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Posts Tagged ‘misogyny’

After a post went up from a Babble blogger that shamed mothers who breastfeed without a nursing cover, and piece over at Slate that indicated the simplest way for us to move forward as women in society would be for lactivists to care less and the market to over better nursing covers, I was invited to write a guest post for Annie at PhD in Parenting. I hope you will visit me over there and join our conversation about misogyny, the female body, judgments and the mommy wars.

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Long story, no? Where were we? Oh, yeah, juice filled bottles.
All those empty calories.

That phrase, empty calories, both haunted me and became completely meaningless. When a mother is stacking stage 1 and 2 baby food jars to see how many of them add up to 550 calories – and wondering if she really devotes her whole day to feeding the baby by spoon, maybe he’ll grow – well, let’s just say she doesn’t need any help worrying about calories. By the way that’d be about 7 jars , provided you don’t waste your time on low calorie food likes carrots and green beans and just go straight for the good stuff:

100 calories per jar! 80 calories per jar!
(more calories in fewer jars = more time I could sleep)

And apparently your about to be 5 month old can too have meat.
Can too.
Calories in carrots were not worth my time. A few bottles of juice didn’t take up any of my time. He drank it himself in the carseat on the way out to buy more baby food and baby Pepcid.
Three formula bottles a day was not enough calories. He was still not an any growth chart a month later. We adjusted his dose and then maxed out what we could give him according to his weight. That’s when our pediatric gastroenterologist nurse practitioner gave me a present:

Apparently, my baby could have Cherry Mylanta – the grown up kind – up to a teaspoon, whenever I wanted. Anytime he had a reflux episode, I could give it to him to stop the pain. I could stop it. The baby Pepcid was there in his system to prevent the episodes. But his little baby body was way out of wack and we couldn’t prevent it all the time – yet.

reflux episode + pink chalky liquid = baby feeling better = mommy getting her game back.

Within a week, he knew the blue bottle meant. I carried it in the diaper bag next to our bottle of juice – and our new favorite kind of calories, a ziploc of arrowroot cookies. How that child loved anything that had a fair chance of staying down!

We had been cleared for breastfeeding and had been playing around with it really. It wasn’t his favorite. It wasn’t a cookie, for example. It was a lot of work for him – probably not a lot of calorie pay off for him, maybe not worth his time – like carrots. He’d fuss a bit, nurse a bit, like our earliest days together. I thought maybe we could go back to breastfeeding on a part-time basis. We never quite worked our way back. For a little while he nursed before naps and bed if we were on my bed together and the room was dark and quiet. I made a cursory effort at pumping. We lived in the dorm at that time and I was taking care of a sick baby – and had a 5 year old. There wasn’t lots of time for pumping. I wasn’t all there for it. I was disappointed in myself, felt I could make a greater commitment to it. I did see some small progress for a few weeks, but then a huge hormonal shift sealed my fate. In February – when he was 8 months old – an unplanned pregnancy and very early miscarriage just flattened me emotionally and I’m pretty sure there was just no milk after that. The turn around time hormonally was just too extreme.

There was, naturally, the accompanying mini-depression in which several rather large issues got tied together into a gigantic knot inside me, inside a cold, hard winter in a job I was struggling with deeply. It was a mix of processing this loss, reflecting on a previous and more traumatic loss, the loss of the breastfeeding – which really represented the loss of mothering the way I planned, or of having mothering this baby be pleasant or easy – and the loss of the sudden windfall of an unplanned (as in I don’ t have to take responsibility for the decision!) third baby (who would be perfect in every way and would nurse for close to two years).

A gift came our way, a trip to England, in perhaps less than ideal circumstances. Matt’s grandfather’s home needed some loving attention. He had passed away in December and the family needed some time together in his space. It turns out that sometimes ocean hopping is just what you need. We found our way there and let the Thinker meander on English countryside, let my husband walk us all down memory lane in Dorset and Weymouth, go out for cream tea with grandparents. LP was quite a charming little 9 month old riding in the back pack here and there in lanes, on beached, in castles and garedens, all the while drinking up his bottles, chomping down arrowroot cookies and drinking juice from a cup (more socially acceptable activity for babies and toddlers.)

We reached equilibrium. It was there in that spot that I sad goodbye to nursing. I watched by baby make his first moves towards toddlerhood, as so many 9 month olds do – practicing on big person food, practicing standing, giving a whirl at jumping. I began to look more ahead than back and the months that followed were an uncovered treasure store of pleasure in him, in our attached connection (that went way beyond the breast, which in fact had never really had much to do with the breast or the milk it produced), in his delightful little personhood. His first words, first jumps – which preceded his first steps, his charm, his laugh, his smile.

I’d gotten kicked around and I was the last woman standing. I’d found a patch of motherhood that I could ride like a wave and it was glorious. I’d put the torn up, battered down pieces of me back together. The absolute perfection of that baby boy at that time was something I never could have foreseen. Aside from the too frequent ear infections (common GERD side effect), it felt very close to perfect. I know it can’t have been, but it was perfect in its completeness; my heart got filled at that time for the months that would follow. For that breathing space lasted all of 8 months.

* * * * *
This is the first segment of Henry’s story.
It’s the story that brought me back to writing. It’s the story whose second chapter brought me to blogging. It’s the story it’s taken me more than a year to get the courage up to write it down. I needed enough space to pass that I could look back at who I was then and keep on loving.
The next chapter will appear here in the coming months.

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Apparently, a baby can have GERD that is silent. Not silent as in quiet or absence of noise, but silent as in no vomit or spit up. I think at this point LP had spit up maybe 5 times in 4 months. So, spitty he was not. However, if a baby throws up inside his own throat and then swallows what he regurgitated, you hear the sound.
The sound of
episodic,
high pitched
(high pitch = baby in pain)
crying.
And it doesn’t go away by 4 months. It doesn’t go away at all, unless you treat it. He will just cry more and more, because of the pain and because of the hunger. Only, he won’t know it’s hunger because in his very small, still developing brain:
eating=pain.

I imagine now he might have spat up a bit more, you know, if he’d been eating at all. Truthfully, I don’t think he had been eating well all along – remember poor latch, upcoming growth spurt, building milks supply, that had been around 10 weeks – and probably he had not eaten anything close to well for 2 months and most likely he had been surviving on sips of milk from my breast and water from my cup in the preceding two weeks. He was growing taller, being stretched out. There was not an ounce of baby fat on that child. He had a pointy chin, pointy elbows. It was easily masked in the fall weather with fleeces and hats. Even I did not see him naked all that much in our old drafty apartment.

I called my pediatric office on that day to say he had skipped three feedings in a row. That was a gross underestimation. 2lbs can’t be lost in three feedings. His diapers had been light for weeks. I had just been too sleep deprived to really absorb what that meant. It’s all so foggy now. The doctor asked the nurse practitioner to try a bottle. They eyed me suspiciously. Like many well meaning souls they respected my right to breastfeed and supported it as the healthiest choice. But, like all breastfeeding mothers I was suspect – was I going to insist on it event to the potential detriment of my baby? – No, I wasn’t. At all. Even so, he refused the bottle. The back arching, screaming, shrieking baby appeared. When not having an episode, LP was the sweetest, mildest tempered baby on the planet earth. I was completely in love with him and he with me. When presented with food, he was absolutely unrecognizable. The whole office came to the door. It was horrid. I was crying. Administrators were crying, the nurse was crying. In any case, the pediatrician called the hospital, the gastroenterologist at the pediatric hospital. It sounded like silent reflux. It had to be. If the Pepcid helped, it was GERD. If it didn’t help, it wouldn’t hurt him. No, they didn’t need to see him. Just weigh him, get the right dose and call it in.
Getting the dose right seemed like higher math. Still, I was assured it would be called in. Also, formula. Please put the baby on hypoallergenic formula. Just to be sure it wasn’t a milk protein allergy. Here is some to take home. We can revisit after we’ve seen him eat for a few days. After he sees the specialist.
Suddenly all the rules had changed. Now willingness to put baby on meds without a real diagnosis and willingness to wean suddenly = good mother. Okay

Let me be very honest here. I want to say this kindly, but I was broken-hearted. For me and for him. I wanted to nurse. I wanted nursing to be okay again. I hoped it might be one day. And I mixed up bottles of formula. For the first time ever. I had to read up on it, seriously. I was using tap water at first, unfiltered and unboiled. I also want to say that I am deeply aware that I had a hungry, sick baby, as well access to medicine and food to make him well. So, yes, I screwed my head on straight and did the next right thing. And I did need some talking down by my nearest and dearest. But, I was basically at peace.
Speaking of peace, after we managed to acquire our very own bottle of baby Pepcid and the teeniest dropper ever – And after we gave it to him and waited the requisite 30 minutes before feeding, oh the peace. He drank, burped, drank burped. For the next several weeks, our biggest problem became helping him through the 30 minute wait time, because he finally could eat. He could eat exactly three times a day happily. That’s how many times a day he had baby Pepcid. And 30 minutes was meaninglessly long to him. A totally different type of crying began and it was lovely to hear.

Yes, you are right, 4 1/2 month old babies do in general need to eat more than three times a day. Ours could not. Nor could he poop. Our very special hypoallergenic formula was causing bit of a back-up and baby oatmeal and pears were not powerful enough to help, nor pureed prunes.

Take a look though:

Our brand new pediatric gastroenterolgist was great – only she wasn’t actually a doctor. She was the nurse practitioner in pediatric gastroenterology at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. The doctor had an opening in January if we wanted to wait. It was October. We’d like to see the nurse practitioner, please. And she really was great. Baby Pepcid was working. He was poked, prodded, meausured and weighed with super accurate equipment, again and again.

He was gaining. His blood work was great. He still couldn’t poop. Before I knew it, I had to swallow my pride and pour pear juice into bottles for him to drink. He drank the specialized formula three times a day, 30 minutes after baby Pepcid. He ate as much baby food as he wanted (doctors orders!) and in between he was to drink juice. Out of a bottle. Yep. So, when I was out and about – you know not waiting around at home for 30 minutes to pass, or sitting up in his bouncy for and endless parade of puree, he’d drink a bottle of juice. in his stroller – to tied him over to baby Pepcid/meal time. And to help him poop.

And let me tell you what you must already know to be true. All the places I went, I could just tell that people thought I was the most wonderful, responsible mother ever. No, not really. They told me about tooth decay, baby bottle mouth, empty calories, failure to thrive and sugar addiction. It was really dreadful. Truly. There was nothing gracious for me to say. Should I tell them I’d only just gotten out of a horrible scrape with this kid and had saved his life by letting all my good parenting paradigms call to pieces? Should I just run away crying? Should I tell them to mind their own damn sugar addiction? I have no recollection of how I handled this. Only hating it and surviving it. And also not giving a damn what they thought. Because my baby was starting to gain weight. So now suddenly, unrestricted solids at 5 months and bottles of juice = good mother. Weird how that works out, huh?

More tomorrow on how I kicked motherhood’s ass with my super powers of juice filled bottles, arrowroot cookies and playing with antacids. Also, how early weaning kicked me around the room a bit, but I was the last woman standing.

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