The Photograph

By Sarah Sansbury
Web Exclusive, November 13, 2006

breastfeed“Hold your breast like this.” After several midwives, nurses, surgeons, anesthetists, and assistants had all seen me completely naked, somehow it never crossed my mind: the oddity of a woman I just met placing her large, rough hand around my breast.

My left arm cradled Sophia as my right hand cupped my breast, guiding my nipple toward Sophia’s mouth, her head bobbing around like a hungry, hungry hippo. I had heard and read numerous times about babies knowing instinctively how to nurse—the need to suckle, a guttural urge, a primal craving. However, I was still surprised and delighted to see her eyes shut and her mouth, opening and closing like a fish, such beautiful O’s.

It took me several tries, but she was so patient with me. She never cried. With one arm I juggled the beautiful bundle, while the helpful nurse’s hand aimed my breast and nipple towards the slightly moving target.

And, finally, it slipped in. I nudged my husband, who, nervous throughout the delivery, had finally fallen asleep knowing that both his girls were okay. “Will, she’s nursing, she’s nursing. Take our picture!” Eyes still closed, an undistinguishable grunt slips from his mouth. But I am too much lost in the moment, and the moment too sacred, that I am impervious to any irreverent “huhs.”

The excitement swelled even more inside of me, “Will, look, look! She’s nursing—take our picture!” Bleary-eyed, he clumsily found the camera and clicked, and I continued to revel in the moment, my mind’s eye clicking with the camera: everything, the smell of my baby girl, the dimly lit room, my inexperienced arms not feeling inexperienced anymore, the quick and gentle rhythm of her suckle. This is what I was made for. It was all new, but so familiar.

The photograph taken that day was less than ideal. It is out of focus and shot off-kilter. I might be banned from scrapbooking circles forever, if I made it the centerpiece of a page spread in Sophia’s baby book. However, I love the photograph my husband took early that morning. My head, shoulders, and arms holding the baby form a large, dark, and somewhat indistinguishable blob looming in the foreground. Yet, if you take a closer look (mind you, you have to cock your head slightly to get the right angle), you can barely make out the back of my little one’s head turned in towards my chest, and the faint curve of my smile.

Sarah Sansbury is an English teacher and mom to two-year-old Sophia, who is still a “hungry, hungry hippo” who loves nursing with her momma.