Category: postpartum

Ricki Lake Made Me Do It

One of my favorite short stories is “Giving Birth” by Margaret Atwood. For whatever reason, long before I became a mother myself, this story has fascinated me, and I’ve returned to it again and again, writing essays about it in college, in graduate school, even including an analysis of it in my master’s thesis. Perhaps what has captivated me is its portrayal of the sea change that happens to a woman once she gives birth, the inner transformation that occurs, one simultaneously subtle and earthmoving. 

There are moments when I so completely enter this alternate reality of motherhood that I feel like I’ve always been here – and other moments, when I’m struck by the sudden and total shift in my life, that I feel knocked off balance. This happens to me most when I leave the house. The other day I met a friend for coffee at my favorite haunt, a place where I regularly used to spend large chunks of time, writing and grading for hours at a stretch. This was my first time in the coffee shop since having Julian – in fact, it was my first time away from him at all – and it honestly felt bizarre to be there, sitting at my usual table, ordering my usual drink, looking around at the other customers who were all unaware that the world had changed. 

Moments like that, when I run smack into remnants of my old life, reveal to me how much has shifted in my tiny universe – and how much the outside world has stayed relentlessly the same. 

This is how Atwood’s story ends, hinting at the transfiguration that has occurred in the life of Jeanie, the woman who just gave birth:

After that the baby is carried in, solid, substantial, packed together like an apple, Jeanie examines her, she is complete, and in the days that follow, Jeanie herself becomes drifted over with new words, her hair slowly darkens, she ceases to be what she was and is replaced, gradually, by someone else. 

Already I can feel that happening to me, the new words layering themselves, a new self emerging, the “someone else” whom I am turning into. Most of the time life moves at such a crawl that we remain blind to its constant change, but there are some experiences, like becoming a parent, that strike like lightning and, in just a flash, we are utterly altered. 

The experience of giving birth was like that for me – so much so that it’s taken me literally weeks to get to place where I feel I can begin to write about it, to attempt to funnel its vastness into words somehow. I have tried, unsuccessfully, to cram all my thoughts and memories about Julian’s birth into one blog post – and that is proving impossible, so instead I’m going to start a series of several reflections on giving birth. I’ll do this thing piecemeal, starting here. 

Ricki Lake Made Me Do It 

I used to be terrified of the idea of giving birth. And it’s no wonder, considering how birth is typically represented on television and film: the screaming woman lying flat on a stretcher, flanked by a pit crew of doctors who are whisking her down the hall in a panic, as if babies just sort of shoot out like torpedoes after five minutes of life-threatening labor. And once they arrive in the room with the fancy medical equipment, then the woman screams some more, and (if it’s a romantic comedy) yells angrily at the inept, doofy husband standing by her who is weirded out to be in the Land of Lady Parts, while the male doctor and his entourage of female nurses efficiently deliver the baby – and if it’s a drama or something historical, then there is only one male doctor and a lot of blood and somebody dies, usually the mother. Whatever the genre, the message is clear: giving birth is a painful, abnormal, dangerous EMERGENCY. 

How can women not be spooked by the idea of labor with representations like that?
This harrowing image of birth was amplified by snippets of birth stories I’d hear from real women. I was particularly disturbed whenever anyone talked about “tearing” during labor, as if she had to somehow split open to let the baby escape, as if giving birth was akin to being disemboweled. 

A big shift happened for me when I watched the documentary The Business of Being Born a few years ago. Along with a wealth of information about the medicalization of childbirth in the US, the film has a bunch of footage of actual births – and they were nothing like what I’d seen on TV. No panic, no sense of emergency, no screaming (not much, anyway), and perhaps most striking, these women seemed in charge of their own labors. They were the furthest things from passive patients; they moved around, changed positions; they seemed to dive calmly into the pain and hard work of labor, rather than struggling against it. Some of the women even delivered the babies themselves, catching them as they slid smoothly out of their bodies. For the first time, it really hit me that giving birth is a natural process that the female body, my own included, is engineered to accomplish. 

After seeing the footage of those live births (and trying not to be distracted by all of Ricki Lake’s crazy hats), my terror about giving birth dissipated and was replaced by gritty anticipation. This heightened once I got pregnant, as it began to dawn on me that the little being growing rapidly inside of me was going to have to come out, one way or another. At that point, when I thought about my impending labor, I had a kind of rush, like something I used to feel before a basketball game, or a big race. I felt like flexing and shaking out my muscles, putting on my game face and saying: Let’s do this. 

That is not to say that I didn’t have any anxiety about the process – I did. Well, one primary fear, really: I didn’t want birth to be something that happened to me. I wanted to be like one of those Zen goddesses from Ricki Lake’s documentary who just seemed to deep-breath babies out of their bodies. I didn’t want to be the screaming woman flat on her back while a slew of medical professionals buzzed around, extracting the baby. (Spoiler: I will save the full birth story for another post, but I would end up being pretty much a mash-up of these two images.) 

Before watching that film, the idea of having an unmedicated birth sounded crazy and, well, a little show-offy to me. The whole “did you do it naturally?” conversation seemed like a maternal pissing contest. I had the simplistic notion that medicated births were smooth, seamless, and relatively painless, while the “natural” births were more difficult, longer, excruciating, and more dangerous. As it turns out, for many women (and I must stress that I am not saying all women), the opposite is true. 

So, starting with that documentary, my perspective on birth began to shift so much that, three years later, I was choosing to pursue an unmedicated birth myself. Even though the scheduled c-section/tummy tuck combo is all the rage with celebrities these days, I wanted to really experience labor. I wanted it to surprise me, coming on whenever my womb and Julian had reached some tacit agreement that “it was time,” and then I wanted to feel my body contracting, my baby descending; I wanted to know fully what it meant to give birth to a human being.

I also wanted to avoid the cascade of unnecessary medical interventions as described in The Business of Being Born. When normal, low-risk birth is pathologized, when it’s seen as something that must be treated, the “treatments” can actually end up interfering with the natural process of birth, resulting in the need for an emergency c-section. In many hospitals across the country, women are routinely put on a drug called Pitocin to speed up their labor, often for the convenience of the doctor and hospital, rather than for the good of the woman. Pitocin, an artificial version of the hormone oxytocin, increases the strength and frequency of contractions, which in turn makes labor FAR more painful for the woman, who will typically and understandably opt for an epidural, which can then slow down labor even more, so dial up the Pitocin … and anyway, this dance of medications goes on until the mother is exhausted and the baby is either born or put into distress from the intensified contractions, at which point a c-section becomes necessary. 

Well, I wanted to avoid getting on that rollercoaster to begin with – I wanted my labor to progress naturally, so I could hopefully avoid getting an epidural. While I wasn’t afraid of the pain of labor, I was totally creeped out by the idea of being paralyzed from the waist down while trying to push a baby out. I know that epidurals are common and safe and many women love them – but this neurotic girl didn’t like the idea of not being able to walk or move or feel. 

So, yes, I’d watched Ricki Lake and I’d read Ina Mae, and I’d drunk the natural childbirth Kool-Aid. I believed what I was hearing, that unmedicated birth can be a richer and often less harrowing experience for many women. And I entered into labor feeling extremely prepared, almost to the point of smugness. I knew what kind of birth I wanted, I’d read all the books, I’d made a detailed birth plan – I was ready.  

And all that preparation, all those breathing exercises, the mantras, the various laboring positions – all that was whisked away once I was thrown fully into the excrutiating pain of back labor, pain so intense that I vomited with every contraction, pain that only ebbed and never quit between contractions. Pain that crescendoed for eleven hours.  

My main motivation for having an unmedicated birth was that I wanted to be fully present; I wanted to see what my body was capable of. Well, I certainly got to experience that last part; I now know the depths of my physical strength and power. But if I’m completely honest with myself, there is a part of me that wonders whether being fully present to the painof a difficult labor actually prevented me from having that ecstatic, triumphant, epiphanous experience that I’d read about and wanted. 

Now, on the other side, and with many weeks insulating me from the fresh memory of how agonizing my labor was, I can say with little hesitation that I am glad I went the “natural” route, and that I will choose to do so again in the future. But I can remember another me, the me immediately after giving birth, who felt traumatized by the intense, excruciating, relentless pain she’d endured, the me who is like a ghost in those first pictures, as pale as her newborn son. She’s looking around in a daze after returning from a place behind words, after having her eyes clenched shut for hours, and, as language slowly returns to her, she’s wondering: what just happened to me…? 

I had a beautiful labor, yes, but beautiful in the way that looming mountains are beautiful, or God is beautiful – a terrible, overpowering, dangerous kind of beauty. A beauty that rattles your bones. I was not one of Ricki Lake’s Zen goddesses. I was more like a crazed warrior, like someone plucked from Greek mythology who descends deep into the horror of the underworld and returns, after hours of torment, with the most precious boon.


Metamorphosis (Or: Apparently My Body is Missing?!)

My soul would sing of metamorphoses.
But since, o gods, you were the source of these
bodies becoming other bodies, breathe
your breath into my book of changes…
~ Ovid, The Metamorphoses
My abdomen is probably the only part of my body I’ve never felt insecure about. Everything else has, at one time or another, been overrun by pudge, pimples, stretch marks, or, the most likely culprit in my case, unwanted body hair. When I gain weight, I tend to pack it on around the hips, thighs, chest, but, thanks to the crapshoot of genetics, I have never really had a flabby stomach.

That, however, is no longer the case. My abdomen is a fleshy pillow now. I can sink my fingers into it like bread dough.

My body has gone through many permutations over the past ten months, but this one is the most engrossing to me so far, because, well, I kind of like it. It’s just so soft. If I were a baby, I’d much rather curl up on my fleshy belly pillow than, say, a washboard.

This fascination with my post-partum belly started literally right after labor. I kept my eyes covered with a washcloth while I was pushing, because my senses were so overloaded I couldn’t process visual stimuli, but at the moment of Julian’s birth my mom pulled the cloth away and the first thing I saw was my rounded belly, free now of baby and jiggling like a unstable tower of Jell-O. And then Julian was there, warm and perfect and covered in goo, and I welcomed him onto the soft cushion of my torso, an ideal place to land when first entering the world.

Sure, my shallow, neurotic, appearance-conscious self loathes the Belly Pillow, but part of me feels affection and protectiveness toward it, similar to the way I get defensive of my obese cat, Little Tubbers, when people comment on her girth. (I prefer to think she’s just “fluffy.”)

As recounted in a previous post, my breasts have undergone the biggest changes (emphasis on “biggest”). When I look in the mirror, I still can’t help but think, “Geez, whose breasts are these?” I didn’t get many stretch marks on my belly, just a few purple commas around my hips, but my breasts, on the other hand, with their deep blue veins and violet squiggles pinwheeling out from the aereola, have bloomed into something almost otherworldly.

Sometimes I look at this new body of mine and feeling a twinge of despair, thinking of the suitcase stashed in the attic that I masochistically labeled “skinny clothes,” a suitcase filled with the trappings of my former body, including one beloved pair of jeans that I hope to be reunited with one day.

Other times I look at myself and just feel raw fascination. Our bodies are constantly undergoing minute changes, but the processes of pregnancy and childbirth wreak such hurried transformations – it’s like watching one of those time lapse nature videos of seeds sprouting and flowering, while the sun skims repeatedly across the sky, marking days like seconds. Only instead of a seed, it’s my own body expanding and unfurling before my eyes.

The moments when I feel love (or at least not-hate) toward this new body of mine are healthy moments, I think – but they are too few and fleeting. I would guess most, if not all, women in our culture feel some level of anxiety about their bodies at any given moment; it’s like a constant hum in the background, a white noise we’ve grown so used to hearing that we live by its rhythm.

This body anxiety, and body awareness in general, was certainly amplified for me during pregnancy. I gained forty pounds – maybe even more, because my final pregnancy weigh-in at the hospital flashed up in kilograms, and I told the nurse not to translate that into pounds for me. I had enough to worry about without that last little blow. By that time I was fed up with being weighed regularly at the midwife’s office, watching the numbers climb at a rate often exceeding the “pound per week” rule. (I once mentioned to a male colleague over lunch that I’d gained almost five pounds in the previous two-week period and he responded by gaping at me in disbelief and horror – not cool, bro.) Thanks to Google and those pastel pamphlets from the doctor’s office, I had it burned in my brain that the optimal pregnancy weight gain is between 25-35 pounds – and to go beyond that range surely meant that I was a careless fatty with no self-control.

Well, I blew past those markers fairly early into my third trimester, much to my dismay and puzzlement. I wasn’t sure where all that weight was coming from or going. After all, I vomited almost daily for the first twenty-two weeks of my pregnancy and didn’t get a healthy appetite back until the seventh month or so. I had also gone off sweets almost entirely and had delusions of making that change permanent (sweets are a weak spot of mine); I thought I’d finally broken the stranglehold of cupcakes and hot tamales over my life. But, of course, when my appetite didreturn, so did my hankering for all things baked and sugared. Still, I didn’t go totally overboard. Most days.

As it turns out, most of my pregnancy weight was fluid retention, and it was distributed so evenly all over my body that it was hard to tell it was happening. My mom bought me a nice pair of zip up boots during my third trimester, and I had to struggle to zip them up over my calves. I remember railing against the boot makers in my mind, cursing their obvious prejudice for model-types with unrealistically skinny legs – but lo and behold, those boots zip up easily now, with room to spare. Toward the very end of the pregnancy, I even began to suspect that my nose was getting wider. When I asked Michael to verify this, he said I was just being paranoid, but he has since confessed that yes, my nose did indeed flatten out, but he wasn’t about to admit that to my (distended) face.

So everywhere from my calves, to my nose, to my eyeballs, my body was absorbing enough fluid to make my weight skyrocket, but distributing the fluid so seamlessly all over that I was starting to worry I’d have a elephantine infant, or that my pregnant belly was creating some optical illusion that somehow slimmed the rest of my body in comparison – and after labor I’d suddenly realize that, shit, I had totally porked out.

Now I realize that all that anxiety, all that weight-watching, was for naught. One midwife told me early on that, as long as I ate well and don’t become a total slug, my body would gain however much weight it needed to. Even though I didn’t really listen to her at the time, I now know she was right, and I’m a little embarrassed about how much worry I wasted over those weigh-ins. I gained 40+ pounds without trying and a week after giving birth I’d lost 30 of them – again, without trying, because my body is just gonna do its thang.

And that “thang” is actually astonishing. When I think about what I have endured physically over the last ten months, I am awed by what my body has been up to. It’s infuriating to me that women who’ve just given birth are exhorted to “get our bodies back” – as if our bodies have disappeared somewhere, as if they’re on the run and we have to track them down like Dog the Bounty Hunter and wrangle them into submission.

Our bodies haven’t absconded; they’ve been here all along, accomplishing miraculous feats of nature. The maternal body is capable of incredible metamorphosis, wondrous creation. Give me a little genetic material and, in under a year, I will grow you a human being, and my body will split itself open to bring that being into the world and then make milk for it, ex nihilo.

Yet our distorting culture wants to hide the wonder of metamorphosis, instead demanding that the female body be static and plastic and ornamental, demanding that we conceal our changeability, our capacity for creation, growth, transformation.

I had worried, prior to giving birth, about what my body would look like afterwards, and contemplated the maneuvers I could take to erase all physical traces of pregnancy and childbirth – but now that feels wrong, like a betrayal. My abdomen is doughy because it grew and housed my son, keeping him warm and cushioned in his water world. Scrambling to maintain the illusion that life does not etch itself into our cells and skin – this seems not only futile but disrespectful to me now.

In reality, I will never “get my body back.” Maybe I’ll get back into those beloved jeans, maybe I won’t, but either way, my body will remain permanently marked, physically and emotionally, by motherhood. And I want to love this incredible, life-giving flesh I inhabit  even the pillowy bits. I want to love it whole.

(And, every once in awhile, I do.)

Breast is best, but my nipple f****** hurts.

I grew up with a fairly utopian view of breastfeeding. My mom nursed me until I was three, long enough for me to creatively name her breasts “Nippy” and “Nipple.” She was a La Leche League member and always talked openly about the physical and emotional benefits of breastfeeding for both baby and mama. My mom describes her “perfect moment” as the day I was born, mid-November 1983. She was the only patient in the tiny small-town hospital in Idaho and spent the day nursing me as the first snowfall of winter drifted down outside, insulating us from the world. Apparently I was an eager eater from day one. That image of us, skin to skin in snow-muffled silence, has taken root – and even though it’s a story that’s been told to me, not an active memory, I trace the narrative of my life back to that moment.

Of course, the beatific picture of breastfeeding has been countered by less romantic experiences gleaned from other women, stories about cracked nipples, chronic pain, engorged breasts – and, perhaps most horrifically, one friend who had mastitis and looked down during a nursing session to see her baby choking on a mouthful of blood.

I went into labor with these two extremes in mind – either I was going to be one of those lucky women who entered seamlessly and painlessly into breastfeeding, or I was going to have to suffer through it, teeth gritted, for the good of The Child. Of course, like most things in life, reality runs between these poles. At this point, one month in, I am beginning to genuinely enjoy breastfeeding  but those teeth-gritting, expletive-muttering moments have not yet completely vanished.

So, here is my candid assessment of breastfeeding thus far: the good, bad, and ugly.
The Bad

Breastfeeding was a total rollercoaster at first. I’m not someone who has very, um, hardy nipples, so the first couple of weeks were like boot camp for my boobs – my nipples needed to toughen the hell up. Left Boob was a quick study; I had some soreness and a milk blister on that side that healed quickly, and nursing was pretty painless after a week or two. But Right Boob… well, Right Boob is lagging. Right Boob will not be recruited for Special Forces. Right Boob will be cleaning the latrines.

Sometime in the first week, my right nipple cracked, and the lovely fissure that formed there has yet to disappear. It keeps almost healing, taunting me with its progress, only to suddenly gape open and begin hurting again, especially after Julian has one of those squirmy feeds where he goes after my breast like a frantic little lap dog with a squeaky toy. I’ve tried copious amounts of lanolin, expressing a bit of milk on the nipple after each feeding, those “soothie” gel pads – pretty much anything you can google, I’ve given a shot. Most recently, I’ve been doing these saline soaks after breastfeeding, followed by a little Neosporin and some Monistat, to make sure I don’t get a fungal infection (yum!). This seems to be helping, so I’m hopeful. Maybe Right Boob will finally pony up.

Googling about breastfeeding gets annoying, though, as most websites proclaim that breastfeeding should be “absolutely painless” only a few days in, or you’re doing something wrong dum-dum. Well, I’ve met with two lactation consultants who have told me Julian has a good latch. One of them was a little purple lactation pixie (purple hair, purple earrings, purple scrubs, purple glasses, purple shoes) who said that, with the amount Julian was nursing, if we didn’thave a good latch my nipples would look like raw hamburger. Oy vey. So, it’s a little frustrating to have the internet gods constantly tweaking my new-mom insecurities. Maybe they just have a different definition of “painless.”

Aside from that doggedly persistent fissure, the other worst part about breastfeeding is thankfully over: engorgement. A few days after giving birth, my milk came in with a vengeance, transforming my breasts into giant, rock-hard torpedoes. My last day in the hospital, I took a few slow waddle-walks around the ward, and I noticed that it was suddenly difficult to breath deeply. Of course, my mind initially jumped to worst case scenario land and wondered if something was wrong with my circulation or my heart  until I finally figured out that it was just because my breasts were so damn heavy. My lungs were having to do battle with the boulders on my chest in order to inflate.

That hardness made it difficult for Julian’s tiny little mouth to latch on, so I spent a couple of incredibly frustrating days trying to feed my hungry baby from breasts that were too full to function correctly. Those were the worst moments: Julian wailing with his hunger cry, confused by the aching brick I was trying, unsuccessfully, to maneuver into his mouth – and then I’d lose it, too, and just start sobbing, feeling utterly inept and desperate. (It doesn’t help that engorgement coincides with the sudden hormonal abyss that women careen into a few days post-partum.)

But, like I said, that part is over, and Julian latches like a champ now, most of the time  except when he gets all dainty on me, puckering his mouth in a small “O” as if he expects to be served tea and ladyfingers. I much prefer when he claps both fists around my breast and goes to town like he’s chowing down on a giant hoagie.

The Ugly

I’ve always had a bit of a boob complex – at least since puberty, anyway. I was one of those lucky ones that “developed early.” I was certainly the first in my female circle to deal with armpit hair and probably the only girl in the entire sixth grade who needed to wear a bra. And, just so you know, it’s not cool to have breasts when you’re the only one. (Luckily, in seventh grade, boobs starting sprouting around me willy nilly, some even larger than mine, so I could breath a sigh of relief.)

Complicating my early admittance to puberty was the fact that I grew up in a religious context where boobs are basically seen as tantalizing bags of sin that should be concealed at all costs. I must have internalized that mindset to some extent, because I always wished I had the small, discrete breasts of a long-distance runner than, well, the ones that I’ve got. So, as you can imagine, it’s been unsettling to see my breasts double (triple?) in size throughout and after pregnancy. When Julian was first born, his head seemed completely dwarfed by one of my breasts, which just seemed a little excessive on Nature’s part – how could that little guy possibly need that much boob?

Yesterday I went for my first postpartum “run,” which was comical on many levels, most notably my attempt to cram my generous new ta-tas into a pre-pregnancy sports bra.

Of course, although I feel awkward about the sudden tightness of my shirts these days, breastfeeding has awakened a new brazenness within me. I am not shy about feeding Julian in front of people. Modesty? Qu’est-ce que c’est? Sometimes I wonder how many of our neighbors have witnessed my now standard Amazonian attire, as I shuffle around the kitchen in pajama pants, letting injured Right Boob get some air. Answer: No idea and I don’t care.

The Good

Even though I’ve spent most of this post kvetching, I have to say: the good of breastfeeding is really good.

I mean, my body is spontaneously producing a miraculous substance that meets all of the nutritional needs of my newborn – how amazing is that? A nasty stomach bug recently made the rounds in my family over the holidays – of the twenty-two relatives who were visiting, only four remained unscathed, including Julian and me. It was a relief to know, as loved ones dropped around us like flies, that my milk was pumping my baby full of all kinds of immunity-boosting goodness. And the fact that my wee snacker needs to eat so frequently meant that I basically spent the holidays in a comfy little nursing bubble, which probably helped keep the sickness at bay.

And the best of the good? My gooiest mama moments happen during breastfeeding. I look down, hypnotized by his face-at-rest, his eyes closed, as he makes little hums with each swallow, those pudgy cheeks earnestly working away — and then he’ll let out this shivery sigh of contentment and I just melt. And stare and stare and stare.

Mama’s a bit of a shut-in…

One month and two days into this thing called motherhood.

I find myself on facebook a lot more lately, peeking at other people’s lives – this new existence is isolating, though the isolation is pretty self-imposed. I could be one of those adventurous new moms who straps Baby to her and carts him around to all sorts of social functions, but I’m mostly quite content to stay at home, where I don’t have to wear a bra. So, for now, facebook is this window into the outside world, into the world I used to inhabit, where people get dressed in the morning and do exciting things like go out to coffee and try on clothes at Target.

Today, I even facebook stalked myself, scrolling back through my own timeline, looking at past posts from past friends, old status updates, feeling a little embarrassed about how carefully crafted my facebook persona is: mostly flattering pictures (some unrealistically so – those are always the best) and blurbs about various successes and milestones, carefully worded so as not to be too braggy, of course… Well, it all sounds a little tinny to me now. The facebook me is an ideal, a fiction of my own creation. And skimming through the years, I find myself wishing I’d constructed a more interesting story, one with more transparency about who I really was in that moment in time, what my life was really like – not just the noteworthy and witty stuff.

Of course, I’m still doing it – I’ve been plastering my wall with pictures of my newborn son. He is really cute, it’s true, but I haven’t really jumped to post more recent pics of his male pattern baldness and infant acne. On facebook, I said that he looks like a little monk (how cute!), but he more closely resembles Ron Howard’s brother

I’ve also avoided status updates altogether. What would they say?

–       “Today’s moment of triumph: taking a shower.”
–       “Every night my baby gets really tired and screams for an hour or so before he can figure out that he needs to just fall asleep.”
–       “Breastfeeding is going well on the left, but my right nipple has this fissure that just won’t heal. And I think it’s infected.”
–       “I like my baby.”
–       “I’m bored.”
–       “Bla bla bla Angry Birds.”

I’m already fighting the urge to make an ideal facebook persona for Julian, the baby who never cries, isn’t losing his hair, doesn’t spit up on me multiple times a day or grunt while he takes two or three loud shits every morning between 10 and 12, like clockwork. (Although, I suppose, regularity could be part of his perfect baby facebook persona.) Don’t get me wrong; I actually think my baby isperfect, just the kind of perfect that also gets fussy, shits, spits up, and goes bald. Perfection uncensored.

So, yes, this new life of motherhood is, so far, small and insulated — but also immeasurably deep. It’s a strange mix of the utterly mundane, monotonous, and frustrating — and then pure magic, sometimes in the same instant. I can list off, quite easily, the banal events of my day (breastfeeding, showering, eating, brief spurt of laundry, playing angry birds while breastfeeding some more…) during which I rarely leave my bedroom/nursery, but that would leave out the moments within those moments that open up and swallow me whole, as I’m looking down at this baffling, squirming life cuddled up next to me, breathing in his sweet milkiness, and I touch bliss.