Wednesday, April 18, 2007

carnival time!

I'm joining in a fun carnival of breastfeeding "expectation vs. reality" stories. Here's my take. Join in the carnival through the links at the bottom of this post.

In the days where I had a gigantic belly and lots of spare time, I had already become insistent about my right to breastfeed in public. “I don’t want to be isolated,” I said. So along with the Lasinoh and a How-to book, I bought a Hooter Hider in a garish print (so garish my husband called it “clown-like”). I’m not hiding behind basic black, I told myself. No one’s going to keep this nursing momma at home.

What I didn’t realize is that breastfeeding can be isolating, even in the best of circumstances. Perhaps the closeness nursing creates with your baby is the fact that it’s so hard to get close to anyone else.

Even physically. After about the first week of Lucy’s life, I realized no one had touched me. Because no one could get close enough. I was surrounded by pillows. Besides a Boppy, I needed about three other pillows to nurse comfortably sitting up on the couch. That number increased to six in bed, and ten lying down. I’m down to three pillows on the couch, and three in bed, but still. No one’s snuggling while Lucy’s latched on.

And despite my chutzpah, it took me weeks--well, months--to get used to nursing in public. It didn’t help that my husband was just the tiniest bit squeamish. Or that I wasn’t quite dexterous enough to lift up my shirt, help Lucy latch on, and keep the Hooter Hider from billowing like a garish kite. And that was when she wasn’t upset, arching her back, and unlatching unexpectedly.

And until I mastered nursing in a sling, I just couldn’t find comfortable places to sit. On our first outing, (to Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf), I brought the Boppy. It seemed perfectly normal after a few weeks of sleeplessness, but I wonder what people were thinking when they saw me march by with baby, diaper bag, and U-shaped pillow. Maybe they thought it was for some serious hemorrhoids.

For at least the first eight weeks, there wasn’t the possibility of going someplace and not nursing. We went out to dinner, and I nursed. I nursed in church. I nursed in the bathroom, on a walk, at my in-laws. In the library. At the park. In the car. Whether or not I had comfortable seating, or my arms were tired, or I had privacy, we nursed. Because that was our life.

And then we started recognizing that our daughter was sensitive to certain foods. Milk was obvious; I don’t usually eat it, but when I did after she was born, we were up all night. That’s easy, I thought. No more milk.

But her digestive system still seemed sensitive: I would describe the poops, but since this is for new moms, I’ll spare you the TMI details. I tried no wheat. This seemed to help. Then it was wine. Then soy.

If you don’t eat milk, wheat or soy, there’s not a lot you can eat. Actually, there’s plenty. There’s just not a lot of processesed food, restaurant food or other people’s food you can eat.

So now that our daughter stays up late enough for us to go out, and is mobile enough that we could eat at other people’s houses, we stay home. Oh, sure, I invite people over. And luckily, I get enough sleep these days that I have the energy to cook. I even like to cook.

But I miss dinners after church, or getting take-out when I’m too tired to cook. I miss not having to give people detailed instructions about what to bring over--scratch that; I miss telling people not to bother bringing anything, because it’s likely either they or I will miss something I can’t eat.

And yet--and yet, it isn’t all so bad as it sounds. My daughter smiles now; she plays games with us. She has started standing with support; we’re hoping she will crawl before she walks. She shakes her head back and forth when she’s delighted; she smiles at strangers, even when she’s tired. She crows when I tickle her ribs.

Social? No--breastfeeding isn’t exactly social. Yet it’s connective, like nothing else in the world.

Check out these other carnival rides:
Motherwear Blog - What I Didn't Expect When I Was Expecting
Breastfeeding Mums - What I Wish I'd Known About Breastfeeding
Mama Knows Breast - Top Ten Things I Didn't Expect About Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding 1-2-3 - What I Didn't Expect When I Was Expecting
The Lactivist - Nursing Isn't Quite What I Expected...
Spit Up On My Shoulder - Education is Key
Adventures of a Breastfeeding Mother - what she didn’t expect about breastfeeding
New Mama's Next - The Surprises of Breastfeeding an "Early Bird"
The True Face of Birth - What I Didn't Expect While Pregnant
Down With the Kids - Goodbye Booby

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