Thoughtloops of a Breastfeeding Mom

by Tania Pryputniewicz 

Two weeks before our first baby’s due date, my husband became obsessed with his G.I. Joe collection. Why now, of all times, take three plastic bins full of naked G.I. Joes out of the basement, dress them, and auction them off one by one on ebay? I remember reading in one of those “for new Dad” books how “now is not the time to start a new hobby.” I cracked the spine at that chapter and left the book out around the house, including on top of his slippers, to no avail. I’ve heard of other husbands engaging in this “uh-oh, my wife’s pregnant” phenomenon, taking up antiquing, birdwatching or some other time-consuming activity. In my husband’s defense, we both have selfish other pursuits in life: his-triathlon (which requires you to be good at three sports: swimming, biking, and running) and mine-writing. Still, it was pretty hard to take-this ebay thing-with baby on the way.

Marrying at 32, my husband and I qualify as late bloomers, arriving at parenthood at the age of 34. I used to think PMS wreaked havoc, but it pales beside the hormonal ups and downs that accompany the hourly nutrient siphon of breastfeeding. I considered myself a sane and rational person-I had my undergrad and graduate degrees, right? But, the new degree: LUIOBH-living under the influence of breastfeeding hormones had me by the tail. Of course I loved nursing my daughter, knowing it delivered the universe’s gift of the perfect food, her warm body against mine, her little hands gripping my thumb.

AND, it was grueling. I’d hold her for the new routine of stillness (hours of nursing) with way too much time to reflect, finding all that feminist theory from the college days nearly useless when it came to marriage and raising children. It had been fairly easy to be good “partners” (my husband and I) and function like equals when we were not faced with a beautiful, crying baby. I went off to my poetry readings on Thursday nights, he went off the underwater hockey on Tuesday nights, Wednesday was date night. Monday’s and Fridays I made dinner, Sundays and Thursdays were his nights, Saturday was take-out.

Enter baby, who shared our genes and all of a sudden, everything was an issue. Who packs the diaper bag when you leave the house? Who changes diapers? Who makes dinner? Who pays the bills? Cleans the toilet? Feeds the cat? Who arranges for a babysitter for a date? Just because I can watch the baby and cook dinner and do a load of laundry, is it reasonable to expect my husband, who has been earning the money, to do the same? Is making dinner without the baby “down-time”? Logic failed me, as I tried to weigh and dole out our responsibilities in my head.

Now that we have three children, I can say with a sense of humor that while many a mother cleans her slate entirely for the first baby and gradually returns former activities to her pie, many a father keeps his former pie and tacks baby on the underside, somewhere between the shell and the pie pan…probably out of self-defense. Mothers don’t have a choice: the unmistakable growth in the belly during pregnancy makes it impossible to hide from the reality of being subsumed…some tiny creature…with arms and legs…growing, taking over. So I’d prepared myself, during daily cat naps I could no longer avoid, to let go of my routine. My husband, on the other hand, dressed and undressed his G.I. Joes and took a little extra time off work since soon he’d be the principal wage earner. The morning we drove to the hospital I had to beat him off the computer (ebay) with a stick (when I could stand up again between contractions).  

But consider this side of the story: my husband would often say to friends (within my earshot) during those first months, years, really, of our daughter’s life, that he was at the bottom of the totem pole, barely breathing somewhere beneath the cat. I couldn’t see it… “What do you mean?” I’d say defensively, bristling (LUIOBH), totally unaware that I failed to look up from my darling nurser to greet him when he walked in the door, or made any attempt to move the nursing doughnut, the changing pads, or the stack of diapers and onesies so he could occupy his former spot in his former bed.

We laugh now about those initiatory trial-by-fire days, less concerned with equality than harmony, trusting that our workloads balance, even when we can’t imagine that they possibly do. Once the house quiets, and my husband’s finished straightening the handful of remaining G.I. Joes lining the shelves in our middle son’s room, we indulge in a glass of wine, amazed we made it this far.

Recent poems by Tania Pryputniewicz appeared in The Spoon River Poetry Review and Linebreak; her cover art and an essay appeared in Labor Pains and Birth Stories (Catalyst Press, 09). She documents the dual process of mothering and writing at Feral Mom, Feral Writer and has work forthcoming at Salome Magazine, The Mom Egg, Empire Report, and Tiny Lights. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she lives in the Sonoma County redwoods with her husband and three children.

 

 

1 Response to “Thoughtloops of a Breastfeeding Mom”


  • Tania,

    I am so happy I found your site through your comments on my own! Your work really resonates with us moms. I love the pie imagery; it’s a perfect metaphor for the adjustment we go through as new parents!

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