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Beatrice's Joy

Annie Frisbie
From New Beginnings, Vol. 25 No. 6, 2008-09, pp.8-9

It's beyond strange to me that I find myself drawn to breastfeeding advocacy. Before my daughter was born, I resigned myself to nursing in the same spirit with which I ceded my body to the invasion of pregnancy: I'll nurse for a year like you're supposed to, but I don't have to like it. The whole thing seemed way too intimate for an activity I'd be doing eight to 12 times a day at the outset.

Fortunately, Beatrice and I got off to an easy start. She latched well, fed voraciously, and when we were quick to solve a tongue-tie problem in her third week I began to relax. Around the two-month mark, I dropped the blanket, confident in my ability to nurse discreetly in public. Her milky smiles and plumped up thighs sealed my fate as her willing servant.

I'm not sure that this transformation was all that unexpected. The seeds were sown in my sixth month of pregnancy during a conversation with a woman, Kristen, at church with whom I'd never really spoken before. Kristen's daughter, her second child, was born just a few days after I had experienced a miscarriage with my first pregnancy. I was so jealous of her baby.

I became pregnant with Beatrice just six weeks after I'd lost the first baby. The pain of my loss receded as my body rounded. One morning after church Kristen approached me.

"I knew that you were pregnant and had had a miscarriage. I didn't know how to tell you this. I wanted to tell you this, but I didn't think I should, until now. When I would wake up at night to nurse Amelia, I would pray for you to know what it's like to nurse a baby in the night."

You can imagine how I wept, and she wept, too, and we hugged. A few weeks later she and her family moved away, but I never forgot those words. The first night with Beatrice when she awoke beside me, her little mouth rooting, I remembered Kristen's words. Those early night feedings seemed endless, but I didn't mind. I nursed my baby and prayed, for Mollie, who had just suffered a miscarriage, that she would be comforted, and for Sarah, newly pregnant, that she would be spared loss, and for Abbie, 38 weeks pregnant and eager to meet her son. And I gave thanks for Kristen, who thought of me in the darkness.

We're on the night watch, Beatrice and I, taking our time with something that's more than just a meal. It's a kind of communion, one we share with mothers and babies across time and space. This quiet joy is my daughter's gift to me.

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