining her as a little baby who probably nursed from her first mom, was probably snuggled against her back in a pack for months. I missed those eye locks that melted into grins with milk dribbling from one of our mouths.
Nursing is one of God's ways of jump-starting Mama/Baby bonding.
And it took adoption to really teach me the beauty of what I had.