Sunday, May 5, 2013

Nursing

Interesting note: I nurse. My children do not nurse. I can breastfeed, and my children can also breastfeed. So, the proper usage of to nurse (in this regard) only works for the mother to do, but the verb to breastfeed works for the mother and baby to both do.

Anyway, it should be pretty apparent what has been on my mind recently.

I have spent a lot of the last four years of my life nursing. Jill weaned around fifteen months old. Danny weaned around eighteen months old. Alice, obviously, has not weaned yet. But of the past 48 months, 35 of them have been spent nursing. (And the remaining 13 were spent pregnant—and some months were spent pregnant and nursing!  My poor body needs a break.) So, I'll state the obvious and say I've been nursing a lot.

Having an exclusively breastfed baby requires some creativity when it comes to nursing. (Jill would take a bottle—Danny refused to take a bottle until he weaned. Alice, so far, doesn't like it anymore. She took two bottles in her first week of life, and now she shuns them.) So, I've nursed in a lot of places: cars, bathrooms, libraries, baseball games, Walmarts, restaurants, park benches, camp grounds, malls, balconies, mothers' lounges, etc. When your baby is hungry, you really can't be picky.

When nursing in public, you witness various reactions from those who notice what you are doing.

For Jill's birthday, we went to the National Zoo. Alice got hungry during the middle of our trip and naturally wanted to eat. Jeff took Jill and Danny to go see more animals, and I got to breastfeed Alice. The zoo was very crowded that day (it probably is every day), and the sun was really beating down, so I wanted to nurse in the shade. We went in the women's restroom, and there was an empty bench that seemed pretty ideal. (Anything is better than sitting on a toilet seat to nurse. Standing up to nurse isn't very much fun either. Your arms get tired.)

The location of the bench, though, ensured that every single woman going to the bathroom would walk past me, because it was in between all of the stalls and the sinks. So you couldn't wash your hands without seeing me. Some women averted their eyes. Some women never noticed me. Some looked very uncomfortable. The teenaged and young adult women looked the most awkward.

Some of the responses were pretty cool though. They would smile at me or give me a thumbs up or just not look awkward. Their reactions helped me remember that I was simply doing something as wonderful and natural as keeping my baby alive with the milk my body magnificently produces—not picking my nose or pulling down my pants to pluck a wedgie or something.

The looks I don't like are the ones that remind me of a character I read in a book a few months ago.
"In the ten years since the Garretts moved next door, Mom hardly ever looked out the side windows of our house without huffing an impatient breath. Too many kids on the trampoline. Bikes abandoned on the lawn. Another pink of blue balloon tied to the mailbox, waving haphazardly in the breeze. Loud basketball games. Music blaring while Alice and her friends tanned. The bigger boys washing cars and spraying each other with hoses. If not those, it was Mrs. Garrett, calmly breast-feeding on the front steps, or sitting there on Mr. Garrett's lap, for all the world to see. 
'It's indecent,' Mom would say, watching.
'It's legal,' Tracy, future lawyer, always countered, flipping back her platinum hair. She'd station herself next to Mom, inspecting the Garretts out the big side window of the kitchen. 'The courts have made it absolutely legal to breast-feed wherever you want. Her own front steps are definitely fair game.' 
'But why? Why do it at all when there are bottles and formula? And if you must, why not inside?'
'She's watching her other kids, Mom. It's what she's supposed to do,' I'd sometimes point out, making my stand next to Tracy.
Mom would sigh [and] shake her head . . ." —My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
I don't like thinking about opinions like that.

As I was saying, I was sitting in the bathroom, watching the various reactions, feeling hot and sticky (because it was hot and humid), feeling impatient with how long she was nursing, and wishing that I was with Jeff and my kids enjoying the zoo, when a woman came right up to me, and said, "Way to go, Mom! My kids are in their thirties now, and time spent nursing is still among my most treasured memories with them."

Then she walked away.

Her comment really pulled me out of my pity party of nursing-makes-me-hot-and-sweaty and nursing-makes-me-miss-out-on-fun-stuff and nursing-takes-too-long and nursing-makes-me-expose-myself-in public, and it helped me remember how awesome nursing really is. My body can keep a baby alive! I can make milk! I can create life and then sustain it. Isn't that amazing? My baby will only be a baby for such a short time, and right now I can meet all of her demands, and help her grow healthy and strong, and have these special times where I really am her whole world, when she's latched on to me with her bright blue eyes looking deep into mine as she occasionally smiles and coos.

It's really quite wonderful.

What a blessing to be able to nurse!

Some beautiful nursing mamas.
(I am the only one actually nursing during this photo, but my sister and sisters-in-law did all nurse their sweet babies.)

And then . . . there are also moments like today. For some reason, I forgot to include a vital element in my outfit before leaving for church. So . . . when my milk let down at church today, I ended up with two delightful large circles of wetness on my cute dress. Sigh. That's about as awkward as I've felt in a long time. I held Alice in front of me so no one could see the wetness, but then she got fussy and Jeff took her from me in a gallant effort to be helpful and give me a break. Then I quickly grabbed a blanket and hugged it to my chest for about half an hour.

I had extra nursing pads in my diaper bag, so I was able to put them on to prevent further leaking, but my bra was still soaking wet. The spots finally dried though, but then I got Alice back from Jeff. Holding her pushed my dress up against my wet bra, which gave me new damp spots on the exterior of my dress. Delightful.

So, yes, nursing is awesome and miraculous and wonderful. But sometimes . . . it can be a little less-than-wonderful.

And it can be painful. About a week ago, latching on and nursing finally stopped being painful. I remember it took about six weeks with Danny, but with Alice it took eight. Bummer. But we've finally figured it out, and it doesn't hurt anymore! Yay rah!

Note: I do not think formula is evil or poison. I personally enjoy nursing my children, and that is what works best for me. It's fun, and it's always the perfect temperature, and it's easy to transport, and it's a lot cheaper. :) But I recognize it is not what works out for all families.


So, do you have any heart-warming nursing memories?

Or have you done anything to embarrass yourself recently? :)

8 comments:

  1. I love this post! It makes me happy remembering the day we took that picture, and knowing that I knew that I was pregnant with Hanna, even though we hadn't told anyone yet.

    I would have smiled at you in the bathroom.

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  2. Love it Mimi! I loved nursing my babies too. I especially enjoyed it with Aubrey, savoring every moment, especially in the middle of the night when it was just she and I and I knew I would not be interrupted (as would happen often during the day with two busy boys!). Knowing too that we would likely not have anymore babies, I took my time weaning her. It was hard when that time came (15 months). It's such an incredible bonding experience and I wouldn't trade it for anything (OK, so I wish that they didn't bite! It hurts. Jackson once made me bleed! Oh and the clogged milk ducts I got with Nicholas were NOT pleasant). But I LOVED it...and I would do it all over again!

    And if it makes you feel better...I had NO idea you were leaking milk today. It's happened to me too, so you are not alone. I had A LOT of milk with Nicholas (pretty sure I could've fed twins!) and let's just say our latching on was really difficult the first few months... On a long flight, I pumped beforehand to give him a bottle to avoid nursing on the plane. I was SUPER engorged when we finally reached our destination and had leaked through my nursing pads! So, there I was, walking through the airport with two very large wet spots on the front of my shirt shouting "Got milk? Yep, I sure do!" Official milk wagon. Memories, right?? :)

    And yes, your dress was very cute today! :) So sorry about the leak! Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Learning to nurse on the go has been a lifesaver for me. Eric is often not around when I'm out with the kids and it's hard to keep them occupied in one spot for long! This time around (my third kid) I learned how to nurse Rachel in her wrap, so I can push a grocery cart around the store while she eats. It's amazing to be able to sit and stare and snuggle while I nurse, but sometimes it just needs to get done without getting in the way!

    Of course,that can be awkward. Like the time at Walmart where Rachel was eating while in her wrap but got fussy and a well-intentioned stranger came to my aid by trying to take my baby OUT of her wrap. Yep, I'm a pro at discrete nursing, but I definitely flashed everything to the entire aisle that day!

    That said, I'm glad I've become comfortable feeding my baby anywhere. A sister in law commented to me at our last family get together that it was wonderful to see me nursing my baby while still playing games. She recently had her first and didn't feel comfortable yet, but she said she felt more comfortable trying to nurse in public after seeing me be so casual about it. If people state, I honestly don't even notice anymore. I probably smile back ;)

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    1. i am interested to learn how you nurse from a wrap and are able to do other things simultaneously! that would be so fabulous!! what brand of wrap do you have? or did you make it yourself? i applaud you!

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  4. I have an experience to share - I learned the hard way to teach my child a code word if they nurse until they are old enough to talk. It's quite embarrassing to have a child announce during church, "But Mom, I want to nurse!" Yeah, I think everyone I know thinks I continued to nurse until my children were way too old.

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  5. Anything embarrassing today? This evening I met your Mom and Kimmy (her visiting teaching companion) for dinner at Big Boy; I drove there straight from work.

    We all arrived about the same time and I waited in my car while Kimmy took an insulin shot. When I thought it was all clear I walked over and around the pickup to open your Mom's door first. I always hope to open everyone's door. Your mom is nice about waiting for me. Sometimes when I'm really spacy she waits even a long time. :)

    As I approached her door I noticed while glancing back over the bed of the pickup that my car was now accelerating (amazing how little slope is needed) toward the passenger side door where Kimmy was in the process of exiting.

    I mumbled something under my breath (probably "oh my goodness") and this old body tried to lurch? charge? back around the back end of the pickup.

    I was almost reverent as I saw Kimmy (very aware of her surroundings apparently) pull her leg back into the pickup and close her door, very smart move, very smooth. Kimmy officially rocks in my book.

    I actually managed to sort of slow the Cobalt before it hit the pickup; not real hard I guess since I could not see a dent.

    Your Mom says this is now officially my last car with a manual transmission. Personally I'm not sure if they shouldn't just take away my drivers license;

    and of course now Daniel when I finally get around to telling him that he is putting the parking break on too tight (I struggle to release it with two hands) when he borrows the car; will probably not listen to this not very focused old man.

    Wait a minute maybe that's why Daniel is so aggressive with the parking break, he's probably watched it roll away recently. Yes, I'm sure Daniel has had the same problem; in fact I bet it has happened to your Mom too, she'd never tell. Yeah, I'm sure everyone forgets the parking brake and lets their car nearly run over people or cats. I'm normal.

    Yeah, I was embarrassed; such a klutz.

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    1. my mom did that once! she almost ran over a good samaritan that patched a tire for us when we were stranded. it's a funny story.

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  6. it boggles my mind when people look down on nursing and call it "unnatural" and whattnot. I don't get it. Nursing, if possible of course, seems so obvious to me! I'm very grateful that i am able to nurse my son and it has been a great experience for us. I am also grateful for my nursing cover that allows me to breastfeed in public.
    as always, thanks for sharing your thoughts. :)

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What's on your mind?