Sometimes I write personal essays on motherhood. This is one.
We’ve been here for only a minute. I glance down at my red-faced infant. The desperation on his face echoes the ache in my breasts. If we don’t find a place to nurse in t minus 15 seconds, we’ll both explode.
We breeze through life-size bears and loin-clothed gatherers, skim Southeast Asia’s history detailed through colorful pots, and cast a glance at man’s first apparition, neanderthal, hardly impressed. Could he lactate? Then we’re not stopping. The jungle lures us, but only for a minute. Every kind of insect pinned to the wall, encased in floor to ceiling glass. This is kind of incredible, I thought. Something most people despise turned colorful, crunchy artwork. My thoughts are interrupted by a burning, heavy feeling. We have to hurry, I tell K.
We Ooh and Ahh at the two gazillion pound whale and speed walk the perimeter of the Ocean Room as we chase S from glass case to glass case. The dark room and blue lights cast a deep shadow on our faces. His face is blue, K’s face is blue, we are all deep blue. But we’re not missing anything. We came to see the world’s natural history and we are not leaving until our two year old has exhausted himself seeing the world’s natural history.
The baby’s cry stops but his face isn’t happy. He’s got a look of resigned angst. My whole body stresses. He’s so patient He’s such a good baby I’m so tired I need to nurse, I think. I veer off into the darkest edge of the vast ocean room. I fan-dangle the baby carrier, digging through straps and buckles, arching my back, smooshing the baby to the side, while I unbutton my oxford and try something I’ve never tried.
It doesn’t work. I guess it matters how high or low your breasts are and how big or small the baby is and whether you don’t have night-blindness in the deep blue Ocean Room. A Japanese family brushes past, speaking in tongues. I’ve seen my sister-in-law do it but no. The baby rages when his latch breaks and milk runs down my stomach. I wonder how a whale nurses?
Up the elevator (we have a stroller) and now we’re running for the gems. I hate that room. I know people love it but it looks like a dim, carpeted kiva from the 70s and precious stones bore me. But S loves the rise and fall of the giant steps and running the carpeted pathways through the glass cases.
The air cools and we’re in an empty room. No people at least. It’s a good thing because the baby roars. Redder, louder, and angrier than any previous bout in the museum. I yell ahead to K, head to the edge of the room, drop to the floor, and rest my back against a meteorite.
S and I unravel ourselves from the straps and cloth of the black carrier. My back and front is dark and damp from milk and sweat. I don’t take the time to unbutton and stick the baby’s face up my shirt, slightly exposing myself. Armed with RBF and a searing Mama Bear frequency, I’m sure no one’s eyes will linger.
The black rock is cool as let-down releases the milk. The baby is hot and engrossed. A sigh escapes my lips and I reactively sit up, reaching for my water bottle but it’s too far and I can’t reach. Resigned and relieved to have to hold still, I close my eyes. Serotonin floods my brain. Reality tilts, nursing on the floor of the Natural History Museum with hundreds of people walking by, and a pool of calm tingles my whole body. I couldn’t care even if I tried. They can step over me. We are Mother and Child: Nursing Through Space.
I look down at Him. The baby’s nose, his lips. The soft hair sprouting along his fuzzy hairline. He’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. And his smell. With him this close, I can’t help but nuzzle his hair and take in his smell. I hear S giggling, probably being chased by his Dad, and lean into my space rock.