I am a body to the baby, with fluids and hormones and arms.
At night his eyes don’t close unless mine are closed next to him. My breath is slower. The breast pump is beside us, and when it’s on I hear his breath change–race–to match it.
I am a body with food inside. He is a strong suckler–the doctors are amazed by the strength of his mouth around their latex-covered finger. I have been stunned by his strength, left bloody and cracked and crying by his strength. The pain is extraordinary. I see his mouth coming at me and my brain hurts. I cradle him so gently and coo and dig my toes into the floor. I practice yoga breaths until I am a windy day on his forehead. And rainy, crying.
The lactation specialist tells me to feed him my milk from a bottle (nipple confusion! nipple confusion!) for three days to give myself a chance to heal, dried blood on his face. A weekend of grief, certain that my boy will love plastic more than flesh because of this rough start. Hormones are everything. And sleep, too. I kneel on the kitchen floor and cry. I cry in bed listening to the milk machine, which hurts me, too. Two ounces at a time. Once the milk was pink but now it’s cream.
I air out my flesh at night but last night my body cried, milk all over the fitted sheet, one towel and then another between me and the baby. I folded and folded the towel to keep him dry, the milk came out warm but in our drafty house the bed feels cold so fast. Milk all over, but none would go in the bottle, none in the boy’s mouth. We wake exhausted and hungry, one ounce ahead and then one ounce behind his wants, and his wants are his needs.
Body and spirit. He’ll know I’m tense because my milk won’t let down. I breathe. Still cracked. I stare at his face and think of milk waterfalls and painless milk and milk baths and milk boy skin. Soon boy we will be back to skin to skin.