Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Secrets of "B's", Part 1

In the information-era in which we live, it's rare to truly be surprised anymore. Seriously - how many times have you really been taken aback, thinking, "I had no idea"? I can think of only two instances in my life in which I felt over-whelmingly neglectfully uninformed of what I was getting into, and they both start with "b." In the interest of full-disclosure, I think someone, somewhere, needs to tell the real stories, because I can honestly say that I was not prepared for either one. It would have been nice for someone to tell me, before the fact, "I know what you've decided to do. There are many good reasons for your decision. But be prepared for the brutal reality about to set in." I would have appreciated it. I really would have. But no one told me. Did they tell you?

My First "B": Breastfeeding
I'll preface by saying that I have three children, all of whom were breastfed exclusively for 6+ months. I'm glad I did it. I think it's a good thing. I'd do it again (...but won't, because that would mean another child - have you met my youngest? She has taught me to recognize my limits: her). There are lots of nice articles about the benefits of breastfeeding. I'm not going to mention those benefits, because you already know all about them. If you didn't learn them in your high school health class, surely you've had the lesson with your OB-GYN, pediatrician, mom's club, or stranger at the park. I totally agree: said benefits make it worth it. seems to me, there's a conspiracy of sorts out there in which no one dares tell you the other side:
  1. It's not natural. The milk might be, but the experience will not come naturally to you or to your child. It is something awkward and must be learned by mom and baby both. Your child might refuse to open their mouth. Or scream, or sleep - through each attempt. You will find the position awkward at best, at least initially, and your shoulders and neck muscles will throb. It does not begin as the picturesque scene of tranquil ease depicted in parenting magazines.
  2. It hurts. A lot. Thankfully, it gets a lot better as time goes on, but the first few weeks can be brutal. You might bleed, and then stick to your bra as the blood dries, finally tearing off the scab when you try to feed again. And then there's the uterine cramps. I labored stoically with three kids sans medication, but I cried when nursing.
  3. It's work. It will make you tired. It will make you thirsty (can't imagine being more parched on the Kalahari).
  4. If you don't show up for work, there's hell to pay. You might pay off the baby with a bottle, but you will lament the decision for the next 2 hours, unable to raise your arms/ elbows more than an inch, until you come to your senses and relieve the pressure, begging your baby to eat way more than she's actually hungry for, which results in volumnous, projectile spit-up - but you'll feel better, so it's worth it.
  5. Breast infections. I'd rather have ingrown toenails.
  6. Milk. Everywhere. In the shower. In your bed. Squirting across the room. Spraying your baby in the face like a sprinkler on steroids. Dripping down your shirt. When you cry, when you laugh, when you sleep, when know. Embarrassing.

This is all sounding very traumatic, and I didn't even go into the emotional/mental stress of constantly thinking you're probably starving your kid. I'm wondering if it was really that bad? Is my representation accurate? Thinking... Kind of. It's like childbirth - it hurts, it's hard, but you get something pretty great out of it in the end, which makes it all worth it, at least it did for me. But, unlike childbirth, for which you prepare for months with classes, books, and showers - the hard part of breastfeeding seems to go undiscussed until after the baby is born and new moms are in tears. Then, all of a sudden, everyone groans and says, "Oh, yea - I remember that!" at which point they wince and cross their arms over their chests. Shouldn't we be clueing each other in?

So what do you think? Were you prepared? Was I the only one with my head in the sand when this information was disseminated? Or is that the responsibility of a sister (curse the fact I only have brothers)? Am I the only one to wince at the memories? Funny, now...almost, but not really. Pondering how to incorporate this wisdom into general knowledge... :)

Stay tuned for my next "B": Bunkbeds (shudder)...


  1. Ahhhh Erin! I literally was LingOL with little tears in my eyes. Very spot on! Done it for over three years and would do it again, but it's all soooooooo true! The scabs, high pitched squeals and curled toes when they first latch's all true! I'm passin' this along!

  2. You hit the nail on the head! I took breastfeeding classes, so I thought I knew what was coming. No such luck, it was a surprise for sure! I think no one tells you because they can't really remember, I mean what do I really remember from those first weeks/months...not much (there aren't a lot of breastfeeding pictures in iphoto). Erin, you always make me smile, laugh and cringe just a little.

  3. If we told them what was really coming, we'd see a drastic drop in the number of mothers who breastfeed!!
    You've described it so accurately that even though it's been almost 17 years, I can still remember it like it was yesterday. (And there are few things I remember THAT well!!)
    Can't wait to hear about bunkbeds...

  4. Uggghhhhh, no, no one tells you. I guess it's because they don't want to scare you. And because it does get better. It's just hard at first. I do remember I was so raw on one side that every time she would latch on, I would have to breathe deeply, just to be able to get through it. It's a wonder anything let down at all!

    Leaking... yeah, I remember it would happen just for no good reason, and there I am with two big, strategically placed wet spots on my shirt. FUN. Especially when your Dad points it out to you. HA!

    Love you, Erin!!!

  5. Erin, you aren't alone. You are spot on.

    One of my biggest shocks was with #2. My body responded to pregnancy like it remembered what it had done the first time. Like a naive young mother, I expected breastfeeding to be the same. NO WAY!! Six kids, and the first few weeks of breastfeeding was the worst part of the pregnancy/newborn stage for each one of them.

    I asked my mom once why she hadn't warned me about some aspects of parenting and she said, "I wanted grandchildren." She was partially kidding, but not completely...

  6. Almost a week went by before I just now realized you posted another entry. I am bummed, bitter and bothered that I could have read this DAYS ago.

  7. Erin you are hilarious! I feel like you wrote this just for me... I am HATING my so called breast feeding right now and I'm not even dealing with half of what was mentioned. Thanks for the laugh! It kinda helps :)

  8. First of all, you are a fantastic writer. So fun to read! Second of all, yes! I felt the same way about breastfeeding. I'm the oldest, so I had no older sisters to warn me. And I was the first of my close friends to have a baby. So they couldn't tell me either. My mother & grandmothers are from the generations where you just don't talk about that stuff. It's too personal & yucky, right? Wrong! It's a woman's job to inform other women!

    Can't wait to read the second 'B'. We also have bunkbeds, so I'm sure I will relate to that one as well. I'll stay tuned . . .

    And yes, I have almost completely forgiven the Ginkgo trees now. :)

  9. I think the La leche league is kind of like Red China on this. If any realistic negative info gets out it is quickly eradicated from the internet or any other form of communication. Watch out this post may just randomly disappear. I had various degrees of horrible with each one. I think you described it perfectly so perfectly that I cringed several times as the pain was so fresh in my mind. Thanks for reminding why I am done having kids :)