Weaned.

Two weeks later, I’m willing to call it: Bingo is weaned.

My last post on breastfeeding reinforced for me just how done I was.  I was done being kicked in the face every time she nursed, I was done with the constant latching/unlatching, I was done with the whiny cries for “MAAAALK”, I was just done.

So we weaned her.

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In honour of World Breastfeeding Week: I breastfeed and I hate it.

I’ve breastfed my daughter for twenty months; on all but three of the days she’s been alive.   I’ve breastfed her at every hour of the day and night, and in every room in my house (bathroom included).  I’ve breastfed her on buses, in shopping centres, in parks, on curbs, in hospitals, on airplanes, in restaurants, and the shoe section of Walmart.  I breastfed her as the sun rose this morning, and as she fell asleep tonight.

I’ve chosen to breastfeed for a lot of reasons*.  I’m lazy.  It’s cheap and (sometimes) convenient.  I believe that it can promote early attachment.    I’m sure that I would have forgotten formula every time I left the house.  I’ve read too many stories of shameless formula companies engaged in unethical activities.  Breastmilk is nutritious.  The benefits of breastfeeding are supported by research.  It was assumed that I would, and I assumed that I would.

And I hate it.

When Bingo first latched on, we were in the recovery room of a hospital, wedged between a gray wall and other freshly sutured abdomens. Still shaking from the anesthetic, I felt awkward and unsure. Days later, my milk still hadn’t come in. Bingo’s weight dropped, and then dropped some more. She wailed with hunger and we shakily tipped an ounce of formula into her small mouth. I began to resent that this thing that was supposed to be so easy just wasn’t. And then my milk came in. Round circles appeared on my shirt, and I was embarrassed. My body shifted in ways that were totally beyond my control. The dull ache of nursing turned into pain so sharp that I dreaded the baby’s hunger, physically forcing myself not to pull away. And yet, after a month of breastfeeding, one of our midwives smilingly referred to us as a breastfeeding “success story”—without asking, even once, how I felt about it.

It’s gotten easier, absolutely.  I can breastfeed in any place and any position.  I can breastfeed with my eyes closed (and have).  But I hate it, still.  I hate the way that breastfeeding feels.  I hate the urgency with which my daughter grabs at my shirt, my skin, my body.  I hated the shrill cries that required my body to answer, that have been replaced by a whiny demand of “maaaaalllk!”  I hate the stares and comments of strangers, whether they’re approving or critical (“You’re so discreet, I barely noticed!”, “You shouldn’t be doing that here.”) I hate the demand that it places on me above all others.

A few months after Bingo was born, I looked at a picture of my friend feeding his newborn baby. In the picture, my friend leans against a wall. He leans so casually that he could be waiting for a bus.   He holds his baby close to his chest, and gently feeds him a bottle of formula. I looked at that photo and felt a jealousy so real that I haven’t forgotten about it since.

It’s not that I think formula feeding is inherently better. Feeding a newborn isn’t easy, no matter how you serve it. I’m sure that, at this very moment, another parent is frantically searching a diaper bag for a forgotten bottle, or cursing the formula powder spilled across the kitchen floor, or feeling judged for how their baby is fed, wishing that they could breastfeed instead. I know that the easy moment captured in my friend’s photo was surrounded by other, harder moments. But how much easier would it be, for all of us, if we were all supported to feed our babies in the ways that we choose? What if breastfeeding had been presented as one choice, and not the only choice? What if I had been told in a way that I felt, really felt, that the best way to feed Bingo was whatever way kept us both happy and well? What if I had been able to feed her that one ounce of formula without feeling as if any of us had failed?

I look at all of those what ifs and think: maybe I would have chosen to breastfeed anyways. And maybe I would hate it less.

*None of the reasons why I breastfeed mean that I think anybody else should.  I believe that whatever ways you choose to feed your baby (or whatever ways your baby/life chooses for you) are right and good, if they’re right and good for you and your family.

Thanks.

Thank you all for your welcomes to Bingo!  I did, in fact, write updates during much/most of labor and will post them in the form of a birth story once I have a chance to edit.

Bingo is, in my totally biased opinion, the cutest baby on the block.  This doesn’t negate the fact that I definitely spent a good amount of time this morning sititng in bed sobbing on to the baby after she went twelve hours last night constantly nursing, with the longest stretch of sleep for either of us being five minutes.

Luckily we have amazing friends and midwives, who bring food, laughter, hugs, advice and support.  After a visit from the midwife this afternoon that included a crash course in improved breastfeeding, Bingo is now sound asleep and– of course– totally worth it all.

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Good fences.

Though Sea and I live in a city, we’ve been realizing more and more how much our neighborhood functions like a small town. 

When I was 20 weeks pregnant, we told our closest neighbours that we were having a baby.  Within a couple of weeks, other neighbors– people we had never spoken to– were congratulating us and fishing for details.  I went from being able to count on one hand the number of people on our street that I knew by name to recognizing people from halfway down the block.  And each person seems to come with their own set of invasive assumptions or questions.  

There was the neighbor who chastized Sea for mowing the lawn, assuming that she was pregnant.  A couple of neighbors have asked about our birth plan and told us about their birth experiences (often as their wide-eyed children looked on).  Last week the older woman who lives a few houses down instructed us to have the baby on her birthday (we didn’t).  So it was no surprise today when another neighbor stopped us as we walked home with the words, “Can I ask you something personal?” 

Based on the questions that we get asked most commonly, we assumed that she would follow this with “Boy or girl?”, “How did you do it?”, “Known or unknown donor?”, or “Birth plan?”  Instead, she asked, “Are you both planning on breastfeeding?”

Well, neighbor whose name I didn’t know until about a month ago, who I’ve only spoken to a handful of time, whose previous interactions with me consisted of “Hello!” and “Good morning!”, that is quite a personal question.  Too surprised to be coy or clever, Sea simply answered “Uh, no.”  We then stood awkwardly, shifting from foot to foot in synchrony, as the neighbor told us about her breastfeeding experiences.

They say good fences make good neighbors.  Clearly we need a taller one.

 

Advice from my mother.

Since the visit to my family began, I’ve been inundated with a steady stream of advice.  Most of this has come from my mother, with the occasional contribution from my father (who has much less to say, despite having raised more than twice the number of children).  This advice has included:

-When on a plane, a pillow should be held in front of your belly at all times.  It’s like an airbag.

-Don’t lift things.  Anything.  That pillow is too heavy.

-Don’t eat chips.  They’ll cause birth defects.

-Home births are unsafe.  You need to go to the hospital the second your water breaks, or else you will become infected.

-Are you sure I can’t be present at the birth?  Are you sure?  Lots of people have their parents present.

-Your child is always a child.

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Articles that my mother has clipped from papers and saved for me to read.

Perhaps most persistently, however, she has been questioning me about whether we plan to breastfeed or formula feed Bingo.  I’ve refused to answer. Continue reading