Keeping Baby Close
I am learning, learning every day in this life I am living with a baby who doesn't nurse easily. I have no previous experience with what works and what doesn't. I am relying constantly on snippets of advice I am receiving from women who have been in this situation, but I am also having to learn from experience--and sometimes a bad experience is of incredible value.
I had to run some errands on Friday. I needed to visit at least 2, probably 3, different stores. In the past taking Baby with me was a no-brainer--Baby came with Mom. This time, though I hesitated, wondering what was best for us all.
*It was only 18 degrees outside . . . but it was warm in the house.
*Baby would have to spend a lot of time in a car seat . . . or at home he could be cuddled by a big sister.
*I could pack all of the necessary baby gear, wrestling the diaper bag and baby into and out of the car and stores . . . or I could just dash in and out of stores quickly.
*Baby would be exposed to winter germs in public places . . . or he could stay at home where the germs are familiar.
In the end, Dad said, "If you're going to have to deal with the hassles of bottle-feeding, you might as well enjoy the benefits. Leave [Baby L] at home. It will be easier on both of you."
So that's what I did.
The errands were easy to run.
I pumped before I left, and by the time I got home it was time for another pumping session.
Baby L was in competent, loving hands the whole time.
It seemed to be a perfect situation.
But then the experience turned sour.
After 3 hours away, I was aching to hold my little one in my arms. I wanted to touch him, smell him, feed him, and love him. But I couldn't. In order to keep my milk supply from dwindling any further, I had to pump. It could not be put off. Instead of taking my baby in my arms, I assembled the plastic pumping tools, hooked myself up to a machine, and watched as Baby L was kissed and cuddled by his sisters.
It was only a 20 minute delay.
It shouldn't really have mattered.
But somehow it did.
It mattered on some deep, visceral level that refused to acknowledge logic or rational thinking.
I fought tears the whole time the pump ran. I raced to put the milk in a bottle and take my baby in my arms.
I fought tears while I held him--tears that I could not explain. I was happy to be holding him, but sorrow kept crawling out of some secret place within me, and I could not shove it away.
I fought tears for 2 more days--tears that I still could not explain. I would weep at odd moments . . . while emptying the dishwasher, combing my hair, moving a load of laundry . . . I just couldn't stop the tears from coming.
Lack of sleep?
I considered various reasons for why I was so weepy. Each one seemed reasonable at first glance, but none held up under serious scrutiny.
It was in a quiet moment two days after the event that inspiration came: I need my baby.
I am his mother, and I need to be near him.
There may not be logical reasons for me to keep him near me at all times. There may even be times that it makes more sense for him to be separate from me--like when I ran errands on Friday morning. But there is a need that supercedes rational thought, and that need is for mother and baby to be together.
It's always been easy for me to honor that need in the past. I was the only source of food for most of my other babies; they had to stay with me. I've bottle-fed 3 of my babies because they were adopted or fostered, but those babies stayed near me at all times because there were no teen family members able to be babysitters.
I always kept my babies near me because they needed me. Having never been in a situation where the babies didn't seem to need my particular presence, I never knew how much I needed them.
Oh, I knew I was happiest being near them, but I didn't realize how deeply I need them.
I need my babies!
Having children ages 0-15 makes me quite aware that babies become children who become young adults . . . and their need to be near me, along with my need to be near them, changes over time. I am happy to see my children develop independence. I take great joy in watching them become their own selves.
But right now Baby L is barely a month old. He is not ready to be independent, and neither am I. I will learn from my experience and keep him close . . . even if someone else is perfectly capable of giving him his bottle.