Sarah Avery (dr_pretentious) wrote,
Sarah Avery
dr_pretentious

Moo

On one hand, it's true what Dr. Spock said, that new parents know more than they think they do. On the other hand, there are some things about parenting that have to be learned, that instinct just doesn't take care of. You'd think that breastfeeding would be instinctual, since eating is, y'know, crucial to survival and all. Instead, breastfeeding turns out to be surprisingly difficult for most mothers and babies to learn. I really get, now, why a reasonable mother who knows all about the superiority of breastmilk might resort to formula feeding. But then, I'm the stubborn woman who didn't want to give up on an old-fashioned birth even after 34 hours of labor.

It's also true, what my mother has said for years, that motherhood turns breasts into just one more kind of baby gear, as utilitarian as a car safety seat or a stroller. "You'll think of them as baby gear," she said, "or udders, depending on the day. You'll never see cows the same way again."

Gareth is, in almost all ways, an easy baby. Guess what the exception is. Although my son and I are both within our respective ranges of normal, we have, shall we say, a hardware incompatibility between the structure of his mouth and the structure of my breasts. We spent many hours of our four recuperative days in the hospital in the most ridiculous tableau: I would try to wrangle my bosom while Dan tried to wrangle an increasingly hungry and anxious newborn, the hospital's lactation consultant tried to function as an interface between the two, and my mother stood by with a bottle of pumped breastmilk and a plastic spoon, with which we would periodically try to calm the baby down enough to try again to get him latched on. Ever tried to feed a frantic two-day-old baby with a spoon? If you want your clothes to look like a Jackson Pollock painting, it might be an activity to try. Otherwise, I can't recommend it.

Meanwhile, I kept up a cajoling monologue, trying to encourage Gareth to learn to eat. Cajoling monologues directed at newborns can get pretty goofy. "Who is Gareth's moo cow?" I found myself saying. "Mommy is! Mommy is Gareth's moo cow!"

Dan thought perhaps this was a sign of postpartum depression, until my sister called and left messages that consisted entirely of mooing. Pru married the scion of a Nebraska cattle ranching dynasty, so she's had many opportunities to perfect her heifer imitation. When my mother started greeting me by lowing like a Holstein, Dan finally caught on that he'd blundered into a family in-joke. "But I can't call you a moo cow," he said. "I just can't. You have a Ph.D., for chrissakes. You should at least be Dr. Moo Cow." So that's become one of his pet names for me. As in, when the baby is starting to fuss with hunger, "Dr. Moo Cow, you're late for your lecture."
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