Wednesday 30 November 2011

The Other Mother

It was car crash TV at its best.  Had Super Nanny, Jo Frost, been on the sidelines, she would have had a field day!  Social services would have been very interested indeed in the scene that was unfolding but funnily enough, several passers had no interest.
It was a rainy Tuesday afternoon in early October. A mother and her two small children were in town.  The baby was safely strapped into his buggy, watching everything the way only a nine month old can; with great interest.   The two and a half year old was dawdling behind the buggy, stopping to look into the shop windows, shouting with delight at the Halloween decorations.  He held in his hand, a packet of paints just minutes before purchased in the pound shop.  Earlier on that day, he had helped paint a pumpkin and a witch on the windows in crèche and his mother reckoned it would be a nice treat for him to do the same at home. 
She was wondering now, however, how she would deal with the inevitable mess and was it such a good idea.  Maybe she should wait until he had gone to bed and do it herself, that way he’d have his window decorations when he woke up the following morning.  But on second thoughts, if that night was to be anything like the previous night when the baby, who had an ear infection, was up hourly, she would be fit for nothing except bed herself at 9 o’clock.   Ah, she’d wait and see, she decided.  You never knew with him these days, he could change his mind as soon as he got in the door and want to watch a DVD instead.  Say nothing for the moment.
She slowed the buggy for the twentieth time in order to chivvy him along.  God, but he could spend a lifetime looking at the same paper decorations. 
The rain was getting heavier, the baby would need his tea shortly and it was heading into rush hour traffic, at this rate they wouldn’t get home for at least another half hour.  And she needed to get milk.  Why didn’t she think of that when she was in the Supermarket? 
“Come on!” she called again, loudly, pausing to shush the baby who was beginning to complain.  “Hold my hand, we’re going to cross the road now.”
The toddler was very definite in his response, which was no and upped his pace, but only to overtake the buggy.  His mother called him back and he turned his head to grin at her and walked a little bit faster.  They were approaching a roundabout in the middle of the town and no amount of calling him was having any effect.  She was afraid that if she made a dash for him, he’d break into a run and step off the footpath.  She pushed the buggy a bit faster and the toddler matched her speed.  He was looking at his paints and not paying any attention to the direction in which he was walking.  His mother shouted at him again to stop, wait but he paid no heed.  He turned the corner and she lost sight of him. 
Dragging the buggy to the wall and leaving the baby where she would not be able to see him, she put on the brake and broke into a run.  It was only ten seconds but it felt like ten minutes before she caught up with her errant boy, and with the pressures of the last few days plus the tiredness of the weekend catching up with her, she dropped to her knees and grabbed him by the upper arms.  Her son threw back his head in laughter at this great new game but his merriment quickly changed to shouts of anger and resistance as his mother began to voice her frustration.  Her face was twisted in anger as she shook him a little to get her point across.  This wasn’t the voice of reassurance that he was used to.  This wasn’t his mother laughing with affection, her eyes crinkling up at the corners, at his usual shenanigans.  The hands that normally caressed his head as she passed, were holding on to his arms just that little bit too tightly for his liking.   The mouth that usually kissed him with such affection and praised him so often was now being used to scream at him so loudly.  This wasn’t the mother he was used to. This was some other woman saying these horrible things to him, threatening to kill him if he didn’t listen.  Telling him he would be killed stone dead if he walked out in front of a car and how bold he was for not listening. 
This was someone who looked like his mother but did not sound like her.  He screamed back at her in retaliation as people walked past and this stranger got to her feet, and yanked him by the arm, back to where his little brother was left abandoned in the rain.
It was a long walk for the toddler, across the road and through a busy car park, into a hallway where the car ticket had to be paid and then up a moving stairs to the second level where the car was parked.  The grip on his arm hadn’t eased up and his screams hadn’t either. 
This “other mother” was now putting him into his car seat, none to gently and strapping him in very firmly.  Wham!  The “other mother” shut the car door.  The baby was put in his seat and that door slammed too.  Another slam as the boot was closed on the buggy. 
The lady got into her seat and the toddler watched as she put her face in her hands and took a few deep, shuddery breaths, willing tears not to come.  His screams subsided as he sat back and watched her carefully. He waited until she took her hands down.   She looked like his mother again but when she turned around to look at him, he wasn’t so sure.  She looked like the “other mother” again for a second as she glared at him.   But this time she didn’t say anything.  She turned back and started the car.     There was silence for the journey home.  Nobody said anything.  Even the baby was silent.  The toddler kept a wary eye on his mother who, every now and again, stole a quick glance at him in the rear view mirror.   
The red hot anger had abated and guilt was stealing in to take its place.  That should not have happened.  He was only a baby.  What was he thinking now? 
She could have handled the situation so much better.  She should never have spoken to him that way.  It was unnecessary and there would be no lesson learned, except maybe to fear her.
An afternoon that was supposed to be enjoyable, ending with a treat, was ruined because she lost her temper. 
She had turned into someone who lost control of the situation and let things get out of hand. 
The car pulled into the driveway and she turned off the ignition.  In the couple of seconds it took to remove the keys, a little voice piped up.
His mother answered immediately, her voice much softer. It was the voice he was used to only there was still something different about it.  He didn’t realise it but it was the voice of guilt and remorse.
“What is it, Con Shine?” his mother asked, using her pet name for him.
“I a good boy, mammy?” he asked, looking for confirmation.
Her heart almost broke.  “Yes, Con.”  She told him.  “You’re the best boy in the whole world.”  
  Con is my son.  And I am the “other mother.”

Sunday 27 November 2011

Hippy Hippy Milkshake

From August 1st to August 7th people, mama’s everywhere, are celebrating and paying homage to World Breastfeeding WeekThis year’s theme is Breastfeeding Support: Close to Mothers and the Irish Parenting Bloggers have organised a blog march to show our support of this and to help raise awareness. 

During World Breastfeeding Week, there will be two posts published every day documenting our own experiences of breastfeeding. 

I have, once or twice, been in very close proximity to trees but as I am the mother of four small boys, the need to pee outdoors can arise.  Trees have come in pretty handy on these occasions and I can quite honestly say I never had the urge to hug one of them.  The trees that is, not my boys.

I also like to smell nice, sometimes even wear the odd bit of make-up and, on occasion, my bathroom stinks with hair removal cream.  On a first impression basis, you definitely would not call me a hippy.  But, I breastfeed my children.  

It is every parents decision how their baby is to be fed and I accept breastfeeding may not be for everybody but it angers me when people are of the opinion formula is just as good as breast milk “these days.” 

It is not.  It never has been and it simply can never be due to its very method of production.

Formula has its place and we are lucky we have a choice, but not so lucky that there is a definite lack of support out there for those who wish to breastfeed.  Those who do choose to breastfeed and encounter difficulties, discover at best, they are confused by conflicting advice.  

Unfortunately though, some advice is just incorrect, thus leading to a premature end to what could have been a very happy and enduring breastfeeding experience for many a parent.

I am quite passionate about breastfeeding but it is not who I am, it is just what I do.  It’s unfortunate that these, my beliefs, can label me, and others, a tree hugging hippy. 

I attend a weekly breastfeeding group where a couple of women are still nursing their two and three year olds.    Some of us encountered few problems but one or two had supply issues, latching difficulties after a traumatic birth or needed a question answered about their baby’s weight.   

As it is a breastfeeding group, the main topic of conversation is, naturally, breastfeeding.  But on a broader scale it is a wonderful chance for a lot of us, me included, to be in the company of like minded parents.  Breastfeeding groups all over the country, indeed the world, serve a dual purpose.

Like the rural transport scheme, they give people the opportunity to be social and prevent them from remaining too long in the confines of their home with a small baby, day in, day out.  

For first time mothers in particular, having a baby is a real planetary shift.  Seismic in its meaning.   

People who, up until now, had been working all of their adult lives, suddenly find their normal routine goes out the window as they are at the beck and call of a teeny tiny person.  

Duty calls like never before as they deal with the aftermath this little hand grenade has created.  Family and friends are not on maternity leave.  Their lives continue as normal. Their social lives continue as normal.   

This is not the case for new parents. 

It can be isolating, lonely, frightening and depressing.   

Attending a mother and toddler group, a breastfeeding group, be it La Leche League, or Cuidiu, can be a life line for many.  It is a chance to have a chat over a much needed cup of coffee and a biscuit at the very least.  

Although you may be a new, sleep deprived and stressed parent, you still care about your appearance so it is a welcome chance to put on a bit of make-up, fix your hair and wear matching shoes once a week.  Because every other day it’s dressing gowns and tied up, unbrushed hair till midday.

Now, anyone for a nice lentil stew????? 

Friday 25 November 2011

Thinking about it now...

My first breastfeeding experience began almost 6 years ago. That’s how old our eldest boy is now. His was a wonderful birth and despite some conflicting advice in the hospital and himself being a very slow feeder, we got on wonderfully and our breastfeeding experience was to last 13 months.
Our second boy literally popped out and into the world ninety minutes after arriving at the hospital. He, too, latched on straightaway and he soon proved to be the opposite of his big brother. Not for him the long, lazy snuggles in his mothers arms, but rather lets get this job done so I can go back to sleep. He was a very efficient feeder from the get go. Breastfeeding came into its own when he fell foul with a horrible bout of chicken pox at seven months. Coupled with three top teeth that decided to appear at once, this chap just couldn’t catch a break. 9 months later, I was six months pregnant with son number three, and he fell asleep for the first time without a breastfeed. At 16 months old, he weaned.
Our third little boy was born via emergency section and for the first time as a breastfeeding mother, it looked as if it was not going to work out for us. He was sleepy and not at all interested in latching on but the second day, when I was feeing a little less groggy, things took a turn for the better and we didn’t look back.
Another little bloke who enjoyed his mothers milk for 16 months. I was 6 months pregnant with son number four and with the joyful prospect of feeding a newborn again, it was with a light heart that I “let him go” onto the next stage of his life.
Our fourth son was a wondeful VBAC and is now 7 months old and as much a joy to feed as his older brothers. Of course, he is doing that acrobatic twist of his head at the slightest noise which makes it practically impossible to feed him sometimes.
I love breastfeeding. It is so calming, nurturing and precious. I love the way all of our boys went into a massive body tremble when they saw me and realised dinner was about to be served. One of the lads used to get excited when he spotted a particular bra I had. That poor chap has no surprises left for his teenage years I fear!
It may have been a challenge in the beginning and certainly after the section, but I am so proud of the fact that I am a breastfeeding mother.
This Christmas will be the first Christmas in 6 years that I am not pregnant BUT still breastfeeding.