Talks about Breastfeeding: Two Things

Imagine walking through on a city sidewalk in late autumn.

Rain falls. You had thought the weather would feel warmer, but water hardens on the leaves at your feet. Cold covers your toes, and it spreads weakening the speed of your pace.

You reach the end of the sidewalk where it meets a street, and there are no more street lights. Do you walk into the darkness alone? You know the way home.

A sound, like the slow tap of a cane on concrete, follows you. Someone’s with you even if it is not the kind of company you wish to keep.

Deep breath. Now, I – your friend – am here with you.

Breastfeeding can be like the above scenario for some mothers. It is hard. It drives us to insanity. It saps energy while a big bag of judgement is thrown at those who make that choice.

Breastfeeding, both my experience and what other women know to be true, expands beyond one post. I have taken a few important things from the personal essay I’ve been writing called, Breast Fed, and other areas. Whether you’re a mom or know someone, here are a few items to keep in mind.

 

  • It takes the Heart

Some new mothers’ personalities change with a new baby. Breastfeeding is a choice. If a woman chooses to use formula, that is her right, and she should be supported. What happens when a mother breastfeeds affects her mind, body and heart. Emotions – whether associated with PPD or concerns about relationships, chores, work or weight loss – completely twist a woman’s heart.

I know I cried after certain break ups, but nothing broke my heart like the day in September 2010 when my son would not feed at my breast. I must have cried for two hours. He kept crying, and he would not latch.

I felt like a failure. I also felt guilty because, as a health enthusiast, I had not lost baby weight anywhere near what I had hoped. Did I use his lack of latching as an excuse to stop? That is what makes breastfeeding complicated and emotional because what a mother feels is not one dimensional. Sometimes she cannot explain it, but she feels the pain deep down.

I blamed myself for my two month old son’s disinterest in latching. He wanted a bottle. That single event has haunted me longer than any other event in my life, even though my husband and I have dealt with some traumatic events.

In the middle of everyone’s howling and suggestions was the loss of something unspoken – almost like a death – because I, as a mother, had failed to breastfeed my son. ~ from Breastfed

 

  • Support

In research I’ve done from a social worker journal, most women quit breastfeeding before six months because of a lack of support. This lack of support may come from family, friends, or work. Moms experience many emotions, and may not be able to express the right words.

Worse than the experience of a broken heart, emotions connected to breastfeeding felt like returning home to a reorganized house. The person coming home did not know where anything was located. ~ from Breast Fed

I received exceptional support from my professors and employer, so that I could pump for my baby.

But all it takes is one negative experience during a highly emotional time to make a mother question everything. At first, I was keeping my experiences to myself. I began my essay and did a little reading.

Then it happened.

Short version: My daughter was baptized. It was time to breastfed/ pump, but my daughter wasn’t hungry. A family member was going away for a long time, and I knew I might not get to talk to this person if I went into hiding. I also had to pump at that hour to keep from getting an infection I had suffered called, Mastitis. I pumped with a cover over me in my backyard. Another source close to me became upset, and this person vocalized her disapproval.  She said, “It would not be allowed at my house.” Then, a few minutes later after my husband stood up for me, she left.

Before I wrote about this or any instance, I needed time to think about what support means to a breastfeeding mom.

At heart, it means you might not understand everything about the subject, but don’t be afraid to ask questions about something that should not be considered connected with sex. It should be in support of that which gives life. It may be something as simple as holding her hand while she cries because sometimes she just needs to cry. Understand that even months after birth laundry and dishes may not be done exactly when you want them.

Most of all show love as she is providing nourishment for life.

By Rebecca T. Dickinson

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Ready to Talk: The Infection, Part 2

The Infection, Part 2

Memoir Shorts 

When MRSA first streamed through our blood and into our skin in summer 2011, I worked two days a week at a cafe.  Fears mounted like a stack of pennies that people save and believed one day will amount to something. One month, Ben’s job covered the rent and beyond while other months we held on tight on a boat with holes in the bottom.

I felt dissatisfied in everything I did professionally except for substitute teaching. I had not done as much during the year to stay at home with Hayes, but in the middle of a bad economy, I left the job at the cafe. That stayed with me as if I’d committed a great sin against God and my family because I had written about the lines at the unemployment offices. I had covered stories about families who ran out of water and electricity. I looked those people in the face and saw their sorrows and hope as they carried half a month’s paycheck worth of giant water bottles. Yet, I walked away from a job.

By June 2011, I worked as a cashier at the cafe inside of a bank. A person convinced me I should be doing “great things” besides working in a cafe, made false promises, and convinced me to take a writing job opportunity, which never came to a paycheck.

The only thing that came was illness. During this time, Ben’s first MRSA spot showed up on his leg and mine on my hip. I thought it was a bug bite because it just itched at first. Then MRSA poisoned my attitude towards Ben because for the first time I thought long and hard about his death. .

I thought that authors of romances missed out on writing about the ever after because life will not always include happily.  When I fell for my husband, I fell in love hard, and it never ended. I still fostered mean thoughts, which would later vanish. Taking care of Ben and our son, Hayes, became more difficult when I had another MRSA spot.

We put creams on the spots because we didn’t know what they were at the time. We didn’t know why these spots drained our energy and made us pale.

But, Ben and I were made equals at the doctor.

When you have no health insurance and little money, some doctors examine you like you’re nothing more than a poor dog about to be euthanized. I had grown up in a world of false blonde girls complaining to each other about highwater pants and underwear lines. I had known doctors to care, but the day Ben and I went to the doctor, I saw that a person who was poor meant nothing more to a doctor than an old gum wrapper thrown on the sidewalk.

Already I hated myself for not finding a job in which I felt happy, and for my cruel thoughts about my husband in his time of need. I guess I got what I deserved when the doctor asked me to pull my pants down just enough to look at my hip. We were in a hallway closed off by curtains. Metal trays surrounded us.

“You need to be clean,” he said. “You need to bathe everyday with clean water.”

I bathed everyday with clean water, but the doctor stared at me like a foul creature; a thin alligator that might not cut it in the Florida Everglades. Then, at the age of 26 I realized, he really did see me as dirty and poor. What else might he have assumed, I didn’t know, but it was enough to convince me that needed to be on my deathbed before I ever saw another doctor.  I could not predict that two years later the same doctor’s office would treat my husband far worse.

By Rebecca T. Dickinson

Memoir Shorts are based on my memoir Ready to Talk, but only a few lines are excerpts. All names and places have been changed to protect identities.

If you have ever felt mistreated by doctors, please know you are not alone.

For more Ready to Talk memoir shorts, read:

The Infection, Part 1

Ready to Talk: Beginnings

Copyright Rebecca T. Dickinson, 2015

To the Mother who Told my Husband How to Parent

To the Mother who Told my Husband How to Parent:

Deep breath before I type.

         I don’t know if you raised your voice, spoke with emotion in a calm voice, or just used a tone that up-and-slapped my husband in the face. I know he didn’t like the way you dramatically lectured him about our son.

        Now let’s be fair. Let’s lay our cards on the table. You love and are fiercely protective of your daughter. I am fiercely protective of my husband, son, and daughter. Where does this lead us? To discuss the problem? To discuss how you handled the way you spoke to my husband?

Events: My son – who we will call Hayes – played with one little girl.

Your daughter went to join them. We know not who initiated play with whom.

Yes, my husband gets caught up in a conversation, but he keeps a sharp eye on our son because no one knows our son better than us.

At some point, you marched over to my husband and told him something to the effect of, “Your son is saying ugly things to my daughter.”

Interruption [Here would have been a good time to let my husband talk to our son. Here would have been a good opportunity to find out what happened and let the actions of parenting occur]

Events continued … My husband talks to our son to find out what happened. Yes, our son did say something ugly. Yes, Hayes was in the wrong. His tone of voice with, “Go away,” is not something any child or parent wants to hear.

But, when my husband spoke with our son, and prepared him to apologize to your daughter, you didn’t give Hayes the chance.

You said, “We can’t stay here with him because of how he treated my daughter.” You left just before my husband had spoken and prepared Hayes to apologize.

My husband then put our son in timeout. Our son refused to which my husband responded with taking him from the mall and bringing him home. Hayes threw a tantrum.

Now, maybe your daughter is the perfect child who colors and plays gently with toys.

Maybe you didn’t know my husband and I co-parent to work with our son on his social skills with other children.

Maybe you didn’t know that when he does something wrong, most of the time it is quickly corrected and he becomes a good boy. He smiles and rubs your hand. He tells you he is, “Sorry.”

He earns consequences, good and bad, based on his behavior.

But, maybe you didn’t know he is combination extremely early case of ADHD with learning how to manage his behavior and little boy.  We, as parents, work together to find the best approaches to take with our son.

Maybe you didn’t know we have to talk to him and listen to his side of the story before we just put him in timeout or take away favorite toy. We explain what’s right and wrong. He pats my hand in rhythm to repeat what he should say.

Maybe you didn’t know our son is not perfect, but he can be a playful, fun child most of the time. He requires communication, correction, and not immediate degradation.

Most importantly, you’re thankful it was my husband you met and not me.

Rebecca T. Dickinson

Every child is different. Every child is parented differently. Sometimes we don’t know what lies behind.