My daughter was born at the beginning of the pandemic — March 17, 2020. Family soon meant something completely different to us. Survival felt more real to us than it ever had. We hunkered down and became a tight-knit family in our nest and stayed as safe as we could.
Never a nester, I was now moving around dirt and rocks to make our apartment a safe and cozy nest. This was where I truly fell in love with my daughter, Marcelline. I also found a new love for my husband, Evan, when, after a particularly rough night, I suggested we move Marcelline’s bassinet from his side of the bed to mine. Since he was just passing her to me to feed, it didn’t make sense for him to lose as much sleep as me.
Evan shook his head and said, “I just like her being close to me.”
When my mother came out to help us for four months, I saw her love in a new way too. She never once got frustrated with Marcelline, who cried and cried as my mother held her close and sang to her. When Marcelline fell asleep, my mother asked for a pillow so she could prop the arm holding up my sleeping baby’s head. Then they sat there and rocked for hours.
“You did this for me?” I asked.
She nodded and smiled. I don’t remember my reply, but I’m sure I was crying. I was crying a lot during this time. I was my mother’s first child, so she couldn’t help but giggle through my freakouts and hold me tighter through my legitimate worries. She had learned with me, and now I learned from her, just as salmon return years later to spawn in the same stream where they hatched. I guess there’s a natural pull to make it back to where you came from, when you’re ready to make life yourself.
I did feed my baby with my body. I get it, salmon. We will give anything to help this being we love to survive and thrive. And I know to some parents, that’s formula; to others, it’s someone else’s breast milk. For me and my daughter, it was my breasts. My chest got so big that I laughed thinking about some of my go-to presentation outfits, because they would not fit anymore, not even close.
I did get another job, in public radio. I had to pump my breast milk from the studio to keep Marcelline fed. To get her to take a bottle, I had to hide on the floor of my bedroom while my mother walked my daughter around the apartment, trying to get this new way of feeding to take without the original source of milk in sight.