Here are the places I have nursed my two babies: On our sofa, a thousand times. On a plane. In a movie theater. At the zoo, near the elephants. In the sporting goods section of Target, sitting Indian-style on the floor. Riding on the back of a carousel lion.
But as a new mother, I’d only nurse in my house. And not in front of visitors. When friends came to see me after my daughter was born, I’d leave the room and then strain to hear the muffled conversation. Often, the baby nursed so long the visitors left before I made it back out, and I’d have to ask my husband, “How are they?”
“They’re good,” he’d say. “They miss you.”
After a while, I got so lonesome for company—especially after my husband went back to work—I stopped leaving the room to nurse. Instead, I’d make an elaborate breastfeeding tent out of receiving blankets, and then worry through the entire visit that the baby was suffocating under there.
Back then, I couldn’t leave the house. Because our baby nursed, as babies often do, all the time. It’s not just about hunger, either, of course. There’s nothing more soothing to a baby than the breast. It’s a miracle object, and, frankly, it’s one of the only tools that new mothers have.
I believe parents give themselves over to the next generation, that on some very real level, your children are more important than you. I believe having children is an exercise in sacrifice: Sleep, evenings out, free time, privacy. When you become a mother your body, for a period of time, quite literally belongs to your children. You hand it over willingly, but you sure do miss things like, say, reading the paper with a cup of coffee, or going to the bathroom alone.
I believe that the sound of your own baby crying can be a physical form of torture. And I believe that all love comes from the kind of mad, desperate, euphoric, hysterical love that parents feel for their children.
I believe my friend Sarah was only trying to do the right thing when she nursed her crying baby at a restaurant one day. And I believe the woman who walked up to her and said, “You disgust me!” must have been mistaken about what breasts really are. She must have thought the were entirely about g-strings and pole dances and implants and beer. And it’s true that in our world breasts mean many things to many different people. But what they are about at the most basic, true level—the level this mean lady couldn’t see—is just love. The best kind of love, the kind made entirely of swaddling and kisses and safety, the kind that all other loves are patterned after.
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