As National Breastfeeding Month winds down this week, I just want to share some lovely thoughts from La Leche League on becoming a mother.
This is an excerpt from The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding:
A Special Journey
During early pregnancy, your baby's development is nothing short of remarkable. Eighteen days after he is conceived, his heart is beating. About the fourth month or so of your pregnancy, you feel the flutter, the unmistakable stirring that is like no other. It's the revelation of a new life. Your body changes to meet your baby's needs. There's the swelling readiness of your breasts, the expanding cradle of your womb. You are beautiful, as lovely as a tree that is heavy with fruit.
During the last trimester - the seventh, eighth, and ninth months - you may be impatient, eager to complete this stage and have the baby. Then, often when you least expect it, you feel a twinge. And another. The time is here. Mingled relief and anticipation can bring a catch in your throat. Today, sometime soon, your baby will be born!
The doctor or midwife is contacted, and the preliminary details are taken care of. You settle down to the work of giving birth. This day is like no other, and your mind, your whole body, centers on the process that is taking over inside of you.
The birth force rises, swells as a great wave, peaks, and recedes. You try to concentrate on relaxing, on willing your muscles to cooperate. In the welcome interim between contractions, there's time to rest.
The tempo quickens. Contractions are strong, they come quickly. You've probably never worked harder in your life. Labor is a fitting term! Just when you're most likely to feel exhausted and discouraged, you hear the reassurance of those who are with you - "Don't give up! We'll soon have a baby!"
And, at last, there is the moment you've been waiting for all those months, the bursting forth, the moment of blessed birth! As you catch your breath, you hear his cry. Was a sound ever before so priceless?
The umbilical cord is cut, marking the first separation. Who is to bridge this change of worlds for your newborn, who will soothe him and let him know he is again secure? Who better than his mother?
Again your body cradles him. You touch him, kiss his cheek, stroke his damp little head. Will he nurse? Perhaps. At some time within the first hour or so he will take the breast. You hold him close and he nuzzles your breast. His tiny mouth grasps your nipple. It seems no less than amazing! You and your baby can relax. After the enormous effort of giving birth, this is sweet reward.
Without thought or conscious effort on your part, your milk will come. You can look beyond to the many days together as a nursing couple. The security and warmth of your arms, the ready comfort of your milk, the familiar smell and pulse of your body are all precious food to fill out your baby's body and quicken his mind and spirit. Such accomplishments take time. But is there a more awe-inspiring task? This is the ageless beauty of mother and child - a time of grace and peace.
You'll hug him to you, intensely aware of his dependence upon you. Of course he will grow, reach out, and eventually leave you. But not for a while. Give yourself time together; let there be no regrets. Together you'll begin to weave a new cord to replace the one so recently severed. This one will be plaited simply and naturally by your continuing closeness through many unhurried days. Not to be cut, it will form the first link to all human love and understanding.
But perhaps, instead of the natural birth you prepared for, you have a cesarean delivery. Or the months of waiting are not long enough, and the baby arrives prematurely, to be whisked away for specialized care. For the moment there is little sense of rapport with the baby.
These things happen. They may slow down a mother and baby's start as a nursing couple, but they need not end it. Given the right support, mothers and babies have untold levels of strength and adaptability. Mothers through the ages have happily breastfed their babies, and you can do it, too.
The groundwork is laid before your baby is born. Nothing is more important in your advance planning than your preparation for breastfeeding. There is no better time to start than now.