October 06, 2006

Sarah's Day, Overheard

"I went to the store, and then I fed Elliot, then I got ready to cook the quiche, then I fed Elliot, and then I cooked the quiche, and then I fed Elliot, and then I delivered the quiche. And then I fed Elliot."

In other news, Elliot is going bald. He's losing his baby birth-hair in a way that suspiciously resembles male pattern baldness. It doesn't show up in the pictures, but it makes him look like an old man.


1 comment:

Kati P. said...

I assume you did not read the Sun-Times last week (or, well, for the last month). Columnist Debra Pickett is blogging about being pregnant and she had this to say about breast-feeding class.

Breast-feeding is the new labor

Our mothers think we're crazy. Though few of them had full-time careers while they were pregnant and raising infants, they did all have lives, they tell us now. They went places. Did things. Drank coffee. Had cocktails. They were not, in other words, breast-feeding their babies every two hours.

And somehow, they kindly point out, those babies survived. Nurtured on powdered formula and instant cereal, we grew into healthy, successful adults.

In response, we just smile our smug, how-little-they-knew-then smiles. Because we'd sooner buy a flammable cradle with its razor-sharp edges coated in lead paint than give our own precious babies food from a can.

Every generation finds its own way to make peace with the bone-grinding hard work that is new motherhood. For the women of the late '60s-early '70s Lamaze era, grueling labor stories were the key to establishing one's status as a martyr. So even if you stashed your little one in a plastic playpen while having a cigarette and a nice, long gossip with your neighbor, you could still claim the moral high ground of motherhood by invoking the 36-hour-long labor you endured with only deep breathing and a reluctantly enlightened husband to dull the pain.

In the age of the epidural and the scheduled C-section, such horror stories are passe.

Breast-feeding is the new labor

There's a new way to measure your maternal bona fides, one that makes natural childbirth seem like a walk in the park. Because, really, what's one day of sweating and suffering when compared to a whole year's worth of pain and inconvenience?

If you want to be considered a good mother in today's playpen-free culture of hyper-involved parenting, you must enter the world of competitive breast-feeding.

The experience begins, oddly enough, before your child is even born. Obstetricians now routinely ask their patients about how they plan to feed their babies and offer not-exactly-subtle pushes in the "right" direction. Pregnant women are encouraged to sign up for "Introduction to Breast-feeding" courses that spell out all the benefits of breast-feeding, while aiming to minimize any of the bad things they might have heard -- either from their own, obviously unreliable, mothers or from friends who've been regaling them with tales of pain, infection and secret office breast-pumping sessions.

My class was Wednesday night.

I'd been dreading it for weeks, bemoaning both its scheduling -- three hours, after work, on a weeknight -- and what I assumed would be its preachy Breast-is-Best content. But, though I magnanimously gave my husband the night off -- his presence was encouraged "for emotional support" -- I dared not play hooky.

I've got way too many bad mom strikes -- a taste for champagne and a desire for a short maternity leave foremost among them -- against me already.

So I dutifully showed up to join five other pregnant women who'd assembled in the waiting area of our doctors' office, which had been converted into a screening room for a lactation-themed slide show and video presentation. We all wore the same look of grim determination, tempered by good-humored attempts to disguise our unease.

The video, which mostly consisted of extreme close-up shots of tiny babies hungrily latching on to enormous, looming breasts twice the size of their heads, lacked only the theme from Jaws to make it truly terrifying. And the slide show, which featured pastel pencil sketches of multi-ethnic babies and their blissed out mamas, was as sweet as the video was frightening. Neither seemed particularly grounded in real life.

It was the advice of the instructor -- a nurse practitioner who, I had to admit, seemed quite normal and less evangelical than I'd expected -- that was the big draw. We'd all heard about breast-feeding complications and were looking for something to sootr anxiety about what has become the great test of modern motherhood: Will I be woman enough to nurse my baby for the full, American Academy of Pediatrics-recommended year?

'City moms' are the problem

Our teacher, Claire, who, of course, breast-fed both of her kids, assured us that it would be no problem. "Really," said Claire, who happens to work in our doctors' Northbrook office, "it's only our city moms who tend to have trouble."

Her pronunciation of the word "city" made it sound a lot like "neurotic."

She then proceeded to regale us with tales of women so determined to exclusively breast-feed their nutritionally challenged babies that the kids wound up in intensive care, a fate that might easily have been avoided with some supplemental formula.

"You just need to relax," she told us.

And then, mercifully, she let us out of class an hour early.