Saturday, August 11, 2012

dose of reality #4

Mother Breast-feeding her Baby. Platinum print, c. 1900.
Louis Fleckenstein, photographer. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum.

i was pregnant
with wee grub
i was not sure
how i would feel
about breastfeeding.
i am not
a person who is
very comfortable
with my body.
i am a bit shy,
perhaps a bit prudish.
i knew that
i would breastfeed
if i could
because i believe
that it is best for the baby
if it is possible
for the mother
to breastfeed.
but i thought
it would be pretty weird-
something feeding
on me
like a little parasite.

from babies in paris via a cup of jo  (joanna goddard).

what surprised me
was how natural
and good it felt to me.

the night vee was born,
even after
all the trauma
i had gone through,
when i took
her in my arms
the first
thing i wanted
to do was cuddle her
and feed her.
my instincts overwhelmed
everything else.

i am not saying
it was easy at first
by any means...
i fed her wrong
the few times
and developed a crevasse,
or crack on the nipple,
and it was very painful
for quite some time.
i was severely anemic
for days
after her birth
and had trouble
producing milk.

on the way home from murten. 09 october 2011.

even with
all that against me
i was lucky
because after
i was able
to feed her.
4 or 5 weeks
was going
very well.

i did not realize
how wonderfully
cozy and sweet
it was to
an intense closeness
that i was not expecting.

i know that
i am lucky.
many woman that
i know
(including my own mother)
had a very difficult time
or could not
breastfeed at all.
since i sometimes feel
like i was deprived
of a normal
childbirth experience
at least i have this...

basel, 31 october 2011.

so when vee
rejecting breastfeeding
around 8 months
i was hurt...
i kept trying
but vee simply refused.
she would only
in the morning
or in the evening
when she was very sleepy.
it was hard to adjust.
i tried
not to take it personally
but it was both
emotionally hard
and physically hard
(now i had to pump more often).

burgers in lausanne,  april 2012

for the last
2-3 months
i only breastfeed
in the morning
and sometimes
when she is very
at night or
in the afternoons.
otherwise i pump.
my milk supply
has slowly been dwindling.
i worried
my days of feeding her
were numbered.

momfilter-lena corwin
lena corwin  via momfilter

it arose
that i should
go to mexico
for a week or two
for research.
we had some experiments
that needed
to be run early in the season
grub, wee grub, and i
move there
in november.
vee was not even
a year old.
i really did not
want to go.

i knew vee
would be
she would miss me
(i hope)
but she had her dad
and he would take
good care of her
(he does every day
while i work)...
my biggest reservation
was that if i leave her
for a week
she probably
will quit breastfeeding
i realized
i was not ready
for that.
how strange to think
that i was more about me
than about her...

Migrant agricultural worker's family. Seven hungry children.  Mother aged thirty-two. 
Nipomo, California. 1936.  Dorothea Lange, photographer. Library of Congress.

i hemed and hawed
about going
(my boss said it was up to me)...
half of me
was logical.
i knew that
i should go for research...
grub reminded me
that a man in the same situation
would have to
leave his child for a week
and no one would give him leeway
to stay at home with his child.
i have an obligation
to the family,
as the breadwinner,
to do the best possible job
that i can do
to insure a better future for us
(research = publications = job).
i knew,
deep down,
that vee
would be just fine.

then the other half of me,
the emotional mother half,
could not bear
to be apart from her
even for a week.
some friends of mine,
who are also working mothers,
said they would not go
if they were me.

i felt condemned
to the
bad mother
role again...


i thought about it
for a long time.

i thought about
my role
as a mother,
as a provider,
my career.
i also thought
my obligation
to my boss and advisor
who has always
been supportive
and understanding
career and motherhood.

no one was
making me go.

i finally decided
that i should go.

only for a week-
but go
and try
to make the best of it.
i was being selfish
by staying.
some day
i can tell vee
about the hard
we must make
as women
balancing our lives
as mothers
and our lives
as working people.
i will not always
make the best decisions
but i will always
make them
our family''s future
in mind.

i am
but certain
that this is,
in part,
the example
i want to
set for
my daughter.

By F. Holland Day. Library of Congress. 
Beatrice Baxter Ruyl feeding Ruth Ruyl. 1905. 
F. Holland Day, photographer.Library of Congress.



  1. You are a fabulous mother, Gwen. Don't let you talk yourself into doubting that, ever. If anyone were ever to question your love for or dedication to Vee, that person would just be flat out crazy, because both are plain as day if one's eyes are even half-open.

  2. i think you would have been right to make either decision.
    of course i'm not surprised that you took your time and looked at every angle.

    if in the end it feels OK then it is OK. no matter what you choose. i think we as mothers need to stop trying to appeal to and live up to the expectations of others. we CAN NOT have it all. but we can have what we have when we have it and be content with that. at least that is what i am thinking these days....

  3. this is such a touching post, gwen. i am so impressed and inspired by your incredible thoughtfulness and consideration of every little detail of how you are raising vee and how you are finding your place as a mother and a woman with a career. i can't imagine having to make this choice, but i have faith that however it works out, it will work out. it won't be easy, but you will make it work. and as lisa said, whatever you decided to do would have been right and would have been a hard choice to make. thank you for sharing all of these thoughts and moments with us.

  4. don't ever let anyone else tell you what is the right thing for your family! you and grub know best. and of course, vee is full of wisdom. babies are kind of amazing that way.

  5. Thank you so much for writing about this. Again, i'm so touched by your ability to be completely honest and sincere about your parenting life and decisions. You have to do what feels best. I also really love the images of breastfeeding moms and babies, especially the first one. I have a 2.5 month old and i agree with you that despite many challenges, there is nothing that can really mimic the closeness i feel to my girl when nursing her.

  6. What a tough decision! Of course you are weighing your reasons and options very carefully. This is one of your great strengths. Your understanding of your maternal enjoyment of breastfeeding is something I've heard from other mothers....and the reluctance for it to end. (I can only imagine!) The week apart will fly by, and your reunion will be amazing!

  7. Beautifully put and thoughtful.


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for stopping by...
hope to see you again