Victoria Jelinek

The Baby Diaries 5

Courage conquers all things: it even gives strength to the body.” Ovid

humming birdI’m really enjoying my brother and sister-in-law’s (belle-sœur) visit, even as I must admit, it makes both my husband and me a bit nervous to watch my sister-in-law bounce our baby because his neck jostles so much we’re afraid she’ll break it, but trusted assistance at this time is so appreciated.

Thank the fates that they were here, too, when my left breast dried up. From one day to the next it was suddenly not producing milk. I cried my eyes out, afraid that I would not be able to feed my baby, that I would have to use formula and my son wouldn’t get the best possible start to his life…that I had failed as a mother (self denigrating ideas courtesy of La Leche League?). My brother and sister-in-law were invaluable. They told me to keep nursing him on that breast. That he could ‘call’ the milk to it in a way nothing else would. That my hormones would be alerted by his sucking and would tell my body to produce the milk, get the ‘milk factory’ going again. Most importantly, they told me not to despair. My worried look each day prompted my brother and sister-and-law to download a hilarious TV series for us to watch en famille and laugh together. They also introduced me to a baby ‘boppie’, which looks like a big neck rest that one gets in order to sleep on a plane. It goes on your lap and your baby lies on it, meaning you don’t have to hold them up to your breast, but are, basically, hands free. Their quiet confidence and encouragement helped me relax and lo-and-behold: the milk returned after a few days! The body is truly miraculous. Then I went to the doctor’s again to check my son’s weight and he had gained the shocking amount of 200g in ten days! He obviously had heard the doctor’s saying he wasn’t performing as expected, and had decided to get busy showing her what a victor looks like.  My GP also told me more good news, that there’s a nurse who’d visit the home and who would be paid entirely by the province*.

So I called the number my doctor gave me and the nurse came for a visit after my family left. She was kind and spoke French slowly so that we could understand all she said. She showed me several positions to nurse the baby in, but the ones I remember (keep in mind my dazed state of sleeplessness and fatigue) are the classical manner of holding him cradled in your arms (or on your ‘boppie’ as I do) and an American football hold in which you put the baby’s body to your side and behind you, with their face to your breast, coming from behind. Strange. Apparently, it’s so that one can walk around easily while nursing. My son seems to prefer my right breast, which is resulting in my breasts becoming lopsided. I pointed this out to my doctor and she laughed, admitting they are different sizes but that it’s not “so noticeable.” What is noticeable is that I have developed little red blood blisters on both of my nipples. First the drying up, the lopsided-ness, and now this. At the moment, I dread my son’s nursing because it’s so painful. My doctor is amazed I keep going with it. She tells me most women would have given up nursing by now if they’d encountered these problems. It is curious regarding nursing patters. In the lower hemisphere, an average 80% of women nurse their babies for up to 2 years, which is what UNICEF recommends. Meanwhile, in the US and the UK, while the numbers of women nursing are growing, less than 25% of women nurse their babies past the first 2 months of its life.

I tell her I am determined to make it to 3 months, with my ‘outside’ goal being 6 months. She quietly shook her head and told me to get pure lanolin cream to help ease the pain and to wash the nipples with iodine to keep them from becoming infected. Good grief, I had no idea the myriad of ways that babies challenge you… is it easy for others or are they pretending it’s easy for them?

*The nurse’s office is located inside the local Pole Emploi. It is here that she has regular office hours for anyone to drop in. I assume that because my husband and me are self-employed but pay French taxes, this is a general service that is not necessary to register for because we filled out no paperwork, nor made any special arrangements other than requesting her to visit.


1 Comment so far
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This certainly helps understand and smooth away some of those problems and uncertainties with a new baby–and it is
witty as well as humorous. I look forward to reading these columns.

Comment by Barbara Fincher

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