24 Mar 2012

Newborn Bliss All Over Again

A few days ago I enjoyed a most powerful deja vu with a teeny tiny baby. I can still see her little mouth gaping wide open searching for my nipple as she tries again and again to latch. Her hands make tight fists that press into my chest, pushing herself away from my nipple, and away from what she wants so desperately - the food source. Not having much, if any, breast tissue to accommodate her limbs, I gently move her arms out of the way to bring her lips in contact with my nipple. In hunger, she puts her finger in her mouth at the same time as my nipple. Again, I move her hand out of the way. Absolutely everything in her life is about wanting to suckle and swallow.
I nursed Lila using a supplementer.
Lila doesn't care that I'm transgender - she just wants to breastfeed.
And then I feel her finally grab hold and not let go. The pull of her lips is strong and determined, yet precarious. I don't dare move my arms for fear of unlatching her. I hear her rhythmic, satisfied gulping and know that I am the centre of her universe. Nothing can distract her from her desire to breastfeed. She doesn't know or care that I'm a transgender guy using a supplemental nursing system and donated breast milk. I share in her bliss.

Then my back starts to ache from the stiffness of my pose. I look at the clock and see that forty-five minutes have gone by and she's only taken an ounce or two. Those newborns take forever to eat! She sleeps for a brief few minutes and then is ready to nurse yet again. Now I remember the sheer exhaustion of the early weeks. Still, my day spent with this seven-week-old was a gift.

My friend had called us around 10am that morning to say that she was feeling very ill. Ian picked her up and brought her to the hospital. He took her infant, Lila, and toddler, Samuel, to our home where I was entertaining a number of friends and their babies. It turned out that the poor sick mom had appendicitis and would spend that night and the following day in the hospital.

First we tried to bottlefeed our tiny charge, but she choked and gagged on the fast-flowing milk. Then my friend Emily attempted to finger-feed her with an SNS tube - sometimes it worked, other times the milk wouldn't flow at all.

In the afternoon, Ian walked Lila over to the hospital to be nursed by her mother in the emergency waiting room. He suggested that I could breastfed Lila the next time around, and my friend agreed. So, a few hours later, after a failed attempt at finger-feeding, I did what was easiest for everyone and nursed the babe.

Breastfeeding Lila was beautiful and joyful, and also brought up some anxiety for me. I have so little breast tissue that latching on a baby takes tremendous focus and determination from both parties involved. Today I am suddenly in awe of myself for having done it, day in, day out, and never, ever giving in to a single bottle feeding when Jacob was little. And I got a good reminder this week of WHY I did it: even with all my specific challenges, nursing was obviously a happier and more comforting experience to Lila, who surely must have been missing her mother.

My own Jacob is almost a year old, and I breastfeed him with ease. He crawls into my lap, pulls my usually open, button-down shirt out of the way, and latches on by himself whenever he wants. If he seems tired, or upset, or out of sorts, or even if I'm just sick of running after him and badly want to sit down for a few minutes, I get out the SNS and nurse him. I wish that more people knew about the pleasures of nursing an older baby or toddler. Gone is all that intensity and effort of feeding a newborn, and what is left, for us anyway, is a comforting, easy relationship.

After my friend received her diagnosis and a surgery was planned for later in the evening, her husband came over to pick up their kids. Lila was full and fast asleep, and Samuel, the toddler, grinned from ear to ear at the sight of his Dad. We were thanked profusely, but in all honesty I just about feel guilty: I got to nurse a precious, heart-melting seven-week-old baby and hang around with her sweet, surprisingly helpful toddling brother while their Mom was dealing with a ton of pain. I'm pretty sure I got the long end of the stick on that one.


  1. I think this is the only thing I want to remember from that day. I can't thank you all enough. <3

    1. Lol! I completely understand that feeling Nitsa. You're welcome, but it was such a pleasure.

  2. This story brought tears to my eyes. I have had the joy of nursing new a friends newborn babies. It was rough because Her twins and my son were less than a month apart. So it was like nursing triplets! At the same time, it was a wonderful time. Exhausting, but wonderful.

    1. WOW!! I'd love to hear more about this story. You sound like an amazing mom and friend.

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