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What great bosoms you have

Recently I was told that if a child can ask for breast milk, then it was time for that child to be weaned. It wasn’t actually that blunt. It was more like “Don’t they say if they can ask for it, it’s time to stop?” (I want to know who ‘they’ are?).

Another friend recently recounted a story of a work colleague who was ‘stuck’ breastfeeding her infant daughter even though the ‘poor’ colleague had to return to work.

On having to delay a dinner catch-up with a friend until M2 drops her night feed, the reply came that ‘hopefully she will stop before she starts high school’.

I suppose she will be done by then. Nevertheless, the reality is I still breastfeed a seventeen month old child twice a day. As you might expect at this stage of her development, she is learning to speak, so when it is time for a feed she asks for ‘boot’. For the record, I am back at work too (and I don’t feel ‘stuck’).

So if it’s wrong to be breastfeeding an infant or toddler, why does it feel right to me?

The World Health Organisation (sic) and UNICEF recommend breastfeeding, complementary to other feeding for up to two years of age or more. The Australian Breastfeeding Association features an article on its website which highlights the benefits of long term breastfeeding¹.

Some of these benefits in infant-hood include nutrition, comfort, protection against illness and lower medical bills. In the future, the child is less likely to need orthodontics or speech therapy. In later life they are at lower risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, asthma and diabetes². For the mother, well she has a lower risk for developing breast, uterine or ovarian cancer.

Pretty good outcomes one might think.

This is not a slight upon those women who couldn’t or didn’t breastfeed or decided or needed to wean. I’ve been there with an eight month old (M1) who was no longer satisfied with my milk supply – couldn’t sit still long enough anyhow – and who decided it was time to chow down on chops.

It’s more a plea for those out there who think that is okay to judge on long-term breastfeeding. Of course you can! You are more than welcome to do so. Just do so silently or behind my back. I don’t want to hear that you’re not comfortable with me breastfeeding my infant in my house, even with the subtle terms you may use. It is your problem. This is not a case where a problem shared is a problem halved!

Would you comment if I was a woman struggling in East Africa? Would anything be said if I was living in a refugee camp on the Pakistan border? How about if I was living in a remote tribe in the Amazon? I expect it would be seen as positive, or dare I say even normal, in those situations. And it certainly is. It is for me too, regardless of the western comforts (and attitudes) that surround me.

Most immediately crucial for me, and I suspect for M2, is that we both enjoy our breastfeeding sessions. It will be a rare time in my (and her) life that we will have this closeness ever again. The forty minutes of the day we spend cuddling, looking into one another’s eyes, reading a book and just being together probably won’t happen again, so why should there be a rush to give it up?

 

¹ www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bfinfo/how-long-should-i-breastfeed-my-baby

² www.unicef.org/nutrition/index_24824.html

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When there’s no window to shop at…

I’ve haven’t had any internet service to my house over the past twelve days and have felt like my head had been cut off.

Okay, it probably wasn’t quite that bad – although I now have an image of myself running headless around the backyard waiting for my body to catch up with the fact that it no longer has a brain. This childhood memory rears its ‘head’ from time to time – particularly when I feel like a headless chicken.

I do own a a ‘smart phone’ so I have hardly been disconnected from the world, but why did this loss hit me so hard?

It wasn’t that long ago that a push button telephone (on a landline connected to the house from cables in the street) was the ‘it’ communication tool. Remember before that there was  a dial phone, sitting on its own table in the hallway. Recall the comforting sound it made as it arced back around to the beginning as you charted its numerical course. Remember how grumpy you got when you spun in error and had to start all over again.

Wasn’t it just a few years ago I bought a Commodore 64 and felt pretty cool playing table tennis with blocks? Oh the nights I stayed up until 10pm playing with that little beauty! I couldn’t wait to brag to my friends the next day about my high scores.

Only half a decade ago I packed away all my communications technology – my PC and mobile phone – and with nothing but an analogue watch headed off on the trip of a lifetime. Okay so I did have a wireless enabled lap top but I didn’t always have Wi-Fi. And yes I did borrow a friend’s spare mobile phone for a few weeks while in London. But apart from those, mostly I was naked and free of communication tools.

In those olden days I didn’t need to connect so often.

So what has changed so much that even though I can still communicate so easily, I am lost without the ‘real’ internet?

It’s the promise of betterment in beautiful bright digital images that warm my screen and my heart.

Yes, I confess. I am an online window shopper and quite frankly the images that appear on a ‘fivebysevencm’ screen just don’t provide the necessary fix. How can a fivebysevencm give me the full picture of those on-sale winter dresses, those bargain tea cups and saucers, that house for sale down my street, that calorie free chocolate (actually I haven’t found that yet but I am sure when I do a fivebysevencm wouldn’t give it the prominence it deserves), or those fabulous red knee high wide calf boots I am looking for?

‘Bah,’ I say to the loss of catching up with everyone’s gossip from all those interwebspace social pages (I was a member of one until an old ex high school boyfriend sent me pictures of himself in budgie smugglers*). I don’t miss those! ‘Bah,’ to playing online games with opponents from all over the world.

Besides I am on Twitter for all those who want to catch up on what I am doing. Alright, I don’t tweet much but that is because I am too busy with my online window shopping – when I have an internet service.

I missed my pictures – mostly generated from emails offering great specials from those whom I have loyalty – or a least a loyalty card. I miss my images of goods and chattels that promise to make mine, the Cliche’s and the Clichettes’ lives more fabulous and interesting and fulfilled than they currently are.

I missed you my icons of Shangri-La from the land of milk and honey and the Garden of Eden. I missed you…

*Thanks Urban Dictionary for that more than apt definition.

Before there were books…

Often, while I was learning to cope with my first baby, I would experience a ‘sense’ of what I should be doing to help her settle. It would niggle at me but I often ignored it. Sometimes I would ask the Cliche if he thought I should follow my ‘sense’ but like me for him this was all new too. So we would head to the place most new western parents go, ‘the book’.

There are books for every step of a child’s development. There are even books for that time before a child is conceived – when you are negatively pregnant. Now there is the movie to go with them. Not one of those practical birthing and parenting movies developed by your community health service. No, a heavily invested-in Hollywood movie with superstars and directors and everything.

While pregnant I could easily while away a few hours deciding on the baby books to buy. Now, with two toddlers under two and a half there is no time to read said books.

For me, it truly is a case of learning on the run, finding that moment in between tantrums and masticating on stones and other bits of the garden, to do a bit of ‘a Google’ to find out how I can stop both of these activities.

As parents, we are often so time poor that even trying to keep up with the changes in the Wiggles can be difficult – and we know how rarely they’ve been replaced. Time, or having none, is not the only reason I don’t read baby books very often anymore. Truth is I don’t really want to.

The ‘book-denying epiphany’ came one day when I was struggling with M1 – the first clichette – as a one month old who just wouldn’t settle. “Why don’t you try feeding her again?” my watching mother-in-law suggested.

Sure, I could feel my breasts were laden with milk, kind of like the way sugar is laden with carbohydrates, and that all too familiar tingling was scratching at my nipples. Sure, it felt like I could. But feed her again! Caught out like a dingo in a coroner’s court, a startled me stammered, “But I only fed her two hours ago and the book says…”

“Try it and see what happens. What’s the harm?” this wise woman replied.

She was right. There was no harm. In fact, there was a whole lot of no harm. There was peace and rest and calm from that point onwards (or at least until toddlerhood and the before-mentioned tantrums. If truth be told, they’re not so much tantrums but full-on firestorms of toddler maelstrom). Suddenly there was no urgency or desire to go out and get another book.

So why do we question our instinct when it comes to parenting? Surely there’s some natural elements when we are learning to care for a baby, so why do we often repress them because we have a book?

Is it because of the years we spend studying textbooks at school, rote learning vapid passages of Shakespeare and Ruth Park to pass our high school education? Is it because we dare not question something that has received the honour of being published? Is it because book marketers are really, really, really good at their job (1. undermining our confidence, and 2. thereby selling more books)? Or is it because parenting a new baby is exhausting, so our natural instinct is hiding, grabbing a quick forty winks behind the rocks in our head?

I am not denying the need for guidance to help us through the parenting process. I own several parenting books. The real questions are ‘how many do I need and how do I work out which is the best one for me?’. What if someone in my mother’s group has a much better one? What if they have the books that get their baby to sleep through the night at six weeks, or walk first, or cure teething pains?

How puzzling that we are more likely to ask for advice on which book to buy than to ask for advice on actual parenting.

Oh the pressure … And as new parents, this is what we deal with. We’re sold an ideal of a perfect baby and the books that can help us achieve one.

The most helpful book I read before having M1 gave me permission to have no idea what I was doing as a new parent. It also had the best instructions for getting a baby to latch on. Interestingly enough, it did mention a parenting instinct. Ironic, isn’t it?

What we need is a try before you buy process, where you get to find the book that is right for you, fits in with your karma and general vibe – I guess that would be called ‘using a library’.

I do believe there is a little thing inside our heads that lets us know when we’re doing the right thing because sometimes it simply feels right. And sometimes there is our mother-in-law. Let’s not forget they’ve been there too and if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be where we are – struggling with their son’s child!

I am tired

I recently read an article which suggested mothers should stop ‘moaning’ about being tired. While published some time ago in the United Kingdom it has only recently been picked up in the Australian press.

This article was written by a woman who is in her mid forties and has realised it is now too late to have a child. It is a tragedy for her. I can easily concede that her sense of loss is enormous.

What is unforgiving is the way she talks to mothers. She adds to the guilt burden mothers feel and doesn’t allow the ‘rite of passage’ that must remain untouched. We have to be allowed to admit we get tired.

We already feel guilty about so many things as mothers. We feel guilty if we don’t breastfeed. We feel guilty if we indulge in a glass of wine while breastfeeding. We feel guilt if we exclusively breastfeed (what about those women that can’t?). We feel guilty if we breastfeed in public.

The list is endless. We feel guilty if we don’t have the perfect body three months after we give birth (how do those celebrities all do it?  And God forbid they don’t); if we over dress or under dress our babies; if our baby makes too much noise when we go out; if our baby is slower to hold themselves up than others the same age; if we sit them in front of the television; if we introduce cow’s milk, eggs or nuts too early; if we don’t have an immaculate home for them to play in, if we don’t have the best pram; if we haven’t enrolled them in the right school from the day they were born….

Enough!

Sometimes I am tired. Having babies and children is tiring. Sometimes acknowledging you’re tired takes a bit of the burden away, especially if it means you can get some help or some vital sleep.

The author of the article (Bibi Lynch) doesn’t want to ‘mum-bash’ but then proceeds to, at length. She also doesn’t want to “incur[] the wrath of mummy bloggers”. So she wants to have a go at mothers and then demands there be no right of reply!

All women need to protect women more than ever because there is so much pressure on us to be superhuman, in whatever field we are pursuing. And yes some of this pressure may be self-induced but that doesn’t make it less relevant.

Ms Lynch doesn’t know the love of a child and is obviously deeply troubled by this, an emotional roller coaster ride I can only imagine. But this does not give her the right to silence women for something that may provide catharsis – their entitlement to say “I’m tired”. It may just be the cry for help some women need to survive the hardest (and most amazing and wonderful) job they can do…being a mother.

You can view the article at http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/mar/31/mothers-stop-moaning-about-motherhood

Procrastinating

I have spent some time wondering and asking myself what I want to write about. I am not so profound that a philosophical discussion is about to be unravelled about the workings of my muddled mind. However, at this time in my life I am undispassionate about five things:

  • motherhood
  • politics
  • womanhood
  • wifehood
  • cooking.

Can I separate any of these from each other? There are some current well-admired commentators who might suggest that even the least likely of the two are perfect bedfellows.

I first met the ‘Cliche’ on a Friday afternoon in a pub. We were ‘just good friends’ at first, but then there was a shift in the Universe and we became a couple (of what?). It was whirlwind – all hands and legs and skin and smiling.

This is my inspiration to investigate the list I have laid out, probably because the ‘Cliche’ was at least involved in making some of them more relevant to me.

Freelance Writer

Interesting that in my Roget’s International Thesaurus the words ‘free lance writer’ sit between ‘word painter’ and ‘ghostwriter’ – things I have never thought of being but which maybe I should aspire to!

I note and like the nearby synonym ‘belletrist’. Who wouldn’t. However,  I am far too blunt to hold such a dramatic title. I think this is something I can work on.

Playing with words has become a passion so for the moment, freelance writer is what I am.