Monday, June 8

The Secret Club

I've gotten most of the best advice I've gotten about parenting from nursing rooms.

During the first month of Jonah's life I read the entire Dr. Sears Baby Book that was given to me by my Mother-in-Law. I checked videos out of the library on breastfeeding and watched them all repeatedly. I read blogs about parenting and listened to the Doula who taught our Bradley Method class. I had information running out of my ears before I even gave birth for the first time.

What I didn't have was practical information or any experience at all, a fact that I was painfully aware of after Jonah was born. We called the nurse number almost as soon as we got home from the hospital and I rarely slept if he was awake, which was most of the time for the first week.

And then we took him to church. As I'd learned from Dr. Sears' wife, I popped him into my pocket sling and carried him around my neck, belly to belly until he awoke and wanted to eat and I dutifully carried myself to the nursing mother's room. It was really more of a closet with two rockers and a small table. It was so small that it was almost impossible to open the door if anyone was already inside, so it was definitely impossible to ignore the other woman in the rocker across from me. I've forgotten her name, but she was nursing her 10 month-old baby. I wasn't particularly efficient at nursing and Jonah was a lazy nurser, so I was there for quite a while and we chatted. I discovered that this was her fourth child and she's had to see a lactation consultant because he wasn't a very good nurser at first, unlike her other children. She also found that swaddling him up a bit helped keep him asleep at night, even though he was so old. She told me all sorts of things to try when Jonah got cranky in the evenings and introduced me to the term Witching Hour.

Later we moved to Oklahoma and the nursing mother's room would hold four rockers and a changing table and I learned about lovies and what to do about infant congestion or how to recognize thrush or Scarlett Fever and how NONE of us were getting sleep.

I suppose that I could have asked my mother or any one of the other older women who'd had kids about the things that I didn't really know how to handle but it seems that once your child passes out of a phase it becomes (blessedly) difficult to recall all of the specifics of the difficulties in caring for them in that stage.

Besides that, it was nice just to discover how normal my experiences were among the other women I knew. It was nice to know that we all had information to share with each other and we were willing to help. Once you've sat in a small room with other women, babies nursing and the low sounds of hymns piped through the intercom system, sharing wisdom and secrets and bemoaning the small issues of motherhood, you suddenly find that you have a shorthand language that you can speak with any number of women that you meet in all sorts of places.

Many times I'm walking through Target and I see a nervous looking woman with a toddler, having a meltdown, I give her a sympathetic smile and whisper, "Hang in there!" even if I don't have my own kids with me (maybe especially if I don't have my kids with me) because I know we speak the same language.

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