I know, most women think their breasts are theirs… (But) to everyone chanting “My Body! My Choice!” I say, “Your Body! Our Nookie!” We are in this together, women and children, men — and breasts.
When I first saw a commentary on James Braly’s editorial on extended breastfeeding, I was all set to write a ranting reply. But something told me to take a look at the editorial before commenting and I am so glad that I did. Mr. Braly not only had, what I believe to be, a very valid personal argument for his opinion, he also offered salient points for his opinion from the standpoint of a couple and a family.
Mr. Braly and his wife have two sons, one 5 1/2 and one a toddler whose age is not given in the written piece. At the time of this publication (July 15, 2012), his wife is still nursing both boys! Mr. Braly’s description of his oldest son as “a five-and-a-half-year-old young man with a full set of teeth and chores” did make me chuckle. But as he further described him it made me think. 5 1/2 years old really is a sizable boy. Putting it into perspective, my son is 6 and stands level with my breasts (I’m 5 feet tall!!) and is 62 lbs. He has already gotten his permanent front teeth. The thought of still nursing him not only turns me off, it’s also a little scary! I’ve seen my son attack a burger and it ain’t pretty. I cringe thinking of him coming at me with that voracious appetite.
I am well aware of the benefits of extended nursing and wish that I could have nursed each of my children longer than I did (my daughter weaned herself at 10 1/2 months when she learned to walk and my son was weaned cold turkey when I caught a virus, subsequently became hypothyroid and my milk production abruptly ceased.). But truth be told, knowing myself as I do, I know that I would not have nursed either of them beyond 2 years. While I was sad when I got sick with my son, once I released the emotions, I was quite happy to have my body back. As for the cuddling and bonding, I still cuddle both my children; my daughter, who will be 10 years old this fall and stands nearly as tall as I am and my son who is 6 yet still occasionally climbs into my lap, wraps his arms around my neck and gives me hugs and kisses while his feet graze my ankles. Your baby is your baby and that will never change. If you want further evidence, I once saw a photo of Shaquille O’Neal and his mama in a big ole hug. There she was, “cuddling” with her 7ft 1in baby boy! A mama will always have open arms and heart for her baby!
So while the argument of “bonding” for extended breastfeeding is a valid one, I have to say that breastfeeding is not the only way in which a mama can maintain that “bond” with her child. And I agree again with Mr. Braly when he says that the decision to breastfeed for an extended amount of time has to be a decision made by not only mama and child, but also mama and her partner. Children are a wonderful expression of love between a couple. But when a couple ceases to have “couple time” due to the addition of children or the increase in family responsibilities, that couple is in trouble and may cease to be a couple unless they adapt and make time for themselves.
I really liked how Mr. Braly summed up his argument,
“So to all nursing moms, except perhaps those who used a lab technician, I say that the foundation of the parent-child bond is the parent-parent bond. Unlike the baby chicken or the fertilized egg conundrum, partnership precedes parenthood. That’s how you got into this position to begin with: by attracting a man who liked what he saw, and wanted to see more of what even the scientists researching extended breast-feeding call mammaries, not Mommaries.”
While many women may not like his comments, Mr. Braly makes a very persuasive argument and one that I believe may save many marriages-and hence families-if at least considered.
How do you talk with your children about difficult topics?
In light of the shooting death of 17 year old Trayvon Martin, I have been thinking A LOT about how to talk with my kids about touchy subjects. At 9 and 6 years old, I don’t want to overwhelm them, yet I want to inform and educate them. Certain topics are easy. For example, a couple of months ago we had a really in depth discussion about where babies come from and how they get into their mommy’s tummies which lead us into a talk about sex. I was amazed at how much my children already knew and understood! But what I found is that the calmer I remained and the more directly I answered their questions, the better things went.
I asked a therapist friend of mine, Katie Malinski, MSW, LCSW how best to approach sensitive topics with your children and she had the following tips to offer:
1. The best way to address sensitive topics is directly. Don’t try to avoid the issues. Kids are smart and will know something is wrong. If you feel ill equipped to discuss the topic alone, enlist the aid of a good family therapist to help you and your children understand the situation.
2. Your children are going to take their cues from you. If you overreact or act as if the issue is a really big deal (even if it is!!) then your children will have a similar reaction. If you can approach the topic calmly, then your children will gather, from you, that the situation is not catastrophic and that you (the parents) have everything under control.
I am going to add, or actually reiterate my point about being direct and not overwhelming your children with information. When my son asked me about babies, it stemmed from the fact that 3 of his classmate’s moms were pregnant. His class was all abuzz about when the babies would come out and how life would change for his friends. When he said that the babies would be “cut out” (I have told my children that I had c-section deliveries) I had to explain to him that that is not the way most that babies come into the world. I then explained that babies come through a hole below where mama’s go pee.
“Oh the bahina!” he pipes up.
I nearly crashed as I was driving and began laughing. I told him that the correct name is vagina and yes, that is where babies come out.
“Do you have one?” He asked.
“So can Sissy have a baby?”
(Sweating) “Not yet, she has to become a grown up first and get married.”
I didn’t bother with the whole menstrual cycle issue, how young girls can get pregnant or the pregnancy outside of wedlock issues because he didn’t ask about them. He wanted to know about mommies and I was fine keeping the conversation there for the time being.
Of course the conversation turned to, “How do babies get into mommies’ tummies?”
(Sweating again) “When mommies and daddies love each other very much, they often decide to make a baby. Sperm from the daddy joins with an egg from the mommy and a baby is made and grows in the mommy’s tummy.”
“So how does the sperm get into the mommy?” my son asks.
“When mommy and daddy decide to make a baby, the daddy puts his penis in the mommy’s vagina and puts the sperm inside the mommy to meet the egg and make the baby.”
There was quite a long pause and I thought that I was done. I was quite proud of myself for getting that far and not totally confusing my children. Finally my son pipes up,
“So daddies go pee pee in mommies?”
After I busted out laughing, I explained that while sperm comes through the same area, it’s not that daddies go pee pee in mommies, it’s a different mechanism. With that we arrived at our lunch destination and the topic has been shelved ever since.
I share this story with you so that you can see, and I can remind myself, answer the questions our children ask of us. As we all know, there was so much not said in this conversation. But my son was asking about mommies and daddies and rather than complicate the issue with menstrual cycles, teen pregnancy, sex without creating babies, sex outside of marriage, etc…I answered his questions and we both moved on.
The day will come when I have to fully explain racism to my children and I hope to be able to take the same calm approach. I doubt we’ll have the funny anecdotes we had as we discussed how babies get into mommies’ tummies, but I am hoping and praying that as we delve into this topic, and yes we have already had a few discussions about skin color and why our hair is different from our classmates hair, etc… I will be able to remain calm, answer their questions honestly and rationally and also educate them in a way that doesn’t scare them or further confuse them.
As I looked at the text, my heart sank. My husband and children flew to my husband’s hometown to celebrate my mother in law’s 70th birthday. I had another obligation, so for the first time in their lives, my children traveled without me. I did all that I could to make sure that they had everything they needed. But as they packed for the return trip, Brown Bear got lost in the bed sheets and left behind.
As any parent knows, the loss of a beloved “Lovie” can be catastrophic. Think of the Peanuts character Linus and his blanket and you’ll know exactly what I mean. I was pretty sure that they’d make it home on the flight okay, but my greatest concern lay in trying to get this child to sleep tonight. I called my mother in law and she was already heading out the door to the FedEX store.
“Hold on,” I said. “It’s President’s Day. Let’s make sure they’re shipping out.”
So she held on one line while I used my cell phone to see if FedEX was shipping. They were and off she went. She called me back about half an hour later to let me know that Brown Bear was on his way-overnight express!
With potential catastrophe averted, I sat down with a sigh. The next thing I knew, I was sobbing. How was my son going to make it through the flight without Brown Bear? Would he be scared? Would he cry? At one month shy of 6 years old, I knew in my head that he’d make it just fine. But in my heart, I was nervous. My son would be upset and there he’d be, without Brown Bear-and without me.The tears streamed down my face. This would be the first time ever that my son would be or could be in distress and I wouldn’t be there to make it all better. Instead, I was home alone, “working” (but not getting damned thing done!).
I have traveled before and left the children home with my husband. They’ve always been fine. We’ve traveled together the three of us since they were both babies (My husband was usually off on one business trip or another.). But never have they ventured on a trip without me. We don’t have family close by, so weekends at Grandma’s or Mimmie’s is out of the question. My daughter has just started having sleep over parties, yet even when she’s gone, I have my son at home. This was the first time that they were both gone. It is the strangest feeling to be “left behind.”
My house is eerily quite without the banter and bickering of my children. My son’s drums reside beside my desk and although I often have to shout to make him stop playing while I am on the computer, it’s a clanging that I am quite used to. Last night when I returned from my trip, I entered the house and the silence was almost deafening. There was no one there to greet me when I returned. And as I locked up and went to bed, I realized it was the first time I had slept in our house alone since before my daughter was born in 2002.
I knew the day would come when my children would leave, even temporarily, but my sadness at their absence surprised me. Even at the ages of 9 and 6, this trip was a stark reminder that my days of “mothering” are speeding by and one day in the not so distant future, I will wave good bye as my children head off to write their own stories of their lives.
So here I sit, at 11:25 pm writing a blog that should have been posted 12 hours ago. When they arrived, amidst the hugs and excitement, I learned that my daughter had lent her brother “Bear” (her bear) to hold on the plane. Another “friend” is sleeping-in for Brown Bear tonight. Every one, family and faux furry alike, are pitching in to get my son through this night. Brown Bear’s ETA is “before 3pm” tomorrow, so if all goes well, he’ll be in the car when I pick my son up at school.
I haven’t heard a peep from my son’s room. My guess is that the excitement of the day has worn him out and even though Brown Bear is temporarily MIA, the comfort of being home, in his own room, in his own bed and with his “friends” is mitigating any sadness he may feel over Brown Bear’s absence.
As for me, I am relieved to have my family home. I know that this is just the beginning. I have sleep overs, overnight camps and college to look forward to and hopefully they will all prepare me for the day when my children leave me behind-for good.