The Body Knows

I think it was the second time we visited Jacob after I was discharged from the hospital.  I was still hurting a lot, even with more pain medicine that I was really comfortable taking.  My moods were all over the place.  We came into the dark, noisy (so much beeping!) NICU, scrubbed in, and walked over to Jacob’s isolette.  We talked with the nurse, and got ready to “kangaroo” – which means I take off my shirt and they put Jacob on my skin and cover us up with blankets.  We stayed for an hour, or a little more.  I slept, Craig took pictures and read to us.  Then it was time to go.

As we walked out of the hospital, I began to realize: my pain was practically gone.  My mood had lifted – there was no danger of a flood of tears at the moment.  It had never occurred to me till that moment: the drug my body needed was my baby.

Of course I have known, in my mind, the importance of mom and baby being together, but I usually thought of it as being for the sake of the baby more so than the mother.  Then I remembered going back to work after I had Lucy, and again after I had Samantha, and how hard it was to hand them off to someone else for a little while.  But I hadn’t had such a visceral reminder in a long time of how much we need each other.  My body never forgot.  It’s amazing how I make twice, three times as much milk if Jacob is in the room than if he’s not.  My body knows.

It’s a lesson I’ve learned before.  My body knows how to birth.  My body knows how to care for a newborn.  It knows how to heal.  We are all truly fearfully and wonderfully made, gifted with bodies that, if we listen, tell us how to care for ourselves and each other.  Such a gift God has given us.

And still, as much as I loved being home with my other children the rest of the day, as much as I loved spending the evenings with Craig, the hour or two I spent in the hospital with my baby brought peace to my day.  I just kept looking forward to bringing our feisty little bundle of peace home with us.

Little Hands

Ah, the things we learn from the wee ones.

For those of you who have ever nursed a newborn (sorry guys!), you know about those precious little hands.  The ones you want to kiss and spend hours admiring.  And swaddle within an inch of their life so they will stop getting between the baby’s mouth and your breast when he’s hungry.  Because the hungrier he is, the more likely those sweet little hands are acting as appetizers…except they don’t take the edge of baby’s hunger, they just make him more frustrated.  And who has enough hands to hold up the baby, position the breast, AND gently hold two little hands out of the way?

Thus the swaddling.

The poor child just doesn’t realize that if he would put aside his desire for his hands (even though they are great for munching most of the time), something much more delicious and nourishing would suddenly come this way.

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And now, for the slightly forced analogy to the spiritual life.

We never quite grow out of this tendency, do we?

Maybe it’s a not-so-great relationship, but we’re afraid that if we let it go, we’ll be alone.  Or a job we hate (or which simply isn’t good for us), but we’re afraid of not finding something that pays as much if we quit.

And then, of course, there’s sin.  What sins do we cling to, because they feel good, or maybe they just feel comfortable?  What do we fear if we let them go?

Are we too busy holding tight to our pride to seek God’s help and forgiveness?

What if we were to move our hands out of the way, and let God nourish us with his goodness?

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It’s Lent, and lots of us have given something up (sleep in my case – thanks Jacob!).  Hopefully we’ve been able to clear away something that was actually in the way of our spiritual growth.  It’s a good time to reflect: How well have we used this opportunity, this little emptying, to allow God to nourish us?  What are we still clinging to, blocking God from filling us with his love and goodness?

Bonus:  Here is a great article about the little hands and breastfeeding – which makes me feel bad about all the swaddling, but sometimes I get desperate.  Still, it was illuminating, and helped me be less frustrated with hands-in-the-way phenomenon.

Breast-feeding support, from the Beltway!

This is one of the best things I’ve seen come out of the government in a long time.

http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/topics/breastfeeding/calltoactiontosupportbreastfeeding.pdf

The Surgeon General has issued a “Call to Action in Support of Breast Feeding”, which (from my quick look) is pretty sweeping in its arguments for giving mothers more breast feeding support and in its suggestions for how to do that.  It’s a long read, and a lot of it is common sense (but apparently somebody has to say it – it’s not happening otherwise!) but there are a couple of parts worth looking at.

I’m particularly excited about pages 43-45, which suggest that formula companies ought to back off with advertising and giving of free samples, and that doctors should clear their offices of advertisements, free samples, pens, and the like which promote formula usage.  What happens when the hospital sends a new mother home with no support and a free sample of formula?  End of breast feeding.  I don’t dare to expect formula companies to stop advertising in “Parenting” magazine and the like, but I sincerely hope these recommendations are put into effect immediately, at least on the part of health care providers.  We have been watching Similac commercials in the OB’s office for the last few weeks, and I would certainly not miss them.  (If only they would do the same with prescription drug advertising, particularly contraceptives…but that’s another long discussion!)

The other exciting part is the call for employers to expand paid maternity leave and opportunities for mothers to nurse or pump at work.  (See pgs. 50-53 of the PDF.)  With as many women working as there are today, this would make a huge difference in how long many of them are able to continue breast feeding.

So it’s nice to see that somebody in D.C. is doing something that might just be worthwhile.  The hitch, of course, is that most of the actions recommended are voluntary, so there is still a ton of grass-roots work to be done.  But maybe this will open a few eyes to what they could be working on, and it certainly gives mothers a new tool for discussing these issues with their employers and health care providers, who tend to care about these sorts of documents.