To say that nursing didn't come naturally to me would be an
understatement. It took me three children to get it right.
I could blame my difficulties with breastfeeding on a
postpartum encounter with a La Leche coach. But the truth is the
undiplomatic witch was just an excuse to give free rein to my
terror of breastfeeding.
In my first few days of motherhood, I was terrified.
Terrified of falling into postpartum depression. Terrified of
starving my near-term infant to death. The fact that I would be
able to keep from dropping my baby on her head seemed like too much
to hope for.
I reached for the bottle. The label was right there,
guaranteeing the nutritional content my child needed. I spent the
next year regretting my decision, crippled with guilt that I had
permanently eliminated any chance of admission to Harvard by
withholding that magical IQ-enhancing, immunity-boosting
Yet, even after all those guilt-ridden days, when I gave
birth a second time, to a son, I chose not to breastfeed. "Give him
some formula," I told the hospital nurses, "and you
can keep him for the night." I wanted to rest up, to
get as ready as possible to split myself in two, to pay attention
to the potty training of my jealous 2-year-old while caring for a
newborn. A few weeks later, when he turned colicky and started
screaming from 10 p.m.-2 a.m. every day, I regretted my
It wasn't until I relinquished all control and had a third
child that I finally experienced the peace and joy of
breastfeeding. It became my only escape, my time to bond with my
third child. I nestled deep into our couch with my perfect little
girl and other distractions faded to the background. More often
than not, our peace was interrupted by my other children, demanding
that I pick a winner in some desperate toy dispute.
I'm sure those baby days were more hectic than the idyllic
moments I nostalgically longed for, but those moments of
breastfeeding bonding that it took me so long to achieve are my
most treasured memories of early motherhood.
Every time I caressed my belly during this fourth and
final baby, I looked forward to continuing our bond through
nursing, but it has not come easy. Sophie's tiny preemie mouth was
too weak to latch on and I spent our first six weeks together
juggling pumping and lengthy bottle feeding sessions. Instead of
cradling with tiny Sophie in the corner of the couch, I hooked
myself up to a machine while my older kids looked on with
Then suddenly, last week, the stars aligned and Sophie
latched on. No crying, no screaming. Thirty minutes later, she fell
asleep, full and peaceful. As REM sleep took over, her mouth
relaxed into a broad, gummy smile, and finally, I let a tear
Vanessa Druckman is a Chicago mom of four and blogs at chefdruck.com.
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