Perfect and Complete

There's some sort of gadget that lets you 'tag' a song you hear on the radio so that next time you're online you can be reminded to purchase the track. Clever and handy. I just wish desperately that someone would invent that for life moments. There's pictures and videos & stuff, but those rarely capture the intensity of how you feel in a given moment. All my life I've worried about forgetting these "little moments" of overwhelming emotion. So to keep forgetfulness at bay I write things down. In most cases, this has proven a precious gift to later rediscover. Now-- the poem I wrote about the boy I was "in love with" in 6th grade? well that is down right humiliating (fyi, it RHYMED. I've since abandoned poetry, which I generally think is super lame, over rated, and a bad excuse to list incomplete thoughts under the guise of "artistic and insightful prose." gag me.) But-- the young and exuberant love letters I wrote Luke in high school? They are from a time in our love where you feel this insane need to explain how and why you love him so much--- before love matures and you can rest in the sweet spot of just knowing he knows how much you love him. So my point is that for recording all these moments, you win some, and you lose some. Mostly I'm winning though.

At any given time I have a mental checklist of things to do- things I experience that would make a good blog (like the funny things my mom has said to me), or things I mean to do online later (like renew my overdue library books, google what road runners look like, and look for used freezers on craigslist). I also keep track of any of those "moments" I need to record. And here's one I've been thinking on lately: nursing and imperfect parenting. So here it goes. And if you're a boy, you may elect not to read further, because it centers around the general theme of lactation.

Jo, for whatever reason, refused to nurse when she was born. Well, she nursed, just not effectively. So after many trips to the lactation consultant (what a job- they are paid to grab boobs all day long, but they are the sweetest women and you feel like hugging them out of thankfulness when you leave!) I elected to start pumping & feeding it to her in a bottle. Aside from the minor sting of insult that comes when a baby prefers Dr. Brown's plastic colic-reducing patented air flow technology over your own breast, the biggest issue was the hassle of pumping. Every three hours because I was so worried my milk supply would deplete.

In the middle of the night it is a fretful inconvenience to try to pump and bottle feed a hungry, crying baby at the same time. Then you have to clean all the pump parts. You have to turn around and go back home if you leave for more than 4 or 5 hrs & forgot your pump. You envy all the other nursing mamas. You see your baby spread her palm on the bottle and feel sad that she's touching plastic and not your skin. You feel completely insufficient when you think about the bad circumstance of being caught without a pump & bottle, but with a hungry baby. It might all seem trivial, but compounded by high expectations of what motherhood would be like plus a tornado of hormones, this added up to disappointment.

Miraculously one day, she figured it out! She was 3.5 months old. I didn't want to get up & warm up milk so I made a half hearted attempt to nurse. She latched on like a pro. What in the world happened??? Who knows. But it was the most awesome gift ever. Not for her- she was FINE being bottle fed- the gift was for me. Here's the gift...

In the middle of the night, she cries. She's not a great sleeper. We've tried every sleeping arrangement in the book- crib in her own room, crib in our room, etc. This is where the imperfect parenting comes in. I am not very consistent. I am not good at doing things "for her own good." I lack in the will power department, and poor Jo will suffer some for that in her life I'm sure. So she sleeps with us. Yeah, there's the whole "co-sleeping" or "attachment parenting" movement. I'd like to say that my philosophy or subscription to these theories led to my behavior. But no, I just bring her to bed because it is easy and it feels right. Call it "Mother's Intuition," if you will. "Mother's Intuition" is a pretty kick-ass thing, by the way. It is more untouchable than your religion. You can't really argue when someone says, "well, this is what I believe." And you definitely cannot argue with a mother's intuition. So I'm going to capitalize on this mother's intuition stuff as much and as often as I can. If I can find a way to redeem it for cash or prizes I'll let you know. Anyhow- under the completely affirming notion of "mother's intuition," this little baby lands in bed with us every night. And here is the blessing I get:

Jo lets out a sad and pathetic little whimper. Silence. Then another. By now I'm up, hovering over her porta-crib to see if she's serious. Serious or not, I miss her, so I bring her in bed. I lay on my side, and she on her side, facing me. She is still mostly asleep, but frantically pawing and mewing like a little kitten looking for milk, which in fact, is exactly what she's doing. Off with my top. Scootch her in, set my head on the pillow. One arm on the bed, stretched out above her head. The other arm laying over her, usually palming her little toosh or softly rubbing her back. The best part is this: I pull my legs up and curl them towards my chest, around her little rear and legs. She is tucked into me, safe in a cocoon of my limbs and body. She may have long since outgrown my womb but she still fits well next to me, a perfect little puzzle piece. And then she nurses blissfully, a hungry little baby reveling in the goodness of milk, mommy warmth and the assurance of absolute safety. ALL of the needs she can express are being met, and perfectly. Not by coincidence, all of MY needs are also being met. What a perfect pairing God created, mommies and babies. She pushes and kneads at me with her hands and feet. Little toes dig into my soft tummy and her legs flex straight as nurses enthusiastically. In these times, late at night with my husband snoring beside me, I feel like THIS is my perfect and complete. And I don't ever, ever want to forget how it feels.

This is a statue my friend Kristen saw in Norway at the Vigeland Sculpture Garden. Click on it to see in more detail. I LOVE this for the completely un-self-aware look on the mom's face as she adores her child. The sculpture was one in a series of "circle of life" pieces, Kristen did a beautiful job captioning the photos in her blog post here: http://kpittyinthecity.blogspot.com/2009/10/oslo.html


K Pitty said...

Aw, Michelle. Beautiful post... I have many of those moments too... when I just think, let me close my eyes and BURN this into my memory! Enjoy every minute!

I'm going to be a Ropp! said...

THIS blog, makes me want a baby. I love that little Jo so much!! She's got such wonderful parents!

Kate & Matt Heihn said...

Oh, this was the sweetest post ever, Michelle. I love that Johonna is such a snuggly girl!

Anonymous said...

No one but a mom will fully appreciate the intense feeling of being loved and loving a child as a mom. It is so hard to put into words but you did it perfectly! I am so proud of you and very blessed that God has given me the time to see you share this with your baby. mom