The relationship between a mother and child is one of intense physical intimacy. In a way, that intimacy is a mirror image and counterpart to the intimacy of lovers that (well, aside from the doctors and the needles and the tubes and gizmos, I mean, in an idealized, blurry-edged fantasy world where fertile people live) brings the child into being.
Where lovers start as strangers and gradually discover each other, at times merging into a single being, the child and mother start as a single entity and slowly become physically and emotionally separate. And in both relationships, there is an unbridled delight in one's own and the other's physical being. Nowhere else in life can you revel in and explore another's body with such abandon, tracing each curve of the earlobe, nibbling on fingers and knees, caressing tummies and napes of necks.
Breastfeeding has been an absolute revelation for me. It's incredible that it happens at all, more so when you think about all the complex processes that surround that one simple act. Somehow, my body knows exactly what type of milk to produce, how much of it, and when. Gabby's sucking not only satisfies her hunger, it releases hormones that shrink my uterus back to its normal size (and make us both happy and sleepy). According to some promising new research, breastmilk may even have curative effects for people suffering from HIV and cancer.
And even crazier is how much I love feeding her this way. I love getting all snuggled up with her, skin to skin, having that connection and sharing the flood of hormones and responses. It's our own special little world, where we still share physical space and an intimate bond.