From ‘Mother Time’: Let Down in The Mom Egg Review
All these dark days and white nights, every two hours, the milk lets down. She feels the rhythm in her breasts: suck, suck, swallow. Sometimes it comes too fast, pools the side of his mouth, collects in the fat folds of his chin. Sometimes he falls asleep there, with the nipple in his mouth.
A diaper change. An attempt at a nap. At the hospital they said to record it all. Left breast, right breast, urine output, stool. 5 ml pumped milk offered via silver spoon. He’s so small, fetal with wrinkled skin, he can’t stay awake; she rubs an ice cube against his foot. He wakes cold, angry: sucks.
When babies are this small it is possible to weigh them before and after a feed and know precisely how much milk they have taken in. They weigh him at the hospital daily and then twenty-four hours later, then forty-eight, then wait a whole week. When she brings him home, he is four pounds eight ounces, his wrist the size of her thumb. He looks like a doll in his car seat; even the preemie clothes don’t fit.
In the news, she reads that a baby died of dehydration because the mother didn’t know she wasn’t supplying enough milk; she said she fed her child around the clock and he screamed when taken from the breast.
In this never-ending now, the mother puts the baby to her breast. He sucks, swallows. The present is a mouthful of milk. In his belly, proteins break down to digest. Nutrients travel his blood stream: calcium, DHA, Vitamin D. Their bodies share time and space, linked by mother’s milk the way they were once linked by the placenta. Infants who are breastfed adjust their body temperature and heart rate according to their mothers’. Their body clocks sync: mother time. Her body thins while he grows.
+ Another check mark on the log: wet diaper, dirty diaper, feed. +
If the baby sleeps: dishes. If the baby sleeps: diapers. If the baby sleeps: email. If the baby sleeps: blog post. If the baby sleeps: bathtub. If the baby sleeps: laundry. If the baby refuses: rock him. If the baby refuses: swaddle him, swing him, snuggle him. If the baby refuses: try the crib, the car seat, the bed with you beside him. Give him a new diaper. Give him your left breast. Give him your right. Count the hours. Count the hours. Count the hours.
If there are 60 minutes in an hour and 168 hours in a week, 52 weeks in a year, how many minutes of infancy, of toddlerhood? How many spent in the rocking chair, or pacing with a baby strapped to the chest, how many in the pediatrician’s waiting room, washing the spare parts of a breast pump, the innards of baby bottles? How many on the basic tasks of feeding, diapering, bathing? How many getting to and from, pushing a stroller up a hill? She’s walked when she needed to drink, walked when she needed to pee. Her legs and arms are spindly. Somehow, minutes pass; somehow, she has become mother. Her breasts swell and spurt; she feels the milk let down as the baby wakes, hungry.
Robin Silbergleid is the author of Texas Girl and The Baby Book. When she’s not teaching or writing, you might find her puttering in her kitchen; her kids eat a lot of banana muffins.
SPECIAL MOM EGG REVIEW READING ON JUNE 2nd in New York!
We’re excited to be celebrating our 16th year of publication with a reading at Poets House featuring contributors to MER Vol. 16: Mothers Work/ Mothers Play. We couldn’t have gotten to this point without the support of many people. Thank you to our editors, editorial readers, volunteers and contributors for helping us publish the finest writing about motherhood. Especially, thank you to you, our readers! We wouldn’t be here without your support. We hope to continue presenting fine work for years to come.
We’d love it if you were able to come and celebrate with us on June 2nd. Ticket link is here.
Looking forward to a fabulous event!
The Museum of Motherhood, the ProCreate Project, the Mom Egg Review, and the Mother Magazine are pleased to announce the launch of a bi-monthly international exchange of ideas and art. M.A.M.A. will celebrate the notion of being “pregnant with ideas” in new ways. This scholarly discourse intersects with the artistic to explore the wonder and the challenges of motherhood. Using words and art to connect new pathways between the creative, the academic, the para-academic, the digital, and the real, as well as the everyday: wherever you live, work, and play, the Art of Motherhood is made manifest. Download the Press Release here or read about updated initiatives. #JoinMAMA @ProcreateProj @MOMmuseum @TheMomEgg