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Molly V.
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 18 No. 2, March-April 2001, pp. 55-56

Have you ever noticed that when you work hard for something, the benefits you reap are more rewarding? While nursing my daughter Madeleine I have the opportunity to study her dimpled knuckles and the chubby folds of flesh that meet at her wrist in a deep crease. She watches my face as she nurses and I bask in this moment while I remain the focus of her attention, the center of her universe. She has memorized not only my image but also the smell of my skin, and the taste of my warm sweet milk. I am the only one able to comfort her in this way, and she prefers me over all others, including her beloved daddy who always makes her laugh. Nursing has become second nature so that we fit together without even trying. When she signals her need I can immediately respond without hesitation, in no more time than it takes to pick her up and draw her in close to me. No matter the place, the time, or the circumstances, I can always satisfy her hunger or fulfill her longing to nurse. I do this for her so that she will gain trust in the world and develop confidence that her needs will always be met.

I am so lucky, for I have known the magnificent wonders of motherhood. I have known the little triumphs, the sweet joys, and the great contentment of becoming a parent. I have conceived a baby with my husband, and she has lived and grown inside me. I felt the first flutter of her movement and later saw my belly quiver as she floated around, turning and exercising her new little limbs. Pregnant with her, I suffered through nausea and backaches. I spent two nights and a day agonizing to give birth to her. When she was finally born, I got to see and hold her shiny little newborn body. Put to my breast, she immediately latched on and nursed. On her second day of life, I remembered to tell her that I loved her. I had always loved the idea of her, but now here she was and I could love her for her uniqueness.

I felt an enormous sense of relief after her birth, but little did I know that the hardest part was yet to come - learning to breastfeed! We persevered through common but frustrating obstacles in the early weeks. With patience and persistence, we kept going. I liken the early weeks of breastfeeding a newborn to learning to ride a bike or driving a car with a manual transmission-seeming impossible and awkward at first, but eventually becoming effortless and natural.

As we hold each other and nurse, I feel myself settling down and becoming so overwhelmed with love for my baby that I have to hold back tears. Every feeding is an intimate experience for both of us, with me giving myself to my baby and her accepting gratefully. Even when I feel too busy to stop what I'm doing, breastteeding necessitates that I take a moment to sit, relax, and marvel at my daughter. Sometimes I think about frivolous things while I nurse her, like how wispy her hair is. Other times I contemplate how fortunate and blessed we are to have each other. And yes, on occasion I find myself wishing she would hurry up so that I can finish what I was doing before she interrupted! But I know better than to resent all the time she demands, since I can imagine the day will soon come when she worst allow me to hold her like this, stroking her hair and admiring her supple little cheek. On that day that she asserts her independence, I may regret that I didn't savor every single second that she needed me and depended on me as she does now. On that day, she will be looking forward, but I will be nostalgic.

Suddenly she is finished; she releases me and I feel calmed. She may have savored her meal and then drifted off to sleep in my arms, her belly full and her hunger satiated by my milk. Or she may have drunk quickly and greedily for only a few minutes, afterward pushing me away, energized and ready to get back to the business of being a baby. Whichever the case I watch her grow and learn with such an inflated sense of pride! Every pound she gains and each new skill she acquires I can attribute to me, to all the attention that I lavish upon her, to all the hours of every day that I spend with her, and to my milk which is the only milk that nourishes her.

Now there are times when I ponder this: Would it all be as rewarding if the road to today hadn't been so full of discomfort, hardship, and sacrifice? Without this much effort and devotion, could motherhood mean so much! Thank goodness I'll never know, since nursing my daughter has helped me define motherhood in what has become the only way that I can imagine.

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