BREAST MILK (PART TWO)
Gold Taraji, first-time mom, continues to tell her story of breastfeeding. She discovers the power of the eyes…
The first two weeks of breastfeeding felt lonesome. Offering Baby shelter from distraction, I brought her into the master bedroom, dreading my routine retreat back into the silence of this space. Alone in that room was me, Baby, and the damn timer–the one that timed me, like a judgmental in-law, to make sure Baby was fed about 7-13 minutes on each breast. I felt like I was being used. I felt no emotional connection. I was a food dispenser. I thought Baby could care less where her food was coming from, as long as she was getting fed; I was convinced she didn’t know me as Momma. In her eyes was a blank stare. Baby was too young to focus on anything, and I was too lonely to go without eye contact…
You see, I am a woman who relies heavily on what people’s eyes tell me. Excitement, desire, fascination, attentiveness, love, uneasiness, disappointment, contempt–all of these can be found in a person’s eyes. If I look carefully enough, clarity or red, yellow milkiness, steady or suspicious shiftiness, can tell me many things about the depth of one’s character. Love and admiration of a friend. Purity and honesty of a stranger. Unadulterated joy and confidence in a child. Eyes tell many stories and few lies.
I intentionally surround myself with people with clear, kind eyes. Every now and then there are a few who stand out from the rest–a particular integrity, innocence, and compassion glimmers through, sometimes like a soft caress or maybe a stern grasp. I look at their eyes and they look at mine and we both feel like we could stay there forever. Chaste? Romantic? Maybe neither. Maybe both. Whatever the case, an unmistakable connection is made. But neither of us names it since we are too afraid that in the naming, the connection will fade.
Sometimes I am unable to look into a person’s eyes because the misery and death I see is too heavy to hold. I often keep secrets about how miserable I feel when I look at such a person, and make the mistake of holding their agony a second too long. When I see the rotten pulp of their eyes, I purge myself of their poison and cry a sound that no one should ever hear–a sound akin to a mother wailing over her child’s casket. I have convulsed in the midst of tears until everything has been released. I am an impath of some sort. I am sensitive to people’s eyes and hence their energy, so I must be careful whose eyes I rest in.
I thought I could find a resting place in Baby’s eyes. There was vacancy in those black diamonds and yet no room for me to rest. In all my years of teaching, volunteering at soup kitchens, and counseling at women’s shelters, I had the audacity to think I knew what it meant to be selfless. At most these things made for a good training ground for parenthood. During those two weeks, I learned truly what it meant to be selfless and had a feeling the older she’d become, the more I’d learn. I was feeding her milk from my body without receiving anything in return, not even a loving look–my first lesson in sacrifice. I needed her eyes to feel connected, to prevent myself from feeling isolated. And yet, it was vital that I temporarily set aside this need until she gained focus. My single responsibility was to keep Baby from dying.
There’s a fine line between keeping something from dying and keeping something alive. Attitude is the difference. Our perception of the power we possess as women is the difference. Since I had no concrete awareness of how rich and fertile the feminine spirit was, I viewed the milk from the breasts of this first-time mom as merely a substance–a substance without which an infant would perish.
Not only did my breast milk keep her from dying, it drew out a golden hue that glowed from her nut brown skin. This milk kept her alive and healthy, giving her all the nourishment she needed. This miraculous nectar healed the scratches on her face and forced her little baby acne to vanish. It even soothed the sores on my nipples. I kept her alive, and when she finally focused on me for the first time, she kept me alive. Her stare while nursing or waking from a good nap made me feel like her eyes were all I needed. Baby’s black diamonds told me I was complete, enough, and okay.
Copyright © 2011 Janet Stickmon