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02/13/2005

It happened one night

Usually Paul tends Charlie around midnight. I take the 4 AM feeding because I need to be up to pump anyway. This generally allows each of us to get a short stretch of unbroken sleep, although it's imperfect; pumping every two to three hours plays hell with a girl's slumber. I'm philosophical about that, since I know that if Charlie were nursing I'd be up then, anyway.

I say "usually" and "generally" because we've been known to switch off when one of us needs to crash. Last night Paul was in dire straits, so I volunteered to be on duty all night.

I started feeding Charlie at 10:30, confident that he'd be finished and sleeping peacefully by the time I needed to pump at 11:30. Somewhere along the line, though, he started getting pissy. He'd suck on his bottle, but a few pulls in he'd start arching back, making a terribly angry face, and screaming. After a few rounds of this, I concluded that he wanted to suck but had a full stomach, so I put his pacifier in his mouth. He'd suck on that for a while, then repeat the same routine of angry contortions. I tried to pretend we were playing a game of charades at a sophisticated '30s house party, but he remained unamused by my guesses: swaddling? No. Rocking? No. Jiggling? No. Swing? No. Shushing loudly into his ear to drown out his angry yowls? No, and quit that, goddamn it.

Inconsolaboy.

Nothing was working, so as a last-ditch effort I shucked off what little clothing I was wearing and put him to breast, sans nipple shield, sans ceremony. I thought he might find some comfort noodling around with my nipple, smelling my scent. (Because the fenugreek has apparently infiltrated my every gland, I smell like the unwashed nether folds of Mrs. Butterworth, thanks for asking.)

My friends, he nursed like a motherfucking champ.

He latched. He sucked. He gulped and swallowed and practically chewed with his mouth open and drank the contents of his finger bowl. When I switched him to the other breast once he'd seemed to slow down, he took to it like, um, like a mammal to milk.

That boy can nurse.

However, since I'd managed to get in some pumping while he howled unhappily in the swing, I knew my breasts weren't full, so when he dropped off my breast a while later and still looked hungry, I investigated the bottle I'd been trying to give him when our peaceful mealtime went to hell. I thought maybe the milk had gone sour, so — I can't believe I did this, much less that I am confessing it — I put the nipple in my mouth and gave it an experimental suck.

Nothing happened. No milk, though the bottle was half full.

A few more sucks and...something...worked its way free. The holes in the nipple had been blocked, and all of Charlie's formidable sucking power could not dislodge that...something.

My boy was yelling, and my boy nursed at last because he was practically starving.

We finally slept, with Charlie dropping off exhausted and me eventually drifting off after making grand plans to sweep into the lactation consultant's office, Charlie nursing contentedly in his sling, modestly declaring that it was really nothing, after all. Just a little patience was all it took! (It goes without saying that in my vision, I was svelte, Charlie was cherubic, and the sling had an impeccable cut, making me look fashionable and maternal all at once.)

This morning I pumped a bit first to get my letdown going, and put him to breast again, eager to hold the ground we'd gained last night.

And he would have none of it.

None.

He screamed. He wailed. He would not latch. He would not suck. He hated my breasts again, or still.

I'm fucked. As long as I lactate, I hope. As long as I hope, I'll try. And as long as I try, I suspect he will scream. I am fucked, my friends. Just fucked.

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