Friday, April 17, 2009

Flashback Friday: Those Fabulous Nursing Follies and Other Taboo Topics

This is one of the oldest photographs of me where you can actually see any detail...back in the "olden days," consumer cameras lacked the sophistication to facilitate blow-ups and detailed close-ups like we've grown accustomed to today. So eventually my parents hauled me down to the local photo studio for a "formal portrait." Color wasn't used much, but if the clients wanted "color portraits" the black and white prints were lightly painted in with pastels. Sometimes the look was quite nice; other attempts could be quite garrish. My "color portrait" is out there somewhere - probably packed away somewhere. But this image, taken many moons ago, is me at about 9 months old.
Skip ahead a generation. This is Ashley at one week sleeping away in her crib. She was born on one of the few "snow" days in San Jose. Her daddy and I were marooned in the Santa Cruz mountains, which was where our first home was located. We were snowed in and I was in labor. Mr. H. was running about boiling water and frantically hollering, "I don't know nothin' about birthin' no babies, Miz Scarlett!" Well, that's an exaggeration, but I do believe he was getting a little nervous about having a wife in labor as the snow was falling all around us.

Yes, that is indeed a thumb in the mouth of Miss Emily Mae. At one week of age, on April 15, while "Mimi" was holding her she began the search. Dragging her fingers over her face and (now and then) into her eyes, she at last settled on that all-important digit and began sucking for all she was worth. She even managed to locate her thumb a second time when it became dislodged. But when the phone rang a few minutes later she was startled by the noise; her thumb popped out and she was unable to locate it again.

Now the reason Miss Emily was in desperate straits searching for sustenance from her thumb was that her mommy was otherwise occupied. Emily is in that early phase where L-I-F-E means feeding, feeding, feeding. She was searching wildly for her mommy and instead found her thumb a convenient substitute. Reports from Ashley are that occasionally at night feedings even when her mommy is located immediately nearby, Emily will search frantically trying to locate the desired target. Making all sorts of strange and crazy sounds, Ashley says that as Emily is grunting and rooting around attempting to latch on that she sounds like a "pack of wild pigs."

Any currently or previously nursing mom will relate. The feeding instinct is strong and urgent and a food source had better be handy! When Ashley was born I was unable to move too far from her because it wouldn't be long before she was ready to be fed. When I developed a serious case of cabin fever after her birth, her daddy and I tried an outing to a nearby restaurant. I'd no sooner settled into the booth and Ashley wanted food! Cleverly concealing Ashley with a blanket I let her nurse. We were situated in a booth near the back and I had my back to the other diners so I hoped to nurse in privacy. But that was not to be.

A lady at a nearby booth bounded over to where we were sitting and said something to the effect of, "Oh! A new baby! Can I see her?" Well. The other thing about nursing babies is once they have "latched on" they are not eager to be pulled away. I swear you could hear reverberating through that entire restaurant the "pop" that issued forth as I wrenched her loose so I could show off my baby girl. Now, I strongly DO NOT recommend doing this. Ashley was not a happy camper for this abrupt disruption of her feeding and proceeded to scream like a banshee. I felt terrible and had I been a little more mature, I would have explained that my baby was feeding and I'd be glad to bring her over in a few minutes. That's what you call learning the hard way!!!

These days, modern mothers are pumping their milk for baby's future feeding. Working moms can return to their jobs secure in knowing that many meals are safely stored away in the freezer to be pulled out and given to baby later on. So Ashley has begun the pumping process again in preparation for returning to her job in a few weeks. Now, the pumps are a sort of cross between a mid-evil torture device and official dairy farm apparatus. Ashley had just begun to pump last evening, sitting on the bed all hooked up to suction cups and hoses, when 21-month old Gracie came bounding into her room to see what was cooking. She was happy to see her mom, but was undoubtedly wondering, "What the HEY??!!!" was going on with all that hardware! Bounding over the bed, she tripped over a hose, which pulled things loose. Ashley, who in her words was at "high tide" at that moment tried to keep her composure as milk went shooting off in every direction. Therefore, when "Mimi" came in a moment later to rescue Ashley, Gracie was VERY HAPPY to leave with Mimi and go color for a little while. My guess is with, you know, a few years of therapy, Gracie is going to be JUST FINE :)

I'm happy that mommies are nursing their babies successfully these days. When I asked my own mom about her experience nursing me, she said she pretty much didn't because she "wasn't very good at it." That's too bad because my own experience feeding my two baby girls was great - after the experience I described above. Nature's best is a great way to go. I always said I had enough milk to feed half the population of San Jose! I was blessed with a bountiful "harvest," and it's a wonderful way for mommy and baby to bond - for life!

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