Saturday, May 26, 2012

On Your First Birthday

Dear Claire,

My greatest joy is witnessing your growth and becoming. And how you’ve grown! When you fall asleep on my chest, your 20 plus pound body feels substantial relaxing against me. Your arms and legs have stretched out, and I have watched the world expand to match you. Your hands can now clutch mine, eat, wave, point and reach for the sky with great delight. You have become a person with moods and a sense of humor. Your face moves from emotion to emotion – the best of which is a huge, bright smile that shows off eight newly cut teeth. Words have begun to come with your personality too – mama, papa, baby, cat, clock, bus and hi. You respond big to the world, and the world is generally eager to join in your enthusiasm. I have seen you draw out even the most stubborn New Yorker on the elevator or the subway. This outgoing nature did not from me. Be like your papa in this way! Keep your papa’s strong voice full of emotion too. And speaking of papa, I love watching you love him. The way you cry out to him with an “OH”, and then climb over anything in your way to crawl to him with great earnestness. You protest equally strongly when he disappears out the front door, emotion always close to the surface. I feel honored that you seek comfort in me then. I consider it the greatest job I will ever do to hold you in my arms when you cry. It’s an equal privilege to reflect your triumphs back to you too – when you climb up the stairs for the first time or say a new word or try a new food. For now, it’s more likely for me to be cheering you on than giving you comfort. That’s because your head is so hard – impervious to the various falls and bumps that happen throughout the day. Your head isn’t the only thing that’s hard. You are a determined little girl who does not give up easily. But you also don’t seem to fret for long when things don’t go your way. It’s a refreshing combination – this determination and resilience, like a tree that bends in the wind. I like this about you. I think both qualities are due to your curious nature. One moment: fully absorbed in figuring something out, the next: on to something equally intriguing about the world. So many people have commented on how engaged you are in the world. Right now you are interested in people, elevator buttons, eyelashes, water, keys, credit cards, necklaces, zippers, lights, clocks, airplanes, helicopters, buses, birds. I can’t wait to see what else will attract your interests. I believe there is a daredevil in you. Already, you sing to the sky when we push you high on the swings. You kick and splash in the water in the swimming pool. You scream in delight when your papa holds you upside-down. I hope that you will continue to be a food adventurer too. You delight in smearing the daily offerings around your high-chair tray, smashing things, rolling them in our fingers, testing a bit first before diving in, without fail making a big mess and then not enjoying being cleaned up. You don’t like being changed or getting dressed either, or having your nails cut or bows put into your hair. I have come up with games and songs to distract you. You’ve always loved listening to me sing; you freeze and concentrate on my face as if something serious were happening. Sometimes my stalling tactics work; sometimes we get into power struggles. I wouldn’t change this willfulness about you, though. Continue to know what you like and don’t. Continue to protest a bit too. In this way, you have helped me develop patience and how to calibrate my anger. It is never your job to teach me anything, just an added bonus for me when you do.

I have written this letter to you, because I am humbled to watch you slowly reveal yourself to me. I want to record my impressions of you, because they make my heart full. I hope you will someday read this letter and be able to see yourself through my eyes. They are loving eyes, intent on celebrating you on this day and always.

Your Mama

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Time Breastfeeding Article: Whose Body is It?

As a breastfeeding blogger, I have felt compelled to comment on the recent Time article about Attachment Parenting and breastfeeding toddlers, as well as the controversy surrounding it. It’s taken me awhile, though, because I’ve struggled to collect my thoughts on the matter. Personally, I found the images of women breastfeeding their three-year-olds to be both shocking and beautiful. I tend to like things that put me slightly off-balance. I am reminded that much of what we “should” and “shouldn’t” do is culturally constructed and shifting. I am reminded that if what a person does isn’t hurting anyone, then it’s really none of my business.

But, after reading the reactions to this article, evidently, most people do feel that extended breastfeeding is hurting people -- mother, child and society at large. I was stunned by the viciousness of the comments. People called these women perverse, unnatural and disgusting, among many other cruel judgments. The quality of the criticism smacked of that which is unjustly waged against the LGBT community all too often. I felt defensive. I wanted to get into the fray, defend these women. After all, I’ve done my research. Anthropologists put the age of weaning in societies throughout history and around the world at anywhere between age two and a half to seven. Who are these people to argue with this research? People’s comments were dismissive of this statistic too. Evidently, our society is better than the others. The story goes that we are a “civilized” country, while theirs are primitive. I realized that I really didn’t want to waste my time arguing about it (even though I kinda just did). I don’t want to fight about who’s right or wrong. No one is. The issue is about personal choice.

So I decided to get personal. What I’d really like to talk about is the relationship that Claire and I have to one another, and our relationship to breastfeeding. To put it simply, Claire loves to breastfeed. She comes to me around eight times a day (or more) with the words “mama, mama”. When Claire says “mama”, it means she wants to breastfeed. The milk and I are one and the same to her, inextricably bound. How could I possible take that away from her? Especially when she is an age at which she really wouldn’t understand why I was depriving her of me.

I have also noticed an interesting inverse relationship between breastfeeding and independence. Claire used to breastfeed every hour, even at night (much to my dismay). As she grows more independent, the number of times she breastfeeds decreases. As she grows up, she needs me less. There seems to be an uncanny correspondence between these two things with its own rhythm, which I don’t want to disturb. And I have good faith that Claire will let me know how much emotional attachment she needs from me and; therefore, how much breastfeeding she needs.

To sum it up, breastfeeding serves a purpose for Claire and me that’s greater than nutrition. Still, I don’t plan on breastfeeding until Claire is three or four, like the women in the article. I do support their choice though. For me, quite frankly, I find breastfeeding to be too challenging. My decision to stop has more to do with me than Claire. I carried her in my belly for nine months, and plan on breastfeeding until she is around two (the age recommended by the World Health Organization , by the way). I am ready to have my body back.

Plus, at two, I figure she will be old enough to understand why we are stopping. George’s friend Kristen has led the way for me on this decision. She shared with George that she and her daughter Nora had a conversation (at two) about how and why mama needed to stop. They cried together and that was the end of breastfeeding. I’m grateful that Kristen has blazed this trail for me. If she hadn’t, I might be feeling like a pervert or sicko right about now. Instead, I get to envision an experience similar to Nora and Kristen for Claire and me.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Kraft Breastfeeding Ad: Cookies and Milk

This ad is creating quite a stir. Kraft corp. put out an official statement distancing themselves from it by saying the ad was not meant for public consumption (pun intended).

I would like to think that the distasteful part was that an infant was eating an Oreo. I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m wrong. Silly me; I forgot that breasts are best served up to sell Sports Illustrated magazines or are considered in good taste when used to prop up Victoria Secret lingerie.

I think it’s high time we let babies in on the fun too!

But seriously, I agree that Kraft shouldn't be creating any advertising campaigns like this one in the near future. I'm not ready for these ads either. I'm glad that Corporate America finds it too controversial to co-opt breastfeeding to sell product.
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