3/26/2019 0 Comments
For the past 19.5 years, I've been writing about motherhood. The mess of it, because it is a messy endeavor. The stress of it, because who are we kidding, motherhood is one of the most stressful jobs on the planet. And the joy of it, because beyond the long nights, the vomit, the poop, the sass, the yelling (oh, yes, there has been yelling), is joy. I wrote these series of essays as my gift to our three fiercely feisty daughters and to life with them and their father, the great love of all our lives. Without the experience of motherhood, my life would be way too clean and way too quiet and way too little in love . I owe these essay to my late mother-in-law, Lila Morrison Greene, who ordered me to write when the kids were little. "It will save your life," she told me. She was right. As always.
Part One, or The Trenches
The Art of Weaning
My heart is breaking. My hormones are raging. “We” are weaning.
What I don’t get is why everyone is so excited that I am weaning – Congratulations! Good for you! Way to go! Granted, these responses have come from non-lactating folk. If any of them had either been a lactator or lactatee, they would never have uttered those words. Congratulations.
When someone I haven’t seen in a while asks me what I have been up to, my stock response has been:
“You’ve become a nurse?”
“No, nursing, breastfeeding.”
“Really?” They usually come back with and not without some discomfort.
“For how long? Six months?”
Pause. I would say pregnant pause, but I don’t want to appear obvious.
“Wow. Four Years. That’s really something.”
After four years, three children, including a set of twins, breast milk that stopped during the pregnancy with the twins and then came back again, I called it quits. Our oldest was four, the twins close to turning two. I didn’t become a mother until I was almost 41 years old and at the ripe age of 45, I went boobie-free. I still have my breasts, thank goodness, as they will now and forever be called, but my ‘boobies,’ as my three daughters lovingly refer to them, are gone.
What finally made me decide to go cold turkey? It was the day my husband came home and found me lying on the futon while all three children were crawling over me like ants on honey. He looked at my face and said, “Uh oh.” I said, “I’m done. I don’t care how much screaming happens, how much therapy we have to pay for when they get older, I am done breastfeeding.”
But saying it and doing it were two entirely different things.,,
To view the performance of "The Art of Weaning," watch this video from Listen To Your Mother/Boulder.
Boobies "On the Road"
When our oldest was an infant, we decided to take a cross country trip from Colorado to visit family in California. Plane tickets were too expensive, the car was new and we thought what the heck, how hard can 1200 miles with one baby be? When we mentioned to our friends and family that we were taking a road trip with our nine month old, we received many helpful suggestions. Stop often. Keep her diaper dry. Sing songs and play tapes of comforting music.
DON'T DO IT.
To get ready for our adventure, I studied my baby book bible. Chapter three, Traveling with Baby, showed a drawing of a mother leisurely leaning across a rear facing car seat, quietly feeding her calmly waiting child's mouth. The picture also showed a clean back seat, an upright smiling child, and everyone looking very comfortable. That should have been my first clue.
We set off in the late afternoon from Boulder, our car filled with toys, jars of baby food, bottles of freshly pumped milk and baby cookies. We headed west through scenic mountain routes. First mistake. When breastfeeding in a car, swerving is not useful and annoys the baby.
As we entered our first tunnel, she went through mild rebirthing trauma and began groping for my shirt. It was time to try out the technique: "While keeping yourself secured in your seat belt, tuck one leg underneath to raise yourself a few inches." Good, that part worked. "Lean over until baby can reach your breast and let her suck. This is a great car travel pacifier." Hilarious.
So here is my technique. Pull out the shoulder strap as far as it goes and then lean as far forward as I can without taking the wheel from my husband who is the designated driver.
The part about offering? Forget about it. There is no offering. Getting her mouth and my breast to meet while the car takes the corners at a cool 75 mph is like threading a needle underwater. But after a few tries we finally got it. Or I should say, she took control of the situation and stretched my nipple to new lengths to get her travel pacifier.
A few words for the driver. That line printed on the bottom of the side mirror, "objects appear closer than they really are" is really true...
The Attack of the Sock Police
I came in contact with the Sock Police today. Yes, there is an organized group of well-intentioned busy-bodies who take it upon themselves to make you feel like a child abuser if your child or children, don’t wear socks.
One of the great things about living in Colorado is that during winter, when the rest of the country is shoveling out from under twenty feet of snow and hasn’t seen a patch of blue sky for months, we still get plenty of days filled with sunshine and 40+ degree weather. Today was one of those perfect Colorado late winter days.
I had just emerged from the supermarket with my three girls in tow. The back of our car was filled with healthy food, toilet paper, and cleaning supplies. My oldest was dressed sensibly in a sweater, vest, leggings and her slippers. No socks. One of the twins was clad in her big sister’s Cinderella dress. No socks. The other twin, who had woken up from her nap flushed and warm, wore pajamas. No socks.
As I was buckling myself in, I was feeling proud of myself, having conquered what used to be a close to impossible task. Going shopping with three small children usually involves knocking down a few other parents to get to the much coveted yellow ‘car cart,’ a germ-laden shopping cart that weighs twice the normal cart weight (without children and groceries). Then we (they) have a screaming match over who gets to sit in the driver’s seat, and since the ‘car carts’ are only built for two, I get to hold the child who loses out while the other two squeal with glee at their victory.
A normal trip to the market translates into shopping with one hand and holding a child while pushing a cart that by itself weighs forty pounds, but now plus two children, is closer to 100 pounds. But recently and miraculously, we’d been able to get the job done. No ‘items in aisle three’ to be cleaned up, no abandoned shopping carts, no one fell out of the car cart. I didn’t have to call my husband in tears to tell him where I’d left the cart and to come and finish the job I couldn’t get done. Even the grocery store manager and a few of the cashiers commented on how far we’d come, giving us thumbs up as we head toward our car. We were sort of legendary. We’d broken through to easily maneuvering our way through the aisles with confidence, paying for our food, after which the girls get their penny ‘horsey’ rides.
I cracked open the window to let in some fresh air and to savor the victory of another successful and injury-free trip to the market. I took a deep breath of fresh Colorado air.
I looked to my right. A pleasant-enough looking blonde woman had her head partially inside the passenger window. She smiled.
“I’m also the mom of small children.”
She glanced at my three, squeezed together in the back seat.
I felt my New York state of mind start to kick in and I slid my left hand onto the window control, trigger finger ready.
“I saw you in the market. That’s quite a work out, huh?”
She smiled again. We both laughed. I relaxed my hand. Finally! Another mother who understood how something as ordinary as going to the market could be turned into the most impossible thing to achieve!!
Her smile and laughter abruptly stopped.
“I really wish you would put socks on those children.”
You know when someone says something so bizarre to you that you have to take a moment to replay it in your mind before you answer?
Walt Disney and the Color Pink
I proudly believed myself to be the only mother in the modern history of motherhood to Walt Disney and the color Pink. My oldest daughter happily played with non-gender specific toys, had no idea what a princess was, and wore colors like blue, green, and black. Then one day she woke up and told us that she thought we should paint our house pink. And our living room. And our kitchen, bathroom, and car. All she would wear was pink. Everywhere she went she saw pink – look Mama, a pink bus! A pink bicycle! The sky is pink! I tried to pull her back to green and blue (I had given up on black) or even purple or red, but she would have none of it. To her everything had to be pink, so everything became pink. Then the Walt Disney princess armada arrived.
I’ve conducted some research on Walt and this is what I have found out: Walt was a lonely orphan whose only possession was a smidgen of black charcoal with which he created the lovable Mickey Mouse, based on his only childhood friend, a small field mouse.
Wrong. Walt Disney spent most of his childhood in Marceline, Missouri on a 45-acre farm that was “shaded by broad weeping willows, cedars, and silver maples.” The official Disney site says that Walt could “smell the perfume of the apple blossoms” and that Walt’s memories of the farm were almost entirely favorable -- with the possible exception of the time he and little sister Ruth got into deep trouble for doodling on the barn with black sticky tar.” OOOOH. That must have been it. Because what else could explain the fact that Walt Disney has been responsible for more death and suffering of women on screen than the Chainsaw guy? I mean, what’s the deal with Walt and women? And I was supposed to let my kids watch this stuff? Case in point:
But the one who really gets my goat?
The Little Mermaid - Ariel – I guess I should blame Hans Christian Anderson for this one, but I will go ahead and make Uncle Walt a co-conspirator as well. If Ariel had a mother, like any good little mermaid does, she would have sat her down on the nearest clamshell and told her all about the pitfalls of being a two-legged female creature. Namely, not only won’t your clothes fit and you will have to get used to these weird things called shoes, but you will get something called your period. Then her mother would have pulled out a sanitary napkin and belt (visual aid here) and shown her how it worked. That would have been it. Ariel might have thought the prince was cute, but she would never have traded in her nifty tail for a lifetime of Kotex.
See, it doesn’t matter if you are a fish, an elephant, a mermaid, or even Nemo’s mother, if you are a mother in a Disney film you are dead meat. End of story. Not really...