Posts tagged ‘breast feeding’

Keeping With The Theme

Early on in my relationship with Nathan, we made the now familiar three-plane trip to Alabama to visit his folks. In the middle somewhere, maybe in Atlanta, Bella fell asleep on my chest. She’s a big girl, she’s always been big, and her three-year old frame filled my entire torso and pinned me to the plastic airport chair. As I was immobilized, Nathan fed me bits of food, an avocado if I remember correctly. With the heavy weight of sleeping child on my chest, and tasty food brought to my waiting lips, I was purring like a kitten. Nathan too seemed quite content, he turned to gaze at me with glowing warmth and said, You look like a queen.

I surely felt like a queen, motherhood had always been appealing to me, but what struck me more was that he found motherhood appealing. Mothering is beautiful to Nathan. I dropped a few feet further into love in that Atlanta airport. If you want to be a mother, there is something extremely appealing in a man who finds the role of mother attractive. I’m not sure if this quality is rare or simply routinely squashed. Our american culture would have us believe that to be a mama is to relegate ourselves to slovenly housewife aesthetics, to un-sexiness and unattractiveness. Women in heels and underwear are the standard image of beauty, and never include a baby on the hip.

I blame feminism for this, or at least the form of feminism that was finally allowed. The push for women to be equal to men at the workplace did not mean that they could bring their womanliness into the boardroom, it meant they could bring their best impression of men into the boardroom. Curves, breast-feeding, and menstruation weren’t honored by more, they were shoved aside, or at least scooted over to make room for all the new roles women could play if they so desired.

Women today are expected, or expect themselves, to be “more than just a mother”, to run a business, maintain an immaculate home, volunteer, have lots of sex with her husband, and raise children. More and more I see women wanting to have children without looking like they have children. Boob jobs, tummy tucks, and daycare all maintain the illusion of unattached, sexy, non-maternalness.

I really didn’t intend to climb onto a soapbox with this post. There is certainly nothing wrong with looking good, but I wonder about the outside influences that encourage us to move away from motherliness in order to do so. If left to their own judgement I think women would declare their child rearing days as the time they felt the most beautiful. Round and ripe, part of the earth and sky, and tied inextricably to all the curvy, juicy women that came before.

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July 19, 2010 at 9:00 am 2 comments

in response

Parenting is painful. It literally hurts.

There is the obvious pain of childbirth. A pain that is confusing because, unlike any other kind of pain a woman has felt thus far, it does not injure. A skinned knee hurts because flesh has been torn, a burned hand hurts so that you pull it quickly away from the flame, but a contraction hurts without harming. It is a mind bending, life altering kind of pain, but nevertheless it is pain.

There is the pain in your arms when you are rocking your baby to sleep. That crucial window when if you were to adjust those aching arms in any way, he would wake up. So you maintain the position longer than you ever thought possible and by the time you lay him gently down there is little feeling left at all in your biceps.

There is the pain that jerks through your belly when you see your child trip on the sidewalk.

And there is the pain of cold fingers and toes as you make your way, ever… so… slowly, around the block in the middle of winter while your one year old tries out her new walking skills. Stopping, every three feet or less, to investigate a leaf, a barking dog, or a fleck of dirt.

There is emotional pain too.

There is the pain of being rejected in favor of the other parent.

There is the pain of staying home with a sick baby while friends and family frolic somewhere else.

And there is the pain of watching your girl walk up the driveway to spend time at her other house.

And the pain continues beyond the kid days.

My dad has children in their thirties and his heart still seizes up with a worry so intricately woven around love that it makes him bend forward through his days. There is that kind of pain.

My grandma is in her eighties and she still dresses her heart in armor hoping to stave off any pain that comes from loving, and protecting her more than grown children. There is that kind of pain too.

When you think about it, no matter what parenting style you’ve chosen, there is a lot of pain in parenting. I happen to be in pain from nursing several times through the night, others may not have this type of pain. Perhaps they night weaned earlier, perhaps they never nursed. But I am sure they are not escaping some other form of pain.

I have said that I would change from a completely empathic approach to something else if my kid were in danger of hurting themselves or someone else, and even though I am technically being hurt, at least to some degree, by nursing so much at night, I do not see a contradiction. I am not an unwitting sibling or friend, getting punched by Echo’s wrath. I do not need an authority figure to step in and protect me.

No. I signed up for this. Each night, fully aware of the incredible strength of my body, and in constant awareness of my motivations, I willingly walk straight into the same exact choice to nurse my girl through the night. I do not want to wean her. Not because I’d like to avoid the task of weaning, but because I know her, and to know her is to completely understand how important nursing is to her. In honor of that interest, I choose the pain of less sleep. I choose the pain of sore nipples.

If I were putting someone else at risk by parenting this way, if I were sleepy enough to be a danger on the road, I would have to find another way to honor Echo. (No one else signed up to be hurt by the way I parent.) But that isn’t the case. I’m just not that sleep deprived.

What would it look like to parent while trying to avoid pain? What would I miss? I’m not sure I want to know.

If loving this completely, this wildly, this earnestly means I get a little sore now and then, I’ll take it. I think most parents would agree that though they can point to any number of painful experiences while parenting, the joy piled up high on the other side of the scale makes it more than worthwhile.  I know with absolute certainty that my dad wouldn’t trade in his bruised and tender heart, even on the most painful days, in exchange for his daughters.

Loving fiercely even when it hurts, that’s a legacy I’m happy to carry on.

March 6, 2010 at 10:29 pm 2 comments

in the dim light of dawn

I’m a little too sleepy to figure out what the right phrase is for our nights lately. Can’t win for losing? Caught between a rock and a hard place? Whatever the phrase is, this is what our nights have been looking like: Echo, not having gotten enough sleep the night before, nurses to sleep in a matter of minutes (three or four), then as the night continues, if there is any surfacing on her part, whether it is an intense dream, or the covers slide off, or she hears a sound somewhere in the house, she calls out and I come in to nurse her back to sleep. Then later, when I climb into bed she cuddles up to nurse again. Then again every two hours or so after that. Finally, after the umpteenth nursing session, I say: Baby, I need to take a break. We just finished nursing both sides and I don’t want to nurse for a little while. Let’s just snuggle and fall back to sleep together. She screams, then nestles in, then falls asleep, then wakes herself up, then asks to nurse, then gets upset at my refusal, then nestles in, then falls asleep, then wakes herself up, then finally is fully awake. If it’s still the middle of the night I finally nurse her again, so desperate to get a little sleep, even if it is the half sleep of nursing. If it starts to turn light during the fall asleep/wake up pattern, Echo just stays awake and we get up with the dawn.

To sum up, she wants to nurse all night. If I nurse her all night I don’t sleep, if I dissuade her from nursing she doesn’t sleep, which of course means that I don’t sleep. This also means that Echo will be crabby throughout the day requiring lots of holding by me and… you guessed it, lots of nursing.

This isn’t the first time we’ve been in this place. My feelings about nursing, especially at night, seem to cycle in relation to her cycling interest. When she wants to nurse more than I think is necessary or appropriate, my feelings about not wanting to nurse become more intense. It’s nothing new. I wrote about it here. After receiving lots of empathy and new perspectives from this dear online community, my feelings settled a lot. I wrote about that here. But enough time has passed, I guess, for me to forget about my renewed faith.

Or maybe I’m just too tired to remember.

Logically I know I am not the judge of what is necessary for Echo, obviously she has a strong and counter opinion to mine. And I also know there is nothing inappropriate about nursing, no matter how much it ends up being. But in the middle of the night, how many times Echo nurses seems to matter to me. I start to think along the lines of: This isn’t fair! And we all know that this kind of thinking, with regard to parenting, is a dead-end. Parenting is nowhere near fair. It isn’t supposed to be fair. To even start down this path is to invite torture.

And when we got up this morning, that was how I was feeling, tortured.

And that’s how I was going to end this post. Tortured.

But then I had some tea. I wiped the sleep from my eyes. I felt my perspective move beyond the edges of our bed. I looked over at Echo watching a book on DVD and realized she isn’t mad. She could very well hold the perspective that I am keeping her up by trying to alter the way we do the whole sleeping thing. But she isn’t. She’s far better at honoring her emotions as they come up and then watching them float on by when they are done than I am. She isn’t replaying the night, attempting to justify her responses or her behavior today. She’s waiting for the next moment, ready to live that fully as well.

I can see now that there is no victim here. Just two people finding their way. (Well three when you count Papa, roused every few minutes by our middle of the night bickering.)

Then, searching for an image for this post I saw so many women. So many beautiful women nursing their babies. Big women, little babies, older women, large not-really-babies-anymore babies, all of them holding one another lovingly. Each nursing moment was captured with a tender eye.

I realized I could see Echo and I this way if I wanted to. If I saw each nursing session as a single graceful painting, instead of as the seventh session in a long line of too many sessions, or as something that keeps me from getting sleep, I would feel differently. If, each time we nursed, I was able to erase the thoughts about everything that came before, keep my mind from jumping to the moments ahead, and just be a single moment like those captured in the paintings, there might not be a conflict.

No conflict, just two people finding their way.

Just another mother holding another baby in the dim light of dawn. Like all the other mamas all over the world, all through time. And whether or not I am able to let my anger slip away as quickly as Echo does, or see every nursing moment through the eyes of an artist, just feeling a part of this legacy is a comforting thought.

March 3, 2010 at 8:15 pm 4 comments


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