Tuesday, March 31, 2009

She Blinded Me With Science

I was going to write a follow-up post to my last one, detailing some of the perks that have come from weaning, but I got too distracted by this article by Hanna Rosin. Now obviously, just calling something "The Case Against Breastfeeding" is designed to raise both hackles and cheers from respective ends of the breastfeeding-support continuum (let's put La Leche League on one side of that and Nestle on the other). The author's actual intent, however, is to discuss the pressure put on mothers to breastfeed, the sense of guilt they can receive if they don't, and the, in her opinion, overstated benefits of breastmilk.

As the mother of three children (all breastfed, she happens to mention), Rosin is fully entitled to discuss the first two things, but after following the links to her cited sources, I think her refuting of the benefits of breastfeeding is its own overstatement. The fact that breastmilk is inherently better than formula is so obvious that I can't wrap my head around any arguments to the contrary. It takes a lab to prove that a naturally occurring substance, the one that kept the human race alive for our entire existence on the planet up to the last century or so, is superior to something made in a factory from the dried compounds of who-knows-what? Are there ongoing studies comparing orange juice with Tang?

Why do we only buy this argument when it comes to baby food? I don't know anyone who chooses to drink reconstituted dried milk, even though it would be much more "convenient" to keep milk in non-perishable cans in the pantry rather than constantly having to buy it, refrigerate it, worry about the expiration date, stock up on it before looming weather disasters, etc. The fact is, the inconvenience of breastfeeding is what has been overstated. It has been framed as the high-maintenance alternative to formula, instead of the biologically-implicated norm.

So let's just be honest about it, without judging anyone for their choices. Science can't duplicate nature. Not perfectly. Can it come close enough to grow happy, healthy babies? Why yes, yes it certainly can. Especially when they have an entire arsenal of other environmental advantages.

Which brings me to my biggest annoyance with this piece. The author talks about the guilt and even shame that is directed at mothers who cannot or choose not to breastfeed. She references the skinny-jeaned mom-iosos who huddle together at toddler parks and look askance at anyone pulling a powder-filled bottle from their designer diaper bag. Now, I wish nothing but solidarity among all mothers, and I don't discount the isolation that comes from feeling unsupported in your parenting decisions, but when I read about these milk-cliques, I couldn't help thinking, "If this is what breastfeeding propaganda has wrought, so be it."

While the trendy Brooklyn moms are discussing which baby monitors have the smallest carbon footprint, the moms in my neck of the woods are being told by their pediatricians that their 1-day-old babies are starving and need formula because their milk hasn't come in yet. And those are the tiny fraction who even bother to try breastfeeding. The percentage of Memphis mothers exclusively breastfeeding at six months is 9%, half of the national average. And, in what seems hardly coincidental, Memphis has the worst infant mortality rate in the country (which, as a nation, isn't so hot itself). I'm sorry if the PSA with the bull-riding pregnant woman makes a formula-feeding mother feel bad, I really am. I have issues with the execution of that campaign. But if it encourages the overarching public feeling that breastfeeding is worth the hassle every contrary force has declared it to be, and some babies end up healthier for it, then I can live with that.

The one point Rosin makes, maybe accidentally, that I did agree with is that nursing can be presented as the be-all, end-all of parenting, that the decision to nurse overrides all others and takes precedence over every other aspect of the parent-child bond. I think that's true, and it's not always a good thing. I've known mothers who probably would have benefited from some education in ways to balance breastfeeding with the rest of their lives, including the right ways to occasionally alternate with formula that wouldn't be detrimental to their milk supply and nursing relationship. The all-or-nothing ideal can be very overwhelming, and a more realistic approach may have broader appeal and efficacy. Of course, so could giving moms a $35 manual breastpump at the hospital instead of a bag full of formula samples.

The lead-in to this article is, "In certain overachieving circles, breast-feeding is no longer a choice—it’s a no-exceptions requirement ..." Well, most of us don't live in those overachieving circles. In my work, I constantly met women who were the only ones in their family or social group who were nursing. And I told them all, just wait, the trends eventually drift down here from the coasts (including the northern one), and you'll be just like everyone else. It's disheartening to learn that the trend-setters are already chafing under the mammary mantle, and I fear the pendulum will be pointed toward backlash before those of us here in the barely-achieving circles have even seen an upswing.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Resolve The Weakness In Me

There's that old homophone joke, "Seven days without [insert beer, sex, barbecue, etc.] makes one week." (Like weak. Get it? Ha.) Well, from my observation, seven days without nursing makes one weak, tired, unstable, and hurty.

I didn't consciously choose last Sunday as my last official day of nursing Mr. Baby. I always thought it would be easiest to begin the full weaning after he'd been away from me a couple days, but then every time we were reunited, I couldn't stand to refuse his pleas and begin our time together with him crying and distressed. Also, although he's been going to bed at night without nursing for a couple months, I seem to be the only person in Memphis who can't get him to nap without it. So as his naptime approached last Sunday, I lay down with him and nursed for, it turns out, the second to last time ever.

I didn't make particular note of his pre-pre-bedtime nursing, although I do remember that we were sitting in Miss M's bed, doing her book-and-story routine. He didn't latch for long, distracted by a board book that looked both entertaining and delicious. I didn't mark the moment as it happened, because I still hadn't fully formed the plan to stop nursing entirely. After Miss M was bedded down, he went to sleep fairly easily and slept through a decent majority of the night, like he had been recently.

Our Monday morning was its normal flurry of activity, with Mr. Baby maintaining a good mood throughout. He reportedly had a good day as well, so when I got home from work that evening, I decided just to try and see how long I could distract him from nursing. I was fully prepared to cave if the need arose, but since we just had a couple hours before bedtime, I thought I might be able to keep him active (and eating) long enough to get through it. And I was. He asked to nurse numerous times, and began to fuss at me when I refused, but I just kept saying, "Nursie's all gone" and found something else to do (or eat) as quickly as I could.

Going one full day without nursing (while still in the same house) provided some momentum for going the next day. If I went back, it was a much bigger reset of the clock, so even when his requests got more frustrated and my body begged for some relief, I kept gently insisting that the milk was gone. And then taking him outside, or going for a walk, or gathering up a pile of books to read. During those days, there was no sitting and relaxing on the couch, or anywhere that he was used to nursing. The minute he saw me in one of those places, he would clamor to get into position. So I stayed on my feet nearly the entire time we were awake and together.

The times we were asleep and together weren't going so peacefully, either. After a few weeks of decent sleeping, Mr. Baby regressed to his pre-nightweaned, restless self. He'd not only wake up and cry, but he began climbing out of bed and trying to escape the room, making it much less likely that he'd settle himself back down. If he stayed in bed, he'd flop on top of me, inadvertently banging his head and knees against my very tender torso.

Speaking of which, and with the forewarning of TMI, my boobs were hurting like hell. So badly that, as I felt milk leaking for the first night in ages, I expected to look down and see blood seeping through the front of my nightgown. We'd cut down to 1-2 feedings a day the week before, followed by a couple days apart, so I really thought my supply would be dwindling. But the factory refused to shut down, and trying to go as long as possible between pumpings resulted in huge, painful knots that felt like gum balls (the tree kind) trying to poke out from under my skin. Even when Mr. Baby wasn't actively yelling at night, his constant desire to put his weight on my body kept me awake and in tears of my own. This sleeplessness and pain, combined with the hormonal cocktail of weaning-plus-ten-day-period (I warned you about the TMI, people), made me … well, let's just say I wasn't my usual cheerful self.

Still, we both made it through Wednesday and Thursday. He took a lot of walks, ate a lot of yogurt, and went to bed as early as I thought could possibly work. I'm rarely eager to spend extended periods away from him, but last week, the Friday-Saturday break was much needed. Despite my repeated excuse that the milk was all gone, I was still producing a piddling but pain-inducing amount.

I was nervous about our reunion on Sunday afternoon. I knew he'd be getting sleepy, which would make him more sensitive. I also had no idea how I was going to get him to nap. It was a very pleasant surprise when he didn't say "Nursie!" within the first few minutes of seeing me, but it wasn't much longer until his sleepiness stirred up ingrained habits. I tried laying down with him, but after a few minutes of hollering, I decided to try walking him to sleep. As we walked out into the sunny afternoon, I felt grateful for the accidentally good timing of spring weaning and the ability to stroller up in times of crisis. He was asleep within minutes.

His nap was brief, but he played happily the rest of the day. Something went weird around dinnertime, though, and he refused most of his meal. He went straight to his bath and then bed, where he went to sleep easily but then fussed and clung restlessly to me the rest of the night, threatening to wake up for good at 5:40am when I generally sneak out of bed to make Miss M's lunch and get her ready for school. He'd already added 6:45am to his repertoire last week, instead of snoozing until 7:45, throwing off the entire household's morning routine. I lay there desperately using my maternal mind meld to urge him to just stay asleep so I could deal with Miss M two-handed. And this time, it worked. So that, I guess, is progress. A miserable night but a manageable morning.

I wouldn't have endeavored to wean if I didn't think we'd both end up the better for it, but for my own sanity and maybe that of anyone reading this who is in the same place, I wanted to write down the reality. It's the breaking of a powerful connection, and the physical and emotional consequences are hard on both sides. It's only been one week, though, and I'm hoping to get stronger soon.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Scarecrow And Fungus

As I was sitting out on the back patio, enjoying my book and the cool, fresh evening air, K wondered aloud what those orange blobs on the cedar tree were. Being the expert botanist that I am, I said, "I thought they were, like, the cones or something." Being an actual botany expert, K replied that, no, cedar cones are a normal brown color. So we went in for a closer look. Upon inspection, the blobs turned out to be dark brown pods with orange tendrils growing from them. Again, with my expansive tree knowledge, I suggested that they were seed pods. K suppressed a sigh and said, no, look how they surround the limbs, it's like some sort of tumor.

She said the word "tumor" just as my fingers touched the orange outgrowth. I don't know if it was the word or the surpassingly creepy, wet-rubbery feel of the alleged plant life, but a bone-deep chill ran throughout my body and, even now, I can't think about it without feeling bile rise in the back of my throat. I tried to go back and read, but I could see those (shudder) tumors dangling overhead - okay, overhead and 20 yards away - and I couldn't concentrate on my book.

Thankfully, the trauma was brief. I'd completely forgotten about the diseased cedar when K popped up online this morning to inform me that she'd discovered that the growth on the tree was actually a fungus called "Cedar-Apple Rust." Great. Fungus. Even grosser. Although this name does not do it justice. It should be called something like "Necrotic Sponge-Filth of Evil."

I'm not sure I can ever spend time in the backyard without imagining those squishy little fungus-fingers reaching toward me. It just may be the most disgusting thing found in nature. I suspect it may actually be why the last owners moved.

Just look. I dare you.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Running With The Devil

When I left for my walk last night (yes, I've actually kept it up), the weather was a bit cooler than I expected, and I thought, hm, maybe I'll pick up the pace a little. Maybe I'll even … what's the word? Oh, yes … run! With the springy weather, I'd seen people running all over the neighborhood (sidenote: I often see runners when I'm driving around during my lunch hour. Who are these people jogging carefree through tony streets in the middle of the day? They can't all be freelance writers.) It didn't look that hard. I've run before, when I had to. So as I got to the top of the first hill and rounded the first corner, I struck out toward the next block with my heels up.

I was winded before I even hit the straight-away.

Apparently, all those muscles I was using to regularly walk a brisk 2-miler had no use for this slight modification in my stride. Or more accurately, my lungs did not want any part of it. The stitch in my side could have held The Hulk's shirt seams together. After maybe 30 yards, I slowed back down to a walk. And slowed. And slowed. I'd expected to go in intervals of running/walking, but I didn't realize how much slower my walking would be after my brief bursts of speed (for lack of a more honest word).

Once I recovered the ability to inhale painlessly, I set a destination goal. I made sure to do this while I was still walking and before I re-awakened the voice in my head yelling, "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING AND WHY?" I picked a point half a block down and started running again. After about ten sidewalk squares, I understood why runners always have that look on their faces. I made it to my goal, but then staggered off my usual course, hoping to make it home with as few additional steps as possible. As I short-cut through the middle school grounds, I flashed back to the unit in junior high gym when we had to run a mile through the cold, muddy, goose-mined ballfields for the Presidential Fitness test and I promised myself I would never, ever run again. (I'm sorry, 13-year-old SAM. At least I wasn't in pleated shorts. Although, on another sidenote, I do now fully understand the importance of athletically-oriented foundation garments. There are both tragic and comic consequences to running in a thong.)

As I neared home, I reminded myself that I had experienced the full pain of childbirth, which involved great physical suffering for hours and hours on end. How could I do that and not manage to run for three minutes straight? So as I headed downhill toward the house, I started up again. I passed five mailboxes before I realized, hey, nobody's giving me a baby for this!

Now, I understand that it takes time to build up aerobic fitness, and I'm fully willing to accept that this is an area I could work on. But as I lay in bed last night, with my muscles content yet my knee joints hollering for the first time in my entire life, I felt validated in my life-long belief that running is for escape purposes only. Or for chasing babies away from suspiciously scheduled joggers.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

Shift Of Emphasis

Words that these silly Southerners say with the stress on the first syllable:

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I Put My New Shoes On

I was angry when I left work yesterday. It doesn't matter why, I just was. (To paraphrase a cinematic classic, it's taken me months of therapy just to admit that I get angry.) I didn't have the words or the wherewithal to fix it, though, so I didn't know what to do other than stomp around and seethe, like I'd heard angry people were supposed to (I'm still new at this). But then as I was pulling up to the house, I saw my other therapist parked at the curb in his big brown truck. What can brown do for me? Apparently, deliver my Zappos.com order three days earlier than expected. And just exactly in time.

I'd been at the shiny new Target the day before and took the bike I'd been ogling for a test-sit. I then spent a chunk of the afternoon brooding that I couldn't afford it and lamenting my almost-post-breastfeeding shape-shifting. For the first time in my recorded history, I had an urge to exercise, but I didn't have the means to do it. Just put on your sneakers and go walk, you say? Good thinking, but I didn't have those either. (Not unless you counted the $14.99 Rocket Dog quasi-tennies I got at Delia's five years ago, which, having tried to walk middling distances in them, I didn't.) So, with the giddy thrill of online shopping tempered by the begrudging acceptance of financial responsibility, I ordered a sale-priced pair of Sauconys, the first athletic shoes to enter my wardrobe since the girls' size-5 Nikes I bought when I worked in the Children's Shoes department of Dayton's. (The Minnesotans get this time reference, but for everyone else, that's 1995.) (Sidenote to any women whose feet are smaller than an 8: you can fit into the top sizes of "girls'" shoes, and they're a lot cheaper.)

Anyway, back to present-day Memphis … or yesterday Memphis. It was gorgeous. Sunny and breezy and warm and lovely. And I was none of those things. I'd felt sick the night before - a fun new sick, different than the previous few days, that kept me up and in pain instead of asleep, totally wasting Mr. Baby's wonderful 12-straight-hours unconscious - and had seriously considered staying home from work when I was still woozy and sweaty in the morning. But I went anyway, and every aggravation of the day weighed even heavier when bounced against my constant mental refrain: "I'm not even supposed to be here today."

So fast forward, or rewind, back to the beginning there. I got home and I was pissy. But then I saw the UPS truck and knew that my shoes had magically arrived at the moment I needed them most. I put them on immediately, confirmed that they weren't drawing blood when I took a step, and out I went.

The evening was stunning. Perfect light, perfect temperature. I set off walking with no idea of where I was headed, just the solitary goal of moving until I felt better. I didn't know how much road that might take. I didn't know how much road I could take. I crested the first hill and noted how I'd barely registered the incline. When I had biked the same street days before, I was sucking wind before I got to the top. The lightness of my lungs was validating. My bike muscles may be puny, but my legs are made to walk fast and far.

I kept walking. The shoes felt great. Who knew that properly designed footwear could make such a difference? My feet looked ridiculously large in them, but no matter. The neighborhood is still new to me, so I took a turn down the only side-street I was familiar with. The yards and sidewalks were buzzing with other people out enjoying the weather. I tried to be polite and neighborly when I passed. But I was still angry.

I got to the end of my known territory and I kept going. I didn't know how far I'd gone or how long I'd been walking, but the rabid lemur was still clawing in my chest, so I just kept walking.

I was heading toward the main thoroughfare that would eventually lead me home when I saw a small wrought-iron sign with an enchanting neighborhood name. I wish I could say what it was without telling the whole Interweb where I walk alone in the evenings, or could make up something equally appealing, but just believe me when I say it was the antithesis of all the contemporary pseudo-pastoral subdivision names like "Pheasant Ridge." I had no choice but to turn and walk through it.

As I passed by the green yards and low-slung 1950s homes, my pace stayed brisk but my mind slowed down. I started observing my bucolic surroundings instead of kicking more dust at the tornado in my head. I began mentally narrating the scenery. I breathed. By the time I was noting the similarity between this little corner of my world and the small town where my parents grew up, I realized the anger was quiet. I tried to stir it back up, just to see, but I couldn't. No matter how I poked at it, it just laid there looking silly.

This change occurred at almost the precise moment I hit the home-stretch. I walked by a brand-new development, its street name an uninspiring combination of the two adjacent streets, showing a lack of imagination carefully reproduced by the architecture inside. I made that joke up right then. It made me feel even better. I walked up my driveway and thought, if I'd had the time, I could do that whole loop all over again. I felt strong and healthy and clear. The anger was gone. I'd walked it off.

Epilogue: I Google-mapped it this morning, and apparently I accidentally designed a walking route that is exactly two miles long.

Post-Script: Bonus points for catching the two movie references, and super-double-points for getting the poetry homage.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Come Together Right Now

It's always hard to know how to come back from a big blog pause (blause?). Too much has gone on to just do a quick re-cap, but it seems weird to just jump into another topic without accounting for my whereabouts. There really haven't been that many big events in the last couple weeks, but all the little ones have bonded together and multiplied into a giant time-sucking void.

My main goal this month has been to re-establish a presence for Mothersville, with the related sub-goal of clearing out the boxes and boxes of brand-new unsold merchandise still taking up space in our storage room and, I'll admit, making a little final-business-tax-return money to boot. To this end, I've created a Facebook group for Mothersville, which will hopefully give all of our old regulars and supporters a place to gather, meet/reconnect with each other, and share news of interest to the community. This was my solution to never getting around to creating forums on the Mothersville website, and it's great because the Facebook web expands much further than I could have cast on my own. There are moms from all over the world joining the group. So if you aren't yet on Facebook, or haven't found us over there, I highly recommend doing both.

On the sales side, I am re-re-opening the online store at Mothersville.com. The second "re-" is because our hosting plan expired and paying for another year would have been counter-productive to the whole venture, so things are temporarily on hold while I transfer domains and upload files and such. But once it's up and running, look out! Everything I have left will be sold at deeply discounted prices and with free shipping to anywhere in the US of A. This includes nursing bras, pump parts and accessories, and even some slings. I know wallets are pinched tight these days, but if you're going to buy this stuff anyway, why not get it for the best price you can?

(Too desperate? Oh well. Those TN Dept. of Revenue envelopes aren't going to fill themselves.)

Monday, March 02, 2009

When I Come Around And Warm Your New House

Not to swing into full-time listiness (I can't compete with the master .. er, mistress?), but in the interest of somewhat-frequent updating, and in honor of one month of residence, I now bring you ...

Weird/Interesting/Bothersome/Pleasing Things I Have Noticed About the New House:

  • The tile in my bathroom looks just like my dorm bathroom's.
  • The doors want to be either completely open or closed - there is no ajar.
  • It is beyond the reach of this universe's laws of physics to keep the kitchen floor looking clean.
  • My bedroom maintains a temperature 10-15 degrees below the rest of the house.
  • The hardwood floors are remarkably unsqueaky.
  • Half of the 419 light switches don't do anything.
  • It is nearly soundproof when the doors are shut, but a giant acoustic reflector when they are open. Like "whisper on this side of the house and it will bounce down the hallway and be perfectly audible from the opposite corner."
  • The courtyard has its own weather system.
  • The combination of couches and Internet give the office as much gravitational pull as the living room.
  • It can fit 50 people without seeming at all uncomfortable!

Speaking of, thank you to everyone who came to the housewarming. Maybe it seems odd to warm a house we're renting for, possibly, no more than 12 months, but one of the biggest draws of this home was knowing we'd have the space and amenities to gather our friends together, and we hope to do so as often as possible. If you're reading this and weren't there, we missed you! (Unless you're a freaky web-stalker or something, of course.)