Thursday, June 7, 2012

Nighttime Nursing

That first night after you were born, I hardly slept at all.

I certainly needed the sleep. Up all night in labor, and then without a wink of sleep all day after, I was surely exhausted.

And yet.

You were so new. New to yourself, new to me. I was so happy just to have you here in my arms and out of my belly that I wanted nothing more than to just hold you for hours and hours. And that is exactly what I did. I have hazy, sleepy memories of spending the better part of that night cuddling you to my chest, watching in wonder as you dreamed baby dreams while nestled upon my bosom. I drifted off a few times, soothed by the white noise D had softly playing for you, but for most of that night I was content to just watch you sleep.

But then the sleep deprivation started to add up. I struggled to align my own need for sleep with the simple fact that a newborn baby has a tiny belly which requires frequent filling. After a few days, I felt like a zombie. An hour of sleep here, two or three there. I had foolishly thought that waking frequently to use the bathroom during my last few months of pregnancy had prepared me somewhat for sleepless nights with a tiny baby.

Was I ever wrong.

I began to dread waking up to your hungry sounds, even as I tried desperately to soothe your needs before you could wake your daddy. I hated having to turn on the light, but we were both so new at nursing that our joint efforts couldn't result in a successful latch if I couldn't see what I was doing. I dreaded having to drag myself out of bed to arrange my pillows and seat you in my lap. (We hadn't yet discovered the joys of co-sleeping, and even if we had, we were nowhere close to any success with side-lying nursing.)

No matter how many naps I took during the day, with earplugs to ensure I didn't wake at your every noise while your Gamma took care of you, I was still simply exhausted. I was used to more sleep than this. I rejoiced every time you slept for more than a few hours straight, but most of the time your “schedule” was like clockwork. If I checked the time after you finished nursing, you would inevitably be awake again in precisely two hours.

Worse yet were the nights when my supply was inadequate, as my body struggled to figure out exactly how much you needed. I remember feeling something very near to despair one night when you went from one side to the other, back and forth for a few hours straight. Would this ever end? Were you getting enough? It wasn't depression, because I know what that feels like. But sometimes extreme sleep deprivation can feel very similar.

And what was that about nursing not being painful? As this most sensitive part of my body adjusted to a use it had always been intended for but never actually known before, I was in agony. Every latch was torture, and at times I had to grit my teeth through the duration of a nursing session, reminding myself that I was nourishing you and that it would get easier. That's what everyone told me anyway. It will get easier. I knew your latch was good, the doctors said you weren't tongue-tied; I just needed to get used to it, to toughen up.

But I pressed on. It never occurred to me to stop, to try something else. This was best for you, and if it was providing you with what you needed, then I would keep on keeping on. But oh, how it hurt sometimes.

And yet.

Somewhere along the way, without me even noticing, I stopped dreading those nighttime nursing sessions.

Somewhere along the way, my body adjusted itself to your sleep schedule. I found that so long as I got a cumulative six hours or more of sleep, I could function during the day. I was tired still, but I no longer felt like a zombie.

Somewhere along the way, the pain subsided. It faded to discomfort while you nursed. Then it was just discomfort as you latched on. Somehow, without me even really noticing, it stopped feeling bad at all.

And now, now that you sleep for longer stretches at night and only (usually) wake a few times to nurse, now that you've developed a real schedule of sorts, now that I've figured out that I need to just go to bed when you do even if it's at 7 or 8 at night, now I treasure these quiet moments together.

I love the sleepy hungry sounds you make, and I love knowing that I can (usually) wake up before you do. I love that, given the opportunity, you'll nurse without waking up at all. I love being able to feed you, knowing that you'll stop once sated and contentedly roll onto your back and sleep the rest of the night through.

I love the feeling of your silky hair on my arm, as I curl myself around you at night. I love the gentle sounds of your sleeping breath, somehow so different from your waking breath. I love how after every time you nurse, I back away a little to ensure that you have adequate breathing space and, without fail, you will have scooted right back next to me by the time I next awaken.

I love how, even in sleep, your little hands seek out something to hold onto. I love that I can offer you my hand, and your little fingers will gently curl around it, further anchoring you to the safety and security that you find in me.

I love the way you smell, milky and sweet and wholly you.

I love everything about you. And no matter how hard it was at first, I know I wouldn't change any of it. Like the pain of labor, the difficulty of those first few weeks pales in comparison to the pure joy I feel now.

1 comment:

  1. beautiful, simply beautiful. this must go in his baby book and be treasured forever