A Day in the Life: Breastfeeding

Note from the Author

I recently had an idea to start a series of blogs portraying a real day in the life of parenthood. Clever me decided to tag it, "A Day in the Life." Creative, right? Here is the first in this series focusing on breastfeeding because that is where 90% of my life is currently being spent. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
- Denielle, tired mama of two.

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I lay semi-awake in my bed, afraid to open my eyes for fear of not being able to close them again for quite sometime. I listen for the sound of the baby sleeping in the bassinet next to me. Not a peep, although the fullness in my breasts and wet spots on my shirt are what woke me, not him. I listen intently though, trying to figure out what time it is, or how many hours could have passed since I awoke last. I honestly have no idea these days; it could be 5 minutes or 5 hours. 

I hear my dog sleeping soundly on the floor, light snores that rise and fall to the rhythm of his paws chasing something in his dream. Probably one of the many stray cats we have in our neighborhood, many of which taunt and tease him on our front porch just within eyesight of him from the living room window. His howl scares them away as it is that deep, long, vibrating bloodhound howl that made me fall in love with him in the first place. But it is also the same howl that now irritates me to no end because of how it wakes the new baby.

I hear my husband sleeping next to me and feel his body rise and fall with each breathe. He won't hear the baby and will most likely get another full night of uninterrupted sleep and I am a little ached by jealousy. I remind myself that this is a good thing that one of us is sleeping since we do have a toddler in the other room who requires a lot of energy, but I cannot help but be envious of his freedom to do so. He continues to breathe heavily and roll around from side to side, trying to find comfort for the rest of the night. 

Our windows are open, a rarity in Florida, but something we take advantage of when we can. I hear the normal noises; a random car, stray cats posting up on our porch to taunt the bloodhound as soon as he rises, rustling leaves in trees, and our neighbor getting ready for work. This last sound means it's sometime between 4 and 5 AM, his typical time to start his day. I hear his old truck start up and putter until it catches, and him slam the rusty door a little too hard as usual. 

It's Saturday morning, so this quiet will soon be interrupted by life: a 2.5 year old playing, my husband cooking our typical big Saturday breakfast, the dog barking, the baby cooing, and the smell of coffee. The sweet, sweet smell of coffee. It seems to be my lifeline these days, and for some reason even though I have it every morning, it always tastes better on Saturday. Maybe because my husband makes it on these days, maybe because I get to enjoy it without checking email or rushing my daughter to pick out a dress or brush her teeth; regardless, it's my favorite cup of the week. Since I now know what time it is, it is a cup I will be enjoying soon.

My thoughts are interrupted by the movement of a little person in a bassinet next to my bed. He's not quite awake, but he's close. My breasts fill even more, making it painful for me and soaking my shirt to the point of needing to change. I open my eyes finally and accept that I will be getting up soon to nurse. I contemplate walking downstairs to make the coffee, but that would mean me admitting defeat and allowing the day to begin. It's not that I don't want it to, I just need a couple more hours of quiet, of sleep, of being able to think. Plus, it won't taste as good if my husband doesn't make it, I remind myself.

I roll to my side and peek at the 13 pounds of life next to the bed. He's perfect. Beautiful in every way a baby can be, but more so because he's mine; our same nose and eyes tell that over and over again. His eyes are open and he's sucking his hand, a sure signal it's time to eat, although I stare a little longer at him in awe. He is such a good baby, so happy, so healthy, so content. Nothing like my first one was, although I myself was not nearly as happy, healthy, or content with her. I was a typical nervous, anxious first-time parent and it was rough (to say the least) those first few months. With him, everything is different, but mainly me.

I lean over and pick up my son and bring him onto the bed and I prop myself up with pillows to start nursing him. He starts to kick his legs and flail his arms in excitement, knowing what's coming. I laugh because he does the same thing every time and it's so incredibly cute. My eyes aren't quite focused yet and they burn from exhaustion, but I know he's smiling. He just started smiling on purpose, social smiling they call it. I love every single one, even the ones I cannot see, but can only feel. Like this one.

He latches with no problem, something we have excelled at this pregnancy, and he nurses quietly while I take in the situation around the room. Everything is as I heard it; the dog, my husband, the window, the neighbor, the cats. I feel peace for the moment, even though this is my third time being up this night (growth spurt or something?) and I am beyond exhausted. I am certain I have not hit that REM sleep my husband is so greatly enjoying at the moment, so I already know that this will be a long day. That coffee will be very good in a few hours, I tell myself. But not now. I refuse to give in and let the day begin. Not yet. I need a little more rest.

I look down, my eyes now more adjusted to the darkness and see my son is staring right back at me. He gently nurses while squeezing my finger; a reflex I know, but something I enjoy still so much. He's just over a month old and I cannot imagine life without him; like he has always been a part of our family, haunting our lives with little teases of smiles, late nights, and early mornings, before making himself present. I kiss his little hand and he loses his suction, so I have to place him back on my breast. I'm reminded again how little he is. He barely notices this short distraction as I see his eyes starting to get heavy. Success, I think.

I switch sides and let him nurse a little on the other breast with the hopes he gets his fill long enough to get me some more sleep. I break my gaze at him and look into my bathroom, out of the tiny window that holds the moon like a picture frame. The sun will be up soon, but not yet. Right now it's just the moon, me, and my son. I don't want anything else to join us, not yet. 

My eyes feel heavy still, ready to close at any moment, but I adjust my position and remind myself to stay awake for a few minutes longer. If I fall asleep with him in my arms it won't be a good sleep and we both will wake up groggy and a little too early. But, my eyes are heavy and I cannot seem to keep them open. A few more minutes, I tell myself. 

I look down and he has stopped nursing, although his mouth still forms the shape of my nipple even though the two are no longer attached. I see the glisten of breastmilk on his chin and lips and gently wipe them away with my hand.  I snap my tank and put him over my shoulder to burp or at least keep him upright to try and keep all the milk down. A baby with reflux makes things a little harder, even ones who don't seem to mind it. A few more minutes, I tell myself. Keep him upright for a few minutes, and then lay him down so you can get a little more rest. A few more minutes. 

I gently pat his back as I hear him breathe in my ear; the sweetest sound in the world. I close my eyes but quickly open them again for fear of falling asleep. I try and imagine the time, but cannot seem to form a thought. I'm exhausted and it's starting to get the better of me. 20 minutes? Maybe 30 minutes have passed since I first woke up. It's prob not quite yet 5AM, so if I play my cards right, I could get maybe three more hours of sleep before my daughter decides she's had enough Dad time and needs me. 3 hours sounds like a lifetime of sleep, and I so desperately need it.

I pat his back some more and a burp escapes his lips. Victory, I think to myself. I scoot off the bed as much as possible without waking the baby, the dog, or the man laying next to me. No one even winces. I lay my son back in the bassinet with little to no resistance from him as he assumes his favorite position of arms-over-head. I realized I should have checked his diaper, but my eyes are getting the better of me. My body is being pushed back down to the bed by some invisible force and I have no energy to fight it. I roll onto my side, turn on the sound machine on my end table to play Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star for the baby, and close my eyes. I feel the burn in my eyes take over and within seconds, I am out. 

I lay semi-awake in bed with my eyes closed, although I can see the sun behind my lids. I do not hear the dog snoring or my husband breathing, and the outside sounds are louder, livelier. I do not yet hear my son, as he must still be milk-drunk from his feeding a couple (few?) hours before.  I do hear other things, though. I hear music coming from downstairs, Bob Dylan on the record player, my husband asking my daughter something incomprehensible, and my daughter laughing and running away. I can hear her chubby feet on the hardwood go from the kitchen to the living room. I smile, knowing how cute she looks when she runs.

I have yet to open my eyes just so I can enjoy these last few moments before the day begins. I lay there, thinking to myself how great it would be to sleep another couple hours, but then my nose catches something. The same nose I share with my son, the one I hate and often cringe at in photos, the one I get from my father; picks up a scent and my eyes pop open. I smell it, the smell that reminds me how lucky I am to have this life, and even without the sleep, that life is good. The baby stirs, and my eyes open to the sound of him and the smell I cannot get out of my head. 

I smell coffee. My day has begun.