Reflections on motherhood...


Monday, January 31, 2011

You can't call in sick

"hi, it's me, is the boss there?"

"hi boss, it's me.  Yeah look, I'm not coming in to work today... yeah I've got a cold, I think I'll just stay in bed and sleep it off.  I'll try and come in tomorrow."

"No, nothing due today, you'll barely miss me."



As I groggily climbed back into bed after a midnight feed, I thought momentarily, "I'll have to call in sick tomorrow."  I then realised that I had no one to call in to - and that I certainly could not call in sick or take a rest from the relentlessness of motherhood.

Nothing that Vitamin C and a couple of panadols won't fix.

Swimming lessons here we come!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

6 months down, 25 years to go

You spend most of your pregnancy thinking the labour's going to be the hardest bit.  As my cousin said to me after Milkbaby was born: "no one tells you before you have a baby that giving birth is the easy bit, or that progress is managing to shower before lunchtime.  Hang in there."  At two weeks post partum this was so close to the truth I had to have a little cry.

In terms of breastfeeding, everyone says the second night's the hardest.  Then there are lots of people who say the first six weeks are the hardest.  And a few who say it's the first three months that are the hardest.  And another bunch who'll claim that the first six months are the hardest.  It's all true.  

But now that Milkbaby has reached that magic 6-month milestone, I'd like to put my own milestone out there: the first twenty-five years are the hardest - I'm sure it gets easier after that.  I'll let you know in 24 and a half years if I was right.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Strange conversation #1: Advice well meant

When you're pregnant, all sorts of people give you well meaning advice.  As I mentioned in my last post, I think it's probably a taboo of the secret society of parenthood for older males to give unsolicited advice about breastfeeding to the uninitiated (and especially if you're a stranger - or just strange).

I was browsing the pregnancy books in an op-shop in a small town, when I noticed a short, older man browsing the books near me.  He sidled up to me and started asking the usual questions (when are you due? do you know what you're having? etc).  He then started talking about breastfeeding, saying that it was obviously the most healthy and natural way to feed a baby.  I nodded and smiled, agreeing that yes I was planning to breastfeed.  This is where the conversation should have ended, and I could have gotten back to browsing the preggy books.  But no, the man launched into graphically describing how best to get a baby to latch, his hands fondling the breasts of his jacket while he talked.  

Old guy: "before a feed, you express a bit of milk, then rub it around the areola [picture his hands demonstrating that action], and maybe even put a little bit of milk on baby's lips - baby will be able to smell the milk and will be really interested in feeding.  Then when baby's mouth is wide open, you just pop baby onto your nipple."  [more demonstrating]

Me: "uh-huh" [red-faced and wildly looking around the shop for my husband].

Old guy: "I bet you're wondering how I know so much about breastfeeding."

Me: "erm, yes I guess I am actually"

Old guy: "I am a student of medicine, among other things, and I've learnt all about breastfeeding"

Me: "Really?  Well, thanks very much for that information - very useful.  I'd better go - oh there's my husband - it looks like he's wanting to get going."  [finally spotted DH - here that stands for Damn Husband - engrossed in checking out the kitchenware, oblivious to my need for rescue and not looking at all interested in leaving the shop]

I took my leave of the man with a friendly smile.  There are just some things you shouldn't talk to strangers about, even if you're a student of medicine and are very learned in such matters.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Secret society of parenthood

Becoming a parent is like entering a secret society.

Before initiation, other parents are strangely excited for you.  Truthfully, I always found all the excitement and congratulations a bit unnatural - like they wanted some company in the hell that they're going (or have gone) through.  Sometimes I got the distinct impression that the excitement was all an act - to your face they're saying "congratulations - when are you due?" and behind your back, they're muttering "ha, suckers".

After initiation, I have become one of those parents - a member of the secret society of parenthood.  While I now know that the excitement is not a farce (I am excited for you, really), I do have to admit to thinking smugly "ha, they have absolutely NO idea of what they're in for".

There actually was a secret parent society ("keeping kids clueless for 382 years"), though it now appears to be defunct.  I think it's probably gone underground.

You know you're a new member of the secret society of parenthood when:
  • you freely exchange knowing/friendly smiles with other parents/people carrying babies
  • you can identify the brand of their frontpack or buggy from 50 feet (or you surreptitiously try to spot its brand if you haven't seen it before)
  • you'd describe yourself as an expert on carseats and cloth nappies
  • you have no qualms about starting up a conversation with other parents in an elevator
  • you find yourself giving unsolicited maternity bra advice to the uninitiated
  • you happily talk about bodily functions and substances (mostly baby poop) to anyone who looks vaguely interested (and even those who don't)
  • you've gone to work with baby puke on your shoulder (and no one's mentioned it)
  • you can belt out at least three children's songs loudly enough to last the car ride home (and you know that Twinkle Twinkle will get you from the bottom of the hill to your house)
  • things that would normally have embarrassed you (ie, all of the above) now don't faze you in the least.

Those who have been members of the secret society for a longer period will be familiar with all of the above, but for most, the novelty has worn off.  Older members of the society are generally wiser in most parenting matters, though some have a habit of giving outdated advice to newer members.  There are also some taboos - in particular, older male members of the society should refrain from giving unsolicited advice about breastfeeding to the uninitiated (more on this later).

Secret societies often have their own language and jargon, and this one is no exception - especially if you're an internet-trawling parent.  Acronyms like DD, DS, DH (darling daughter, darling son, darling/damn husband), LO (little one), EBF (exclusively breastfed), FF (formula fed) are littered throughout facebook pages and forums.  It takes a while but eventually you master the jargon, perhaps enough to have a sensible conversation - once you're not so sleep deprived.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

My milkbaby

At five months, the plunket nurse told me I should start the baby on solids, or I'd end up with a "milk baby".  I nodded and smiled, thinking "what the hell is a milk baby?"

I had a vision of a milk-flavoured jellybaby, a strange cross between a milk bottle lolly and a jellybaby:


Surely not.  Enter google.  According to Dr a "milk baby" is "a toddler (usually a big chubby one) who is allowed to drink an inordinate amount of whole cow milk (32-40 or more ounces per day) to the exclusion of other foods."  Apparently allowing your toddler to drink massive quantities of cows milk can cause iron deficiency.

Okay... I'm picking that the plunket nurse didn't know that this was the technical definition of "milk baby" - or perhaps she did and it's her private way of calling her clients cows.  Noooo, surely not.  Or should that be mooo, surely not.

I didn't reeallly want a milk baby, but then, I also didn't want to rush the inevitable routines that solids would bring.  Boobs are just so much easier - there's no preparation, cooking, pureeing, freezing or defrosting (unless you're a bit kooky and do strange things with your boobs), and they're slightly less messy (though in my case only slightly - but we won't go into that little problem here).  Being a lawyer I am also inclined to follow edicts from reputable sources like the World Health Organisation, so I put off introducing solids until said milkbaby was six months old - last week.

Then we were faced with the choice of baby led weaning (in simple terms, baby feeds himself) or mummy led weaning (aka purees and mush).  We've chosen a bit of a combination - baby gets some food to eat himself, while I clumsily aim a mush-filled spoon in the direction of his mouth, and hope he swallows a mouthful or two.  While I wouldn't use the expression "like a duck to water" to describe our food-eating exploits thus far, I can say we're getting there... slowly.  On days when it looks like the bib has ingested more than the baby, I can't help but wonder what my milkbaby will turn out like.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

That most controversial of topics.... ahem, breastfeeding

It seems that there's not a week that goes by when breastfeeding is not in the news.  This week a study in Britain has "cast doubt on the safety of the exclusive breastfeeding of babies until they are six months old", and Facebook earned the wrath of breastfeeders worldwide when it removed, then reinstated, then removed again, then reinstated again, breastfeeding support page The Leaky Boob.  (You can listen to a very good interview with The Leaky Boob founder and others here).

These two stories reminded me to post a few reflections on that most controversial of topics - breastfeeding.  In my experience, most people, both male and female, will have an opinion on breastfeeding - whether you should, where you should, how you should, for how long, schedule or demand, in public or private... the list goes on.

I've had my share of well-meaning opinions directed at me.  I find it fascinating that something so natural can provoke such depth of feeling - and make so many people uncomfortable.  In fact it makes my father-in-law so uncomfortable he has to leave the room if there's any suggestion that I might be about to breastfeed.  Thankfully, my boobs have never had the same effect on any of the men I've breastfed next to on plane flights (and somehow I do always seem to be seated next to middle-aged men) - none of whom have batted an eyelid (or even given a sideways glance) at said boobs.  Nary an uncomfortable wriggle.

Then there's the clear difference between generations - the most common differences arising around:
  • when and how to wean (according to my Nana, sooner is better - "they've had a good start")
  • schedule vs demand feeding (again according to Nana, the baby should be taught to take what it needs at one feed, in three hourly intervals)
I have learnt to smile and nod at the opinion-givers, while mentally crossing them off my list of people not to breastfeed in front of (father-in-law: never; nana: not after baby is a year old; friend X: not after baby is walking).  Breastfeeding's not for everyone, but like Brazil's breastfeeding ad - those in Facebook's halls of power should take a long look at it before deciding it's obscene.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sleepy New Year

How did you celebrate your new year?

Ours was a subdued affair - a few mediocre DVDs with the fam, waiting for midnight to roll around.  Yet another reminder of the way our life has changed, at least in the short term.  Not that we were huge party animals before baby, but I did wonder what had happened to my old self when I found myself looking at the clock through half closed eyes, and groaning upon the realisation that I still had to last another 20 minutes before midnight.  At five to midnight I managed to drag myself into the bathroom to brush my teeth, in preparation for bed (and a midnight kiss).

Oh well, perhaps next year will be more of a convivial affair.
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