The Natural Mother in Me
Mary Katherine Patterson
Ladera Ranch CA USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 24 No. 5, September-October 2007, pp. 202-203
Motherhood is a life changing experience. Giving birth is an indescribable unraveling of beauty and mystery. My life forever changed when my son, Monty, came into the world. Seven years later, I found myself experiencing another metamorphosis as my daughter, Raina, made her entrance.
For some women, motherhood transforms mind and body from the moment of conception onward. I remember feeling a sense of tremendous awe at the very nature of this process. As my shape changed from month to month, I came into a new sense of self-awareness and appreciation for my body and womanhood. Having struggled with an eating disorder for a number of years, I found affirmation in the process of motherhood. I developed a deeper appreciation for the female body in all its beauty and wonder during each phase of pregnancy and birth. This continued into breastfeeding, as this unique and personal mother-child interaction developed into a touching expression of love.
With each of my two children, I had very different birth and breastfeeding experiences. I had my son, Monty, when I was 19. My labor was induced 10 days early for reasons I am still unclear about. I had an epidural and felt nothing during the better part of my labor and pushing. Breastfeeding was challenging from the start due to the combination of him being 10 days early and the lingering effects of the epidural. In addition, I was unprepared for the challenges of breastfeeding, and felt discouragement when I struggled with it. I worked through some of my difficulties with the help of my mother, who used to be a La Leche League Leader, but ultimately made the decision within a few months to cut back on nursing and give him a bottle. I needed to return to my local college classes, and pumping proved unsuccessful. Looking back, this is a decision I regret, but I was young and made the best choice I could at the time.
I didn't realize what I had missed until I gave birth seven years later to my daughter, Raina. I knew better the second time around and was an advocate for my child and myself. I staved off another induction even when my doctor was expressing concern about her size. I really wanted to have a natural birth experience and let her come when she was ready.
Sure enough, only four days past my due date I went into labor. I was able to deliver without any drugs. My labor was quick and vigorous. However, I felt in control of things as they progressed. This sense of empowerment was vastly different than the birth of my son in which I felt completely powerless. Raina came into the world within a few hours weighing eight pounds, 15 ounces. She was strong and healthy, and took to the breast right away. I knew that letting her come in her own time, naturally, was the right decision for us. Unlike my son, Monty, she was alert and able to nurse with ease from the beginning. I still faced some hardships with sore nipples and an overactive let-down reflex, but I knew that it would get easier. We persevered and, within a few months, we fell into a comfortable routine. Without a restrictive schedule, I allowed Raina to speak to me in her own subtle and sometimes not so subtle language. I followed the cues of my body and found ease and comfort in our simple co-existence.
Now Raina is five months old and we are breastfeeding exclusively. I plan to continue until she initiates weaning. I would love to be able to breastfeed her for the first two years of her life and perhaps beyond if she so desires. In educating myself about the importance of breastfeeding and attending La Leche League meetings, I have learned a tremendous amount about the nutritional benefits of mother's milk beyond the first year, and the bonding element of this experience.
As I enjoy this sacred time with my daughter, I can't help but feel a twinge of sadness for what I missed with my son. The infant and toddler years are fleeting, and breastfeeding helps mark this time with a wonderful closeness. I've found the beauty of pregnancy, birth, and the art of breastfeeding have helped shape me as a parent and allowed me to further attune myself with the natural rhythms of motherhood