a loving plea for late pregnancy and middle of the night nursing worries
Imagine you are a woman living in the jungle. You have no clocks; only seasons. You know the stars and the tides, but they are a part of your being more than a conscious thought.
Your baby grows within without conscious thought. The baby has zero concept of time. Is it time to grow a toenail? Time for that 30th hair on her head? Without any schedule or concept of time, it just happens.
Our jungle (or desert or forest or Amish) woman lives her life. She pays passing notice to the increased weight on her joints, the frequency to urinate; she lives her life. She harvests the food, or makes the bowls, or cleans the hut, or builds the house, or skins the animals or cleans the clothes in the river with her other sisters, pregnant and not. She does not have the luxury of sitting still and wondering about her body.
Contractions touch her, but things need to be done. She knows from experience that when her labor is enough to slow her down, it will be time to seclude herself. No one in the tribe even has a word for "Braxton-Hicks Contractions" or "prodromal labor" because the women have too much to do to stop and think about twinges (strong or not). The elders steal quick glances as she leans over again and again as she hangs the clothes to dry, yet no one mentions anything; the woman has enough... enough inside herself to do this work. And they all believe.
Once labor begins, depending on the culture, she might labor alone or with another woman or several women in attendance. Labor knows no time. There is no watch. No clock ticking on the wall. No one says, "You've been four centimeters for two hours now, time for pitocin." Labor is allowed to unfold in its own way. The women around her merely witness, remind her of her strength, press cold cloths to her face and hot ones to her lower back. And still, they all believe.
Pushing, the same thing... no clocks timing how long to push... that counting to ten three times for each push would seem absurd to our jungle woman! She pushes when she feels it. No one touches her cervix to feel if she is "complete." She is complete. Without anyone checking anything. Her completeness is simply a part of her existence.
The same can be said with nursing our babies. When there are no clocks, breastfeeding goes much smoother. When I was nursing my first child during the night, it would drive me wild because of how often he wanted (needed) to nurse. I would grind my teeth as I saw that he had just nursed 45 minutes earlier... that I had now been awake for longer than I had been asleep. That bred anger and resentment.
I did things differently with my second child. I learned to cover the clock - or better yet - remove it from the room. When she wanted to nurse, I was there, present, nursing my baby who, in the wilds of the world, would have clung to me for survival. It is the instinct with which she was born.
That same survival place that caused her to grow to health and wholeness inside... that didn't trigger labor until her lungs were fully ready to be born... that didn't know that I was tired when she was ready to be born (and didn't care)... that same survival place existed to remind me I was there to serve her - my body, in pregnancy and in nursing... and eventual continuous mothering. I was her complete servant. She didn't give one whit about time.
I encourage all women, especially pregnant or nursing, to let go of time. Grow your babies. Feel those tightenings. Embrace the beauty of your heartburn, your frequent peeing, your insomnia, your separated pubic bones, your weight gain... and your baby's movements under your flesh, your child's inner hiccups, your 100% safe-from-the-difficulties-of-this-world child. When exhaustion overwhelms you, feel your childs breath on your nipple, look at those silky eyelashes, touch his skin that will never be softer than this very moment, and know there will be a time when your child never nurses again. Pull this moment as tightly to your heart as you possibly can.
Time, as trite as it sounds, is so fleeting. My own heart cries for those aches and pains. My youngest is now almost three decades old and I am sorry for ever wishing any of those moments of difficulty away.
I speak here so others might take a deep and grounding breath, say a prayer or incantation if that is your way, and stay in the moment with your child. It is the only time ever you two will be alone together.
As your baby grows without guidance and conscious thought, so too, begins labor and birth. Your body producing nourishing milk continues the miracle of your perfection.
And we all believe.