Mammorial Day Part 2

Warning: this post contains words like breast, milk and suck. Should any of those words make you feel uncomfortable you might want to skip this post!

The Chief, couple days old by Haley Warner

Last Memorial Day I came home from the hospital with a baby.

He was an alien. His body was skinny and his skin was marked with red splotches and birth marks. I could see purple and blue stretchy veins in his head. The unfused spot on his head pumped every time he breathed. And when he cried he sounded like a squawking baby from the Triassic period.

But I'd never seen anything so beautiful.

So I took him and gave away all the advice from time before, Ten minutes on each side only, or your milk will dry up and breastfed him all day and night. When we stopped he would cry, I would cry. So we nursed continually and we loved it.

In those first weeks postpartum I was never so aware of my body. There were changes to my shape and unfamiliar sensations. The smell of breast milk permeated everything I touched. My chest was a cycle of heavy and soft, always leaking. My cups overflew. The years spent being teased about my obvious endowments suddenly didn't matter. Their purpose was fulfilled.

This was a type of healthy co-dependency. We needed each other, my alien son and I. When he grew out of his size one diapers I had myself to congratulate. And I needed those moments of respite--alone in the nursery--good excuses to leave any situation to feed the baby. Breastfeeding was my great anti-depressant.

And so it went, until we introduced toast. And bananas. Potatoes. Until finally our nursing was nothing more than a soothing pastime, a hobby of sorts. He didn't need me for calories or consumption, just the pre-show to a nap or bedtime. And yet, it continued to be our connection and we loved it as much as we did in the early days of our lives.

And yet, I knew my time was coming to an end.

And yet, it came too early.

Last Sunday night as I nursed my mobile alien to sleep I heard the voice of the Spirit say to me, "Enjoy this, it will be the last time you will nurse this baby." It was quiet in the nursery that evening, the sound of my baby sucking and my heart breaking.

The next morning came early with crying from the crib. Instinctively I moved out of bed to feed him back to sleep for an hour. But the voice came again, "Take your baby down and feed him breakfast instead."

Since then we've traded the suck for the sip. Now our house is a landmine of sippys. We've replaced our nursing moments with long drinks from plastic containers. Rice milk instead of breast. The transition was peaceful, quietly right. I cannot deny that I was guided to wean, though I can't help but grieve that chapter. Memorial weekend will always be that, a time to conjure memories of the time I traded milk for infatuation.

As for my chest, we are back to our heavy days. A constant reminder of what I've given up. Slowly, as my spirit lets go so does my body. And us women, we've got our cures for these sorts of things. Don't you worry.

I've always loved the poem Blood and Milk by the great poetess Sharlee Mullins Glen, but never more so than today:

Blood and Milk

by Sharlee Mullins Glenn
I dreamed of Oxford . . .
(spires, a thousand spires, endless lectures, musty halls
a solitary self in a Bodleian expanse
A good life my dear Wormwood. An orderly life.)
then awakened to laundry
and things to be wiped
countertops, noses, bottoms)
How did this happen? And when, exactly?
Time flows, it flows, it flows
and there are choices to be made:
left or right?
paper or plastic?
blood or milk?
There's freedom in the bleeding;
bondage in the milk—do not be deceived.
Ah, but it's an empty freedom; a holy bondage,
A sweet and holy bondage.
Five times I chose the chains, those tender chains,
(though once will bind you just as well!)
and checked the crimson flow.
Suckled while dreaming of Trinity Term
but awakened, always awakened, to the laundry
and to that small and cherished captor at my breast.

-From Segullah

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