I’m a new mom. I’m not sure I’m doing this right, but we’re both still breathing so I’ll go with it.
My son, Emmett, has two ages. A gestational one: five weeks, and a corrected one: zero. Preemies get to have this kind of “leap year” status for a while until they develop to the same benchmarks as their full-term peers.
Emmett seems to know he arrived early and underweight, and has been enlisting the help of my boobs to get on track as fast as possible. I used to have nice nipples. Pre-pregnancy nipples are small and round like funfetti . These days, they look more like a couple of beat up Chapsticks that went missing—you know what I’m talking about. The ones that eventually turned up in your car one random afternoon in July. THOSE Chapsticks.
This round-the-clock “cluster feeding” as my parenting books refer to it, is really putting a dent in my sleep. I knew this would be part of motherhood, but what’s surprising me is my ability to sleep through breastfeeding. Despite my son’s forceful latch and the fact that my breasts feel like they’re running over a cheese grater every time he feeds, I actually catch myself dozing off and have to snap-to so I don’t drop him onto the floor. I’ve heard women talking about being able to lay down while their children lay beside them feeding peacefully, so I thought I’d give it a try.
It was going well until I heard some congestion. In my snoozy state, I made a note to myself that I’d spend some time in Emmett’s nostrils with the nose plunger the next time we did a diaper change, but then I realized the sound was coming from the breast milk that was running out of his nose.
I was waterboarding my son with breast milk. Worst.mom.ever.
We quickly got ourselves sorted out…I blotted up the milk with the edge of my shirt (note that shirts are just bibs fashioned into garments you can wear over a larger surface area of the body). I pulled Emmett into the familiar football hold, cursing my attempt to innovate the tried and true ways of breastfeeding. In a wave of shame, I glanced around the room as if a jury of experienced moms might be lurking in the shadows of 5:00AM, waiting to revoke my maternal rights.
This cocktail of self-doubt and creativity seems to be a familiar feeling as I head into my sixth week of motherhood.