Milk and Cake

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Detail of Camila’s Ceremony by the artist Alonso Guevara.

It occurred to me just last week, I’ve stopped counting my daughter’s age in months. It wasn’t a conscious decision; it just tapered off, which I suppose is typical after age two. This morning I measured her height on the pantry doorframe. She’s grown an entire inch since we last measured her on her birthday in January. Then I started counting days on the calendar and discovered her half-birthday, June 11, is exactly halfway between her dad’s birthday and mine. I told her we’ll bake a half-birthday cake.

Her legs suddenly look so long. “She’s stretching out,” my mom says. That’s what it feels like too, stretching, both of us. Drifting from our perfect dyad, stretching toward autonomy. The evolution of nursing newborn to nursing toddler–the dramatic growth and change, the intimacy and beauty–is almost impossible to capture. From balled fists to dexterous hands. From curled toes to toddler feet flung in my face. It feels like only months ago I sat glassy-eyed and thirsty, nursing my newborn, so voracious, it felt like she was sucking milk from the bones of my back.

There is the magic of that transition from cut umbilical cord to latched breast; nine months of nourishment invisible, now suddenly right before your eyes. And you see, how perfect the design. For us, breastfeeding was that easy. Instant and harmonious. Nursing my baby evolved almost as unconsciously as my heart pumping blood. From singular being to synchronistic dyad, nourishing and nurturing on the primal plane.

When my daughter was six or seven months old, a sort of hyper clarity bloomed. I would listen to conversations, observe the behavior of others, and have sudden insights, new depths of understanding. I remember saying to Chris, it’s the strangest thing, I feel like I can almost see right through people. I called them popcorn epiphanies, these realizations that came in quick succession like kernels popping in the pot. I tried to write a few down, but they felt indescribable and came too quickly. How Breastfeeding Changes Your Brain speaks to the plasticity and creativity of the lactating brain. I felt the changes in myself as surely as I saw the changes in my daughter, both of us growing together.

I more often use the term nursing, which feels all-encompassing and true. Because breastfeeding is about so much more than nourishment. It is medicine, comfort, bonding, security. You have only to nurse a toddler who has just finished a breakfast of banana pancakes to understand that nursing is pure contentment. Pure peace.

And sometimes pure hilarity. When she’s in her father’s arms calling out, “Goodnight, Mommy! Goodnight, milks!” When she charms and cajoles, “How about milks on the couch? Sound like a plan?” Or when I step out of the shower, and she’s there handing me a towel, her face so full of glee, calling out, “My milks! My milks!” Such celebration of my body. Such love.

I’ve been reflecting so much as it begins to taper. I’d never set any specific goals around nursing, no timelines or numbers. I have followed my baby’s cues and my body’s cues. And I will follow that wisdom into the next phase, as we grow together, celebrating the glittering increments, marking the doorframe, baking half-birthday cakes.

(Post 138 of 365)

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5 thoughts on “Milk and Cake

  1. There is so much to love about this piece, beginning with the artwork. And then your words, all of them, are perfect. “There is the magic of that transition from cut umbilical cord to latched breast; nine months of nourishment invisible, now suddenly right before your eyes. And you see, how perfect the design.” I love this. I love “popcorn epiphanies.” I love that I can hear her sweet and funny little voice come through. All of this. Yes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is absolutely lovely. I agree with Amie, “popcorn epiphanies” is great! Her sweet voice – “my milks, my milks” – and the plan for milk on the couch. Oh so very sweet. I prefer the term “nursing” for the same reasons you do. I stopped nursing earlier on, but P is still so attached to a bottle long past when she “should” be doing it, and it’s so clear how much more it means to her than simply feeding or drinking. She’ll beg to “like down and do milk with mama” – and it’s amazing how they are so content lying there, just to be filled up, not needing anything else in the world. Love to hear about your glittering increments, and love how you trust yourself and your little one as you both stretch out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Rachel! Early motherhood, those first months, are magical but also fraught with anxiety. There is so much unsolicited (and solicited) advice and second-guessing. But ultimately, motherhood has taught me how to listen closely to myself and to trust my instinct, and I believe breastfeeding/nursing was a huge part of that. Those popcorn epiphanies were surreal, or maybe hyper-real. I’d like to write further into that experience–it was so mysterious and revelatory.

      Like

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