I have a secret. I am an abused mother. My abuser is sitting next to me as we speak, chewing on his bonding doll and patting my leg. He’s about 19 pounds of pure sweet–until he’s latched on to my breast.
We are fans of the Sears’ Baby Book, and in the early days of our life with Baby Genius, I particularly enjoyed the discussion in this book of different types of breastfeeding babies. There is the “nipper-napper” who can’t get a full meal in because he always falls asleep. There is the “chomper” who gums or bites her mom while nursing. There’s “Mr. Nurse a Little Look a Little” who eats then looks around, then eats, then looks around. But the one they don’t talk about in the Sears book, the one who Baby Genius has quickly become is “The Abuser.”
My son and I have always shared a pretty easy breastfeeding relationship. We were lucky, I guess, because he developed a good latched fairly quickly and had a good appetite, and I had a good supply and enjoyed the whole process. I still enjoy it, in fact. There is nothing quite as sweet as snuggling up with my baby for a nursing session.
Until he starts kicking me in the legs. Or biting me. Or pinching my arm. Or slapping me repeatedly.
Yes, my sweet Baby Genius does these things. The kicking he has been doing for awhile. He kicks with both legs at my inner thigh, and sometimes pretty hard. This is particularly painful when he hits this varicose vein area I have on my right leg. I used to be able to gather his legs up and contain him, but as he gets bigger, this is becoming increasingly more difficult, and sometimes when I do gather him up like this, he kicks me in the arm, the throat, or my other breast.
The chomping, as one might imagine, is more painful, and I can usually break him of it by either pulling him close to me so that he has to open his mouth to breathe or by removing him altogether and closing up the milk bar. Right now, he’s teething, and for a time, he would stop nursing and chew on his fingers if he needed to chew. I called this a victory, but I think I called it too son, for now out of the blue, he’ll bite down and proceed to pull himself off v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. He grins as he does this. Needless to say, we’re working on this again, lest I either lose a nipple entirely or they’re stretched to look like garden hoses.
The worst of all, though, is the pinching. I know it doesn’t sound bad. How bad could a little pinch from a baby be, right? Well, let me tell you. I have baby finger-sized bruises all over my upper arms. My son is a brute. He loves to pinch my upper arms while he’s nursing. Sometimes he’ll get both hands in on it and just pinch and pull at my skin until I’m sure he’s going to pull it off. He pinches the muscle under the skin too. He pinches like he’s got needle-nosed pliers attached to his hands and a man with olympic strength is operating those pliers. Occasionally, when his nails are getting a little long, he causes abrasions. He has even drawn blood.
Sometimes, when Baby Genius is particularly tired and rambunctious, he does all of these things at once, and he’ll add some rhythmic slapping to the mix, hitting my forearm or my chest over and over again. These are times when I feel like I’m trying to wrangle some sort of Tasmanian devil. This is when I begin to understand why women stop breastfeeding. But these are also the times when I wonder where my sweet baby has gone and who this rowdy boy is who has replaced him.
And then, just like that, all activity will stop, and I’ll look down at him to see a pair of big blue eyes loving me. I’ll see those eyes flutter closed as he nestles into me and falls asleep. Then that amnesia of motherhood takes hold, and I forget I’ve just been beaten and battered by my baby. I disregard the bruises and the bleeding, and I’m just happy to nurse my baby again.