10 March 2014

Milk: Letting Go

"You should try this," the clerk at the health store says, unprompted, holding up a box of mother's milk tea.

"No thanks," I reply, arms tightening slightly around my daughter. "None of those supplements really worked for me."

"Maybe you didn't try the right one," she pushes.

"We tried a lot of things," I say, then change the subject. "Do you sell honey?"


E. is nearly seven months old now. She's still small, but she's gaining weight at a normal rate and is busy crawling, sitting, and working on walking. She has yet to get sick with anything more than a slightly runny nose. We've introduced solid foods and moved her into her own bedroom. I'm still breastfeeding, but I've recently reduced our daytime feeds so that I'm only breastfeeding at night. I have to have surgery sometime in the next couple months and won't be able to lift E. very easily for a couple weeks afterwards. I'm cutting down on breastfeeding a bit sooner than planned so my recovery won't be as much of a hassle. It was easier than I thought it would be. It only took a day or two for my body to adjust with each one, and while E. was not happy about switching her afternoon breastfeed for formula, since she usually uses the breastfeed to get herself to sleep (which is why we're also in the process of teaching her to fall asleep on her own), it only took a day or two for her to be okay with it.

My feelings about breastfeeding are so mixed up that I didn't expect to be sad about reducing feeds. I hadn't realized how much the bonding part of it had affected me. In those first weeks, it didn't feel like bonding. It just felt miserable. I started counting down to when we could introduce solids. I don't know when it became something more emotionally positive, but it did, to an extent. 

My original goal was to breastfeed exclusively for six months. When that was derailed, I decided I would continue breastfeeding, along with the formula, for the six months, and see where it went from there. By the time we hit six months, I felt ready to quit most days, but E. didn't seem ready for it. Once I knew having surgery was a certainty, rather than a possibility, I decided it was time to cut down. And it felt stranger than expected.

Breastfeeding less has made me enjoy feeding her in the evenings more. It's easier to deal with her biting me with her brand-new teeth occasionally because it's not a constant battle. I don't get irritated from wearing uncomfortable nursing bras during the day (one gave me a bruise at one point because of the fit), my complexion is finally starting to clear up, and oddly, I feel more comfortable in my body. More like myself again. But once in a while, something reminds me of the hell of those first weeks of parenthood, and those emotions come rushing back.

I hate that incidents like the one above still make me feel bad. I know the clerk was just trying to sell me something and she took a look at me and decided that since I look like a crunchy mom, I'd obviously be exclusively breastfeeding. She didn't know my story. She just assumed. And it hurt. Enough that, while she and someone else in the store were chatting about natural vs. refined sugars, I pointed out that agave is pretty dang refined. I wasn't very catty about it, and it's true, but I said it out of my irritation more than anything else, and that wasn't right. 

I still want to slap the people who come up with the really sappy sayings about parenthood. I enjoy being a mum, and my daughter is very important to me, but this is not the be-all and end-all (I remember saying something similar about sex once). Parenthood does not always bring out the best in me. Sometimes it brings out the worst. Sometimes I am frustrated and unhappy about it, and sometimes I am extremely content. Some days letting go of the grief that I have about parts of is harder. Today is a more difficult day, solely due to that conversation at the store, but as always, I'll find an equilibrium again and be okay.

06 March 2014

Expectations and Babies

As there have been zero comments regarding my last post about what linguistic or cultural things people might like me to try to dissect (pretty sure comments are enabled), I'm just going to see where the wind takes me. Today we're going with the schema involved when people respond to seeing babies (because this has puzzled me lately), thereby combining some semantics with this whole parenthood adventure I'm on. This will be a really casual discussion of the topic, and won't be terribly academic in style. You have been warned.

People sometimes say really moronic things when they see babies.

Well, at least, that's been my experience.

It started when E. was a newborn. She was too small for a baby carrier or the stroller, and if we were just walking to the grocery store, we didn't want to lug the carseat with us. So we'd bundle her up in a blanket and one of us would carry her. Inevitably, we would be asked, "Is that a baby?"

J.'s standard response became, "No, it's a bomb, that looks like a baby."

Mine was, "No, it's a turtle." Or a burrito, or anything along those lines. Apparently it messes with people's expectations when you're carrying a baby around without a stroller or a carseat.

Schema for baby includes: carseat and/or stroller.

The next weird comment I've gotten was when she got big enough for the baby carrier. It was amazing. I finally got to have my hands free when we went for a walk. And then someone said, "That's a baby? I thought you were carrying a dog in there!"

People actually do that? I've yet to see one of those, but I have seen people with dogs in strollers, so I suppose it's possible.

Schema for baby may not include soft fabric baby wraps/slings/carriers. At a guess, this may happen because we're in a suburb-y area with fewer people practicing more crunchy types of parenting.

The latest one is the assumption that my child is an inanimate object. I constantly get the comment that she's like a little doll (not sure why, since most dolls don't puke down the front of your shirt or bite), but the other day, someone seriously thought I was carrying around a doll in a baby carrier until E. moved. She said it was because E. was front-facing in the carrier. That might be a feasible assumption if I was eight, but last time I checked, I was in my late twenties. If I was carrying a doll around like that, I'd be a bit concerned about what was going on in my head.

Schema for baby does not include: front-facing carriers?
Additionally, schema for parent requires added height to suggest age? Or perhaps schema for parent requires said parent to be visibly in their thirties?
Drawing from above responses, my child's diminuitive size may be affecting people's responses, too. So:
Schema for baby includes an infant weighing more than 6 pounds as a newborn, otherwise, child may be mistaken for toy?

Judging from the few things I've extrapolated here, my own schema for baby doesn't match up to the ones these people have had. I'm finding it a little disturbing, to be honest, that the guy in the second instance was more primed to see soft carrier=dog than soft carrier=baby. The same thing goes for the people who think my daughter is a doll rather than a person. I've never seen an adult, or even a teenager, toting a doll around like it's a baby, so it's not part of the expectations I have when I see a person carrying a baby in a baby carrier.

A brief look at this topic tells me that I have a long way to go before I manage to put together a coherent cultural schema for "baby."