I have a confession: Sometimes I bite my child. It's true. I do. I can't help it; it's the way that my love manifests itself. That sweet smile, those squishable cheeks -- I need a nibble! There were a lot of silly things I imagined saying to my baby before he got here, but I could eat your face off and Let me bite that belly just weren't on the list. It's not like I break through -- or even sink in -- but there's definitely teeth-to-skin contact. And he laughs, so we're cool.
I've joked with my family that I should stop before he becomes the loathed biter in class, or before he develops a weird connection between love and pain. But you know what isn't a joke? He started biting me. While he's eating. And it sure doesn't feel like love.
I've previously mentioned that Noah now has two little bottom teeth, which would be utterly adorable if they weren't vicious razors that regularly lingered around the most sensitive part on my body. You know how I said breastfeeding starts out being hard, but then quickly becomes easy? Well, what do you know, it's back to being hard again.
The first time he bit me was right before I put him down for bed. I was sitting with him in my glider, watching his eyes get heavier with every suck, marveling at his perfect features. Just as he was drifting off, he CHOMPED down and PULLED away.
Noah's eyes snapped open, wide and concerned. What did I do, Ma? What's wrong? It was such an innocent, heartfelt look that I ended up apologizing TO HIM.
The absolute worst is when he's sucking, sucking, sucking, slowly inching off of my nipple, and then out of nowhere he bites down -- just on the tip. I swear if breastfeeding for eight months or pumping at work for six months doesn't warrant an award, enduring this does. Just a plaque would do, really.
I'm hoping that this biting fiasco is related to his top two teeth coming in, which have been interfering with his eating much more than his bottom two did. Apparently his swollen gums make sucking less than comfortable, which is understandable. His day care teachers have told me that he's been refusing his bottles after 3 or 4 oz., viciously biting down on the nipples. I'm hoping that after the top two cut through, we'll be back to normal. Either that, or Noah will inevitably have his first taste of blood.
The funny thing is, while I always planned on trying to breastfeed, I assumed that I'd stop around the time his teeth came in to avoid situations such as this one. Just another example of not knowing anything about motherhood before becoming a mother. Yes, nipple biting hurts -- especially from surprisingly sharp baby teeth. But so does labor, and the beginning of breastfeeding, and engorgement, and postpartum uterus cramps, and sleep deprivation, and carrying around an ever-growing child. So does the guilt, heartbreak and fear. It's all painful.
...This outweighs it all.
To ensure he has an adequate amount of sleep, I'd stay up all night. For his health, I'd endure engorgement and bleeding nipples every day. To have him in my life, I'd go through labor every day, every hour. And I'm not saying this to be a martyr; I'm saying this because I'm a mother. The amazing thing about parenting is that the overwhelming swell of love numbs the pain. Don't get me wrong, it's still challenging and frustrating at times (see the aforementioned yelp), but I think illogical phenomenons such as this make motherhood so hard to describe. In a normal world, if something hurts, you don't do it. But as a mother, there's no amount of physical or emotional pain that's too much for the well-being of your child. Not only that, but his wonderfulness makes it all bearable.
I think that this is one of the biggest reasons there is a veil of secrecy that new mothers often complain of. Why didn't anyone tell me? If we tell the truth about the daily ins and outs of parenting (such as, say, nipple biting) without the context of a mother's love, will we scare women away? I guess this blog is a risk, by it's very nature. So here's my disclosure:
Motherhood is hard at times. It will test your strength, without a doubt. But to avoid the experience just because it's scary is to forfeit knowing an emotion that's so deep, so life-changing, so indescribable.