As my daughter and I come to the end of our breastfeeding journey together, I rejoice, and I weep. Deeply… for I am still healing. And I am still celebrating the lessons.
We are born hungry. If we survive the passage into this world, we arrive with a primal pulse to connect and feed. When I first witnessed this primal hunger in my newborn baby I was forever changed. I didn’t know how or why at the time, but now, almost three years later as our breastfeeding journey is coming to a close, I am having aching revelations, showing me how my baby daughter’s hunger is deeply connected to my own hunger and longing as a woman.
The day I met my daughter I hadn’t slept in four days. I was shivering in a darkened room. I was in shock. Moments prior I had been lying flat on my back in the operating room. I couldn’t feel my body, but I could see it shaking under the blue paper sheets. My senses were dull from the anesthetic. There was a rise of commotion, and then an enormous tug as the surgeon removed my darling from my abdomen. I watched the tension held in my body physically and emotionally deflate into the table, relieved from birthing this baby. I heard her right away. A loud clear voice, and my heart warmed. Shortly after registering her cry, my husband brought her tightly swaddled body to the right side of my face. I couldn’t move my head to greet her. Knowing this wasn’t our time to meet, he whisked her away to the nursery for some skin on skin contact.
Now, in the recovery room, numb and parched, I waited in groggy anticipation to meet my baby girl. The door opened. I could barely see the outline of my husband holding our daughter. Before I recognized her form I was aware of my daughter’s hunger. There was an urgency in my body to feed her. As her body came closer, my eyes focused for the first time and my gaze rested on my daughter’s swollen searching mouth. Her deep-seated hunger to be fed lit up the room and commanded presence. I recognized this hunger, I felt it in my belly and heart: I knew it in my soul. Her searching lips propelled her across the room, guiding her home to her natural place of belonging, where she could be deeply nourished.
My daughter’s mouth found and landed on my breast. The first contact, the first introduction to my little girl. In that first touch, I knew her. I met her soul and in that instance knew her very being. Weakened, I melted and emerged anew. We were simultaneously hungry and being fed. It was a mutual feeding of souls at such depths… It was unlike anything I have ever experienced before. The hunger was visceral for us both, but for different reasons. Her hunger emerged pure and unapologetic, elemental as her heartbeat, necessary for her survival. Mine, still primal and raw, rose up from deep within, where it had been obscured by a lifetime of heavy and complicating defenses, weighted with countless “shoulds” and “should nots.” These precious initial moments of breastfeeding my daughter illuminated my own soul’s hunger, inspiring its raw natural brilliance, while simultaneously revealing the places of tarnish.
All humans begin this way. Our inborn hunger to connect and be fed is perfect. Then we walk our respective life paths and for a variety of countless reasons we lose our way, forgetting that this intrinsic hunger is not only perfect, it is central to our humanity. As a therapist (and human!), I am familiar with this journey of losing one’s way and coming back home to one’s self. When I sit with clients it’s my job to serve as an ally of support during this time. Much of the work in therapy is to compassionately unearth how and why people have strayed so far from what they truly want and need. Gradually, we learn that we don’t need to defend and hide the natural expression of who we are. We return more often and easily to that pure pulse of hunger, our perfect longing to connect and belong. We learn that we are indeed exquisite beings.
Despite my personal and professional experiences with this process of homecoming and the subsequent healing, nothing could have prepared me for the radical lesson that awaited me in that first experience of breastfeeding my daughter. For the first time in my adult life, my breasts were no longer sexual objects devoid of a lived personal experience and story, but rather alive with purpose and nourishment for my baby. I felt strong, productive, and life-giving. I was experiencing my physical female body as a complete subjective presence in relation to another human’s physical need.
I had no idea just how much I hungered for this experience until it was happening. And as it was happening, I was healing. Healing the painful conditioning of generations of hurt and anguish of being objectified and hyper-sexualized as a woman in the world. Never before had I been so needed, wanted, and desired from another human unapologetically rooted in their hunger and dependency. My response was natural and effortless. The generative power of my woman-ness moved me to complete awe.
My body ached with purpose, longing to be used in service. Being of service to my baby brought me complete and unequivocal joy. The simplicity of the moment was nothing short of profound.
As my daughter and I come to the end of our breastfeeding journey together, I rejoice, and I weep. Deeply… for I am still healing. And I am still celebrating the lessons. To my daughter, my gratitude is unending. Her natural being is forever a gift. It brought me into the marvelous power of my female body like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I pray that she will live from this power as a woman and continue to trust, enjoy, and delight in her own being, knowing her inherent perfection. I dedicate this writing in appreciation and recognition of our bond, and how we were able to grow and nourish one another during this blessed time.