Posts Tagged ‘nursing’

Beyond the First Year

September 12, 2010

As I type this, my lovely child is cuddling with me on the couch, with her head resting on my left arm and one of her legs slung over my right arm. She’s blinking sleepily as she nurses, idly stroking my belly with one small hand.

I love these moments. Now that she’s a curious, active, loud, and joyful toddler, these kinds of nursing sessions are becoming much less frequent. In the beginning, when she was a newborn, all of them were like this. It was just me and her; my milk would make her sleepy and content, and the surge of hormones I got when letting down did the same to me. We dozed together, held hands, played with each others fingers and gazed into each other’s eyes.

Now the usual nursing break is full of acrobatics. When she’s feeling particularly silly, she likes to nurse upside-down with her bum pointed towards my face. She pulls on my shirt, slaps my chest, yanks on my free nipple, sticks her fingers in my mouth. She blows raspberries into my breast, bites my nipple (thankfully rare), slurps instead of sucks, hums loudly.

I used to be able to nurse in public very discretely, with the hem of my shirt hiding my breast. She doesn’t allow that anymore, presumably because she doesn’t like having my shirt in her face, so she pulls it upward, exposing my boob to…well, everyone. We still nurse in public – it’s our legally protected right! But “discrete” is frequently left out of the equation and I’m pretty okay with that.

I don’t mind the acrobatics. Sometimes it gets on my nerves, but mostly she just makes me laugh. But I do miss the stillness of these moments, which only comes every few days rather than several times every day.

Now that Eve is over a year old, I’ve been getting more questions. People have told me, “She needs full fat cow’s milk.” They go silent when I tell them that breastmilk has a higher fat content than cow’s milk. My coworkers have noticed that I’m still pumping twice a day at work, still taking home my little bags of liquid gold to freeze. My mother complains about the fact that Eve isn’t getting more of her nutrients from “real” food; she talks about my milk as if it were merely a refreshment rather than a critical source of nourishment.

People keep telling me, “It’s time to stop,” and every time I have replied, “No. It is not.”

I don’t know how long that Eve and I will be doing this. It might be another year and a half. It might be another three years. Every child is different. Every nursing dyad is different. The thought of nursing a preschooler doesn’t bother me; it’s the inevitable social discipline and shaming that makes me nervous. The modern American ideal of a proper nursing relationship is just so ridiculously and drastically skewed from what we as large mammals are biologically geared for; and any deviations from that ideal are ridiculed and demonized – which is ironic (and sad)  considering the fact that just as recently as a century ago, the vast majority of American children were nursed until three or four years of age.

I have no intention living the modern ideal, and I’m more than okay with that.

I’m loving it, in fact. I’m just living in the now, enjoying this warm little body snoring softly against mine.

This is the Start of Something Beautiful

May 26, 2010

Yesterday I mailed in an application to a local community college.

I’ve been doing some reading, some thinking, and some more reading about school. I’ve been saying for years that I want to be a nurse, and that I want to work with mothers and babies. But I could never figure out in what capacity. I wasn’t really interested in Labor & Delivery, nor the NICU, nor Obstetrics. I saw myself doing any one of those things, but not forever, not as an endpoint, not as a goal. I’m a person that does not act without motivation. If I don’t have sufficient motivation to do something, I just will not do it.

So I never went to school for nursing, because I’ve been an unmotivated student before (twice, actually) and it never worked out. I’ve been a psychology major (fascinated by psych but I didn’t want to do clinical and was lukewarm on R&D and teaching), an English major (I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it, I’ve just always loved literature), and a business major (I had NO interest whatsoever in business, it was just the major I picked that I knew my job would pay for). I got As in every class but one (I got a B in Statistics; it was an 8am class that I skipped a little too frequently) regardless of my major.

But I didn’t follow through on any of my attempts at higher education because I just didn’t care enough to follow through. I had no specific goals and no motivation. So even though I figured out three years ago that I wanted a nursing degree and that I wanted to work with mothers and babies, I still didn’t make a move even though I hate my job and I want out. It was too vague a goal, and I didn’t like the options in front of me, and I knew I’d do poorly or even just quit if I got started. I know myself pretty well.

But lately I’ve been thinking, and reading, and thinking some more about lactation consultation. I want to be an IBCLC – an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. It’s not an easy certification to achieve, and the bar just keeps getting raised every year. You don’t have to be an RN to be an IBCLC, but that is one path that you can take. I don’t just want to be an IBCLC, I want to be the BEST damn IBCLC that I can possibly be, and I believe that for me, going the nursing route will help me achieve that.

The carrot on my stick is not nursing, which is more of a means to my ends, or even to be an IBCLC working for a hospital, but to provide services for those who are most in need of help to establish and maintain healthy nursing relationships with their children. I would like to someday start a nonprofit that will provide breastfeeding resources and guidance targeted towards teens, families living in poverty, minorities, folks with disabilities, queer families, and trans people. These are the populations that have the least support financially and/or socially to nurse their children, many of whom stand to gain even more from breastfeeding than their privileged peers would, and I want to help fill the gap.

And I’m not just talking about counseling or support groups (though I intend to provide that as well), but providing pumping equipment at reduced or no cost to those who need them, advocating for laws that protect and encourage the nursing relationship, building awareness and acceptance of breastfeeding amongst at-risk and general populations both, and negotiating mentorships for other aspiring IBCLCs. I just want to do so much, and it will probably take me twenty years to get there, but I feel that it’s a goal well worth the time and effort.

The first step is school. I hope to have my associates degree before I’m 31, and I hope to be an IBCLC before I’m 35. I hope to found my nonprofit before I’m 45. Tall order, I know, but it feels damned good to finally have something to work towards.