Dear Postpartum Charlotte,
Cluster feeding is a bitch. Take it in stride, because one day in the not so distant future, when your little one is not as little, you will realize you miss those endless nursing sessions.
Emily will nurse so swiftly and efficiently, you will hardly know she was there at all. And she will roll away from you, looking for her lovey, or some mischief, and you will long for the lolling, milk-drunk eyes of her newborn self. You will wish desperately for the sleepy way she would mash her face into your breast and snooze, only to wake moments later and root around again for your nipple.
Put down your smart phone and turn off the television. Stop worrying about the laundry and the state of the toilet. Dinner can wait five minutes. Gaze upon the wild little creature you have created. Savor the fact that you have grown every hair on her head, every cell of every organ, and that you continue to nourish her with your milk alone. Adore how compact her body is against your tummy, and hold her for a few moments more despite how tired and sore and overwhelmed you may be.
The future is enormous, fast, and sneaky. These moments are fleeting, and they can not be relived. One day in the not so distant future, you will long for just one more whiff of Emily’s sweet and sour milky breath, but it will be gone. Sure, you will have new moments to treasure, but the realization that you will never endure another four-hour cluster feeding marathon will haunt you and bring a tear to your eye. So, suck it up, and find the joy that is now.
This is a letter I wish I could mail back in time to my postpartum self. As my baby nears her first birthday, I am simultaneously trying to be in the moment while feeling grief over all of the moments I have not treasured to the fullest. There were so many times that I felt I was about to climb out of my skin during those early days and weeks while enduring never ending nursing. I used the TV and my smart phone like tranquilizers to quell the sensation of itching from the inside out. At the time, I know that I did what I needed to do with the best intentions, but looking back. . . oh how I wish I could hold Emily’s newborn body against me again. I went through this with Jack, too. Realizing I missed moments when I could have been mindful is torture when it comes to my kids.
At the end of the day, I still nurse Emily to sleep. I take a few minutes to lie with her, stroke her silky face and head, and hold her chubby hands against my heart, before I get up to do all my mommy-chores. In that moment, as I place her lengthening body into her crib, I know I did my best, and will continue to savor each new moment with my kids while trying to free the sorrow of anything that I missed.