I know you’re a bit scared. I know that you’re not sure about the whole thing. But I also know that you can do this.
To my first-time pregnant friend,
You’ve been on my mind lately – a couple of you, actually – dearest longtime friends of mine, about to become mums for the first time. I sent one of you a box of old maternity clothes, the few surviving pieces in good shape after my own three pregnancies in five years. To the other I sent a few books (at your request). Toward you both I find my thoughts wandering daily.
With a 3-month-old of my own, I am partly of the world into which you are about to enter; but mine is a third and final babe, riding in a car seat that held her brother and sister before her, pushed in a stroller that is not only no longer fashionable but also probably no longer on the market. I am experienced, yes; but I’m out of touch, too, with the trends of new motherhood.
I want to say the right things to you, offer words that mean something and aren’t just clichés (though, as you’ll find, so many of the clichés are true). I want to be helpful. I want to make it wonderful for you, this thing that is about to happen. I want to save you from some of the parts that aren’t wonderful, and from the disappointment that comes when you realise that some of it sucks, sometimes.
This morning at the breakfast table I thought of you. Big kids slurped cereal, Bryan and I passed the baby back and forth as we refilled our coffee and managed our own breakfasts. When she fussed I lifted my shirt and offered her a meal of her own. A quick latch, the familiar let-down and then after only a minute or so, she pulled off with a grin, a mess of dripping milk and toothlessness as if to say, “No thanks, Mum. I’m good for now.”
And at that moment I saw myself as a new mum and felt the weight of all the things that would have gone through my head back then. Why isn’t she hungry? How long has it been since she last nursed? If she doesn’t complete a full feeding on one side, she won’t get the hindmilk. And I might get engorged. Should I try again, force her to make it to the arbitrary 12 minutes I’ve decided is an adequate feed? And, if not, which side should I offer next time? And will next time be sooner than 2.5-3 hours?
For just an instant I marvelled at the vast distance between that new mum that I was and the one I am now. Five years ago I would have been seated on the couch in proper breastfeeding posture, a nursing pillow on my lap and the TV remote by my side, watching the clock as if it held the answers to all my feeding questions; this morning I sat at the kitchen table surrounded by chaos, drinking coffee and eating cereal while nursing this third and final babe without a clue (or a care) about the clock.