Breast of Burden

The pump. The poop. The panic. A dispatch from the nursing wars.

Except that, of course, the worry won't ever end. Recently I ran into an old friend who'd just welcomed her first grandchild. Her daughter had quit working, my friend bragged, and was nursing the baby on demand. "So far [the kid] has only had breast milk, rice, and avocado," she beamed. "She's got that book, the one that everyone's using now about infant feeding." For about a split second I was wracked by guilt. Surely I, too, could get Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron, and start making my baby's meals from ingredients like millet and soy grits.

The scare reminded me of the last time I feared that I had already screwed up Baby for life. Back when he was about three months old, I'd been plunged into a full-blown crisis prompted by an a innocent quip from my spouse. "Hey, look," he'd said, "when you walk in the room he stares at your breasts and shrieks. When I walk in the room, he wants to play." It hit me like several tons of well-aimed bricks.

I have since overcome the idea that we haplessly programmed a 12-week-old with outmoded ideas of where mommies and daddies belong in the world. Baby, I realize, had simply grown to recognize more than one form of love, security, and comfort--a necessary skill if he was to venture out and conquer the cat, the stairway, the bathroom door, and, eventually, whatever life he would choose for himself.

Craig La Rotonda

In her witty, wise new book of essays, The Mother Trip, editor Ariel Gore nails this one dead-on. "We have children because mothering is good for the soul," she writes. "Having kids won't make us rich. It won't make our lives more tranquil. We do it because it's good for the soul. Simple, right?

"But motherhood is never simple. Because we don't just get new people to raise when we become mama-women. No, with them comes all the chaos of personal transformation and a wicked little cultural blueprint for soul sacrifice and depression cleverly disguised as helpful advice and 'what's best for the children.'"

As I write this, Baby has begun to wean himself. He's replacing his time at the breast with cuddling he initiates between excursions into more exotic realms such as sandboxes and kitchen cabinets. The experience of nursing him has been thoroughly worthwhile, but if there's a next time, I think I'll pass on the ideologies and the guilt.

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