A basket sits in a safe corner of my kitchen, where a mama cat snuggles her three nurslings. She comes out for food, or for a quick wander outside. At night, she catches mice in our kitchen.
Her babies never cry because they're hungry or lonely. She is always there, ready to nurse them before they cry out. She nuzzles them and keeps them clean and warm; they sleep in a cozy heap of safety and security.
Along came my second child. I had a non-verbal two-year-old on my hands as well, so she quickly found her thumb, and napped on her own. She often travelled in a sling or carrier, and was physically with me as much as possible, though not as much as her brother was.
My third was a different kettle of fish; you can read about it by clicking the Making Peace picture to the right.
I've been thinking of the 24-hour cure prescribed by my midwife when Margot wasn't gaining weight. For 24 hours, I snuggled in bed, skin-to-skin, with this new human, nuzzling her head, smelling her, kissing her, closely examining her little body. You see, with two other small children in the house, I'd barely had time to get to know my new child. This was a blessing and a revelation to me, to really savour her. She nursed and slept, I read and dozed, and was catered to by my loving family.
It seems to me that this is as it should be! My mother always warned me about getting out of my pyjamas after giving birth. She said that as soon as I started wearing real clothes again, everyone would expect that I was ready to resume all my normal duties: laundry, cooking, cleaning. As long as I stayed in my pjs, I was seen as someone who had just given birth, and encouraged to rest.
It seems a shame to me that women in our culture are back at the gym after five weeks, back to work after six weeks (at least in the US), boasting about how their child sleeps through the night at two months. A baby isn't SUPPOSED to sleep through the night at two months! Waking up to nurse every few hours reduces the chances of SIDS occurring, and allows more of that all-important snuggle and bonding time (whether the baby is breast- or bottle-fed).
It is a shame that new mothers receive swings, saucers, bouncy seats, and Bumbo chairs (all devised to set a baby down), instead of a beautiful sling that would allow her to be hands free AND give her baby what he really needs: her scent, her warmth, her heartbeat.
It seems to me we rush the whole process. It is fleeting and precious, and all we want to do is get out of bed and resume our normal lives.
We have a lifetime to be "normal". If I were to do it all again, I'd take a cue from this mama cat. I'd cuddle and purr, kiss my babies, snuggle in bed and rest all day if I felt like it.