Have Breast, Will Travel

For the past seven years, my days have been defined by the routine care of children. Lacking day care, I haul them with me on errands or I don’t go at all. (Christian does a lot more lunchtime errand running now than he did in days past.) I have a semi-regular babysitter now to give me time to write, but basically, the baby stays with me, because one thing we don’t have in this house is bottles. We don’t even own any.

Sometimes it’s frustrating to feel tied down, but in general I am at peace with our choice to exclusively breastfeed. People who haven’t breastfed their kids don’t get it; they look at me blankly and say, “Can’t you just leave him with a sitter? I mean, you could pump so they could give him a bottle, couldn’t you?” I have to explain that even if the sitter gives him a bottle, all the milk he was supposed to drink at that time still has to come out of my body. And I loathe pumping. I am in awe of the self-sacrifice routinely practiced by mothers who pump at work every day. Oh. My. Goodness. You deserve a medal. (You know who you are. You rock, ladies.)

So I choose to stay attached to my babies. I’ve become pretty adept at typing one-handed, and I save certain projects (blog reading, for instance) for nursing times. When Michael’s in a mood to concentrate on his job, I can read books to the other kids. He stays with me while I write, he stays with me while I teach lessons, he stays with me while we play for weddings. This is my life; it has been my life for the last seven years and four babies.

But there are days. Like this weekend, when Christian and I played a wedding.

On the wedding front, we’ve gone back and forth, trying out different solutions to the professional-musician, fully-nursing-mom dynamic. We choose different solutions depending on the age and the mood of the baby on a given day. This weekend we did the “bring baby along” thing, because he was cranky and we had a young sitter.

Michael amused himself in his car seat through the prelude and processional, but during the psalm, I heard Unhappy Baby Noises. By the time I got back to the music area, someone had come over to pick him up, offering to hold him. I hated to have a wedding guest drooled upon and distracted during the exchange of vows, so I said we’d be fine; at this point I was basically just singing a Mass, and I could do that holding a baby.

The only trouble? What he really wanted was three minutes on the breast to fall asleep. And I couldn’t leave. So I held him carefully down-wind of the microphone and kept my finger in his mouth as he alternately sucked and chomped on it. I thought he might actually bite through it at one point. My pointer finger was positively numb by the time Communion was over, and he was at the end of his rope, proceeding from noisy slurping and occasional whimpers to out-and-out cries of “Feed me NOW, Woman!” I bolted for the sacristy even before Christian stopped playing.

Michael was so tired, he went down in ten seconds, but knowing him as I do, I didn’t dare move. Christian ended up playing the recessional solo. It works fine, and by that point in a wedding I question whether anyone even noticed my absence, but still, I wince. Because I need to be professional, too, and wrestling a baby while playing a wedding felt anything but.

Oh, well. Michael’s baby days are passing; this is a fleeting time in my life, after all. Soon enough my body will be my own again, and we’ll be on to a whole different, far more complicated set of problems to solve. Might as well enjoy this bunch while it lasts.