I'm not sure how often I'll be able to do this (I'm getting ready to start year two of my doctoral program), but I have had many thoughts on the first few weeks of Emmelia's new life with us and I'd like to share some of them with my readers. Most of what I write about on my blog is academic in nature--theology, biblical studies, ethics, etc. But, these are gritty, fleshly thoughts on babies, mothering, and family life. Hopefully they'll be worth reading, even if they're few and far between.
Breastfeeding is hard. Its supposed to be natural, which you would think means "easy," but it doesn't. Perhaps its because we're a society that has all but abandoned breastfeeding our children, but I find that even the second time around, its not an intuitive act for mother or child. Where to put your arms and hands, and how to get this little crying creature to cooperate. It takes learning!--long, grueling, difficult, even painful lessons at all hours of the day and night. And, learning something so challenging and all-consuming (it is your child's one source of survival, after all!) is exhausting when you've just given birth. Its like you've reached the end of a marathon and someone hands you a paddle and says, "Great job! Now, row across this lake!"
Breastfeeding is hard also because its being in a constant state of self-giving. Over and over again you give your body to nourish another. Your arms to hold her, your breasts to feed her, your time to love her, your voice to soothe her. Over and over again you forgo sleep and food and many other comforts to care for another. (Another who doesn't yet give back, I should add.) And, all this when you're on the brink of a mental and emotional breakdown from the fact that your entire life has been turned up-side-down. You don't know which side is "up" anymore, what day it is, when you last ate something, or whether you washed your hair yesterday, but you know you have to feed her. That you always know.
Don't get me wrong. Even as I say all this, I also believe that its a beautiful thing, too. I'm so convinced of it that I've kept going, even when I'm so tired I feel like cracking glass that's about to collapse into a millions pieces. The truth is, when I'm nursing Emmelia, all seems right with the world because my baby girl is being soothed and fed. I'm a week and a half away from starting school again. I'm a week and a half away from teaching my first class of 35 freshmen Introduction to Religion. I'm totally unprepared for either reality and have no earthly idea how I'm doing to get prepared. But, when I'm nursing Emme, life is good. That's quite a miracle. And there are too few miraculous things about daily life with a newborn and a toddler.
So, we persevere with the breastfeeding. Its hard and messy and exhausting and beautiful and miraculous. Kind of like life.