Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Blood and Milk


Blood and Milk
By Sharlee Mullins Glenn

I dreamed of Oxford...
(spires, a thousand spires, endless lectures, musty halls
a solitary self in a Bodleian expanse
A good life, my dear Wormood. An orderly life.)

then awakened to laundry
and things to be wiped
(countertops, noses, bottoms)

How did this happen? And when, exactly?

Time flows, it flows, it flows
and there are choices to be made:

left or right?
paper or plastic?
blood or milk?

There's freedom in the bleeding;
bondage in the milk - do not be deceived.

Ah, but it's an empty freedom; a holy bondage,
A sweet and holy bondage.

Five times I chose the chains, those tender chains,
(though once will bind you just as well!)
and checked the crimson flow.
Suckled while dreaming of Trinity Term
but awakened, always awakened, to the laundry
and to that small and cherished captor at my breast.

I read this poem when I was 7 months pregnant with the boys.

I loved it then and I loved it as I began nursing them. But I understood it keenly these last two months as I wondered over the question. Blood or milk?

Sometimes it's an easy choice. The choice is made for you. Circumstances are without your control.

Other times, it is your choice. And checking the crimson flow is an alluring perk. But freedom has it's draw too. We have to choose.

As I've said before, nursing Sami and Ali together was a challenge - I lasted a little over six months - and that was a super-human effort. I hoped things would be different with the boys.

And they were.

We went from here.


To here.


We lasted 11 and a half months - sharing our last intimate moment as a threesome on Saturday. I admit, I was sad. Spencer snuggled onto my shoulder when we were done, draped his arms around my neck and we held onto each other, cheek to cheek for maybe five minutes. Gordon got squirmy so I set him down on the floor to play. But Spencer stayed and stayed. He was probably still lethargic from his stomach flu bout - not sporting his regular robust demeanor - but I savored every minute of his affection.

These are my last babies. My last chance to cradle that soft head against my body. The last time I will be a source of physical sustenance. It's remarkable really - that women can do this - feed their own in one sovereign circle of need.

Part of me now, has done its job, lived out its purpose, been used up. The part that carries, grows, births and nourishes. The thought of it makes me contemplate mortality and how quickly it goes. How fleeting our one chance to live big the magnificence of our bodies.

I'm slightly mournful. My baby season is over.

It was fast and furious, exhausting and luminous, beautiful and brutal - all mingled together.

And now it's done.

But like Sharlee, I would choose that sweet and holy bondage again, and again. I treasured those tender chains. And each cherished captor at my breast.


  1. Ah, Feeding babies- you think it's never going to end, and then you wonder where the time went. Even for those of us who couldn't nurse, those moments when you have babes in arms are precious, overwhelming, and in the end, fleeting.

  2. I feel the same way as Cade approaches one. Is this season of my life really done? How can I be past that? It is bittersweet. Your boys are adorable.

  3. This is my favorite of all your posts. I love you. You looked so beautiful today.

  4. Brod - funny how our lives during these stages can support such contradictions. Fleeting - yes. Loved your comment.

    Mimi - I remember watching the "weeks pregnant" widget on your blog get closer and closer to your due date. Unbelievable that our boys will be a year. Bittersweet indeed.

    Kara - thank you. Thanks for reading. It was so uplifting to see you today - all of you. I love you.

  5. who could have guessed that the chains of love and responsibility make us whole? that losing is finding? that surrender is freedom? now... we live, even as we die. xox

  6. Crisite - I love your juxtaposition. And your heart. It's all how we see it, isn't it?

  7. Love all the thoughts here -- you little mothers. Appreciation of your tender fleeting moments is the best way to enjoy -- I applaud you all.

  8. i just love your thoughts and the sweet verse. what a gift we have been given and a blessing for you to embrace and recognize the last or the ending of a beautiful and sweet chapter.

  9. this is beautiful. I loved nursing too (I put in 12 years total); Sharlee's poem captures it perfectly as did this post.

  10. Andrea - you're so right. Appreciating, writing about each stage, is one of the best ways to enjoy it. Thanks for reading.

    Al - you have a wonderful way of capturing the chapters of your life with your lens. I love your comments. Thank you.

    Michelle - 12 total years? Wow. All sorts of health benefits the longer you nurse - you must be the bionic woman! And Sharlee's poem. Isn't it perfect in so many ways?

  11. The time flies. I pumped for the last time today, at least for this kid. (While not ruling out a fourth, we aren't planning for one currently either). It is hard to pump and work but I lasted 10 months and am pretty proud about that. So my little guy will get morning and night feedings until we decide the time is right to stop. It is such a milestone.

  12. Shells - you are amazing! 10 months of pumping. I bow to you! I couldn't stand the first few months of pumping. Some days I wanted to toss that thing right out the window. Wow. You are awesome girl.


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