Friday, June 17, 2005

The Chuck Wagon

The chuck wagon.

The Dairy Queen.

The milkmaid.

The buffet.

These are all the ways I've referred to or heard myself referred to in the last 5 months--it's one of the many benefits of being a breastfeeding mom. You'd think the bond with your child, the being able to eat (almost) anything you want, the instant infant-food readiness factor (bottles in the middle of the night, are you kidding? I can barely find the crib!) and the extra 500 calories you burn a day would be enough, and then you find out about all the cute nicknames.

My mother even named my breasts, for heaven's sake: Leah's the left and Rachel is the right (if my son's name were Jacob, things would be extremely Old Testament around here).

I really wanted to nurse, right from conception, it seemed (though many of you might know that the conception part was something of a surprise. Not in a "oh so THAT'S how that happens!" kind of way but rather in a "so the rhythm method isn't totally reliable?" kind of way). Davis nursed right away in the hospital, and things were going great until I thought it'd be nice to let him nurse, say, 30 minutes on each side on breasts that had yet to be, ah, "broken in," as it were (or, as my friend Kierstin put it, they "hadn't been leathered up." Attractive turn of phrase, non?) .

Now, you must bear in mind that my adorable and winsome child, whilst nursing, did put me in mind of the phrase "could suck a bowling ball through a garden hose" (only without the skanky overtones, of course), and I quite honestly didn't know if I'd be able to hack the whole breastfeeding thing that first week, as it felt--not to put too fine a point on it--like someone was holding my nipples with a somewhat overheated pair of needle-nosed pliers. Luckily, cooler heads (and hardier nipples) prevailed, and with some great coaching from my angelic mother, I was able to stay the course and ended up enjoying the whole thing immensely. Word to MY mother, yo.

And so Davis drank. And drinks. And enjoys--you know, kids are allowed to thoroughly and publicly enjoy the most functional things like eating (and pooping, but that's another story) in ways that would embarass grown persons. It's very visceral. He eats with gusto--often smacks his lips, vocalizes and gives me milk-stoned smiles. Lately, he'll curl his toes, rub his head and roll his eyes back in his head and then later, I'll get a coy grin as he peers up at me, wide-eyed with the nipple still in his mouth. Or he'll pull off, sing some Ode to the Breasts in that Thai-Hugarian Creole that he speaks, duck his head as if he's embarassed ("did I say that out loud?") and latch back on. It's as entertaining as cable, and plus it makes my heart hammer with love.

Anne Lamott says in Operating Instructions that she sometimes imagines nursing her son through college: "I'd stay totally out of the way, let him have his own life." I can see why. I've never been so close to anyone or so intimate. It's a place where the emotional and physiological are almost inseparable. Part of me feels like I could do it forever.

And yet now he eats solid food, so I am starting to see the beginning of the end. The end won't be next week or anything, but someday the food he's learning to eat now will be all he needs to sustain himself (okay, he'll probably have to eat more than a few tablespoons of rice cereal and mashed avacado, but you get the point). Rachel, Leah and I will be superfluous. The buffet will close, the chuck wagon will be left behind.

I don't want him to stay little--or even nurse--forever, certainly; I want him to grow up and enjoy food and all its trappings. Anyone who knows the Rehns knows that we certainly do...

I just want the chance to trace these nursing experiences onto my memory with a bit more indelible ink before they're gone.