Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Day for Mothers of All Kinds

On this Mother's Day I'm thinking of some mothers special to me . . . Dotty, my first mother, who was at a party in Greenwich Village when she told her husband she wanted to go home and make a baby, and nine months later I was born . . . my father's cousin Peggy, who never had children of her own but who mothered me so affectionately . . . Marion, my stepmother through thick and thin for 42 years and the best grandmother I could ever want for my children . . . my daughter Suzanne, my little nurse when she was a child and I had the flu, who grew up to be a wonderful mother to her own daughter and a remarkable stepmother as well . . . my daughter Gillian, who nursed her dolls when she was little, babied her animals when she grew up, and told me she loved Lizzie, her niece, as her own . . . my daughter-in-law, Leanne, another natural-born loving mother and a pleasure to observe with my grandson.

I'm also thinking of Bonesy, a cat who gave birth in our ice house two years ago. She had no books to guide her, no pediatrician, no Internet. Yet a more devoted mother I've yet to meet. So thin when she first appeared on the property that her bones were showing, she nursed her three babies and kept them clean and warm. When it was time to start weaning she brought them baby rabbits to kill. I'm afraid I interfered with this natural process by removing the rabbits before the hunt commenced. I justified it with the knowledge that I would find homes for the kittens where hunting skills would be optional.

But the thing I remember most about Bonesy's maternal behavior was the way she kept her babies safe. She fiercely drove away all animals, wild or stray. A more territorial cat I had never seen. She had some unusual ideas on what constituted a threat to her babies. One of these was the common pickup truck, which she saw as one of the true forces of evil. More than once I saw her go out into the middle of the road and stand her ground against an approaching pickup. This resulted in more grey hair for me, but I must say she succeeded. In all that time, not one pickup truck entered the ice house and made off with the kittens.

Happy Mother's Day, everyone. May we all attend to our young so diligently, and protect them with everything we have.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

La Leche League Counseling Notes

Thirty-six years ago I qualified as a La Leche League Leader and started the first (and so far the only) LLL group in my county. I was afraid no one would come to the first meeting, but 22 mothers showed up—some pregnant, some with babies. The group eventually grew to the point where it split in two, and I shared Leader duties with two others, who became my close friends. When we were ready to retire (having lost those lactation hormones, I guess), no one stepped up to replace us and keep the group going. But although I was sorry to see it die out, I was still glad I founded it, and it remains one of the things I'm proud of today.

Last night I came across the notebook I used when counseling mothers on the phone. Here are some of my notes from that first year:

May 21:  Has breast infection w/104ยบ fever. Dr. X had ordered nursing no oftener than every 4 hours, 5 min. on a side. Infection probably resulted from overfull breasts. For treatment, Dr. X advised no nursing because it would "hurt the baby."

June 14:  Baby 6.5 months, nursing every hour. Mother reluctant to start solids, even though baby gobbled up banana and cereal.

June 16:  Daughter, 8 mos., bit her.

June 23:  Son, 7 mos., biting badly whenever breast is offered. Does not bite when he asks to nurse.

June 28:  One-week-old son hospitalized with a fever. Hospital nurse insisting he should be on a 4-hour schedule. Nurse referred to him as an "older baby."

July 5:  Baby 3 months. Mother forced to wean him because of her husband's jealousy. He said they were his breasts, not the baby's. He had refused to give his son any attention as long as he was breastfed.

July 21:  Daughter, 11 mos., abruptly weaned one month ago on doctor's orders because the baby had a virus. She cannot tolerate any other kind of milk.

August 8:  Mom wonders if it's OK to nurse every 2.5 hours, which her baby wants. Hospital told her no more often than every 4 hours. Also, her teenage stepdaughter was thrown out of her own home and is arriving soon.

September 12:  Interested in nursing an adopted baby.

September 30:  Baby 3 wks. nursing well, but screams every evening when her father comes home. Husband is against breastfeeding, and attempts to discourage his wife.

November 11:  Mother was put on a 1,000-calorie diet by Dr. X, and developed toxemia. She is frightened of hospitals, but the doctor admitted he—no treatment except for strict low-calorie diet. A friend made the call to me. We are concerned about protein deprivation, probably the cause of the toxemia in the first place.

December 1:  Five-day-old baby. Dr. X wants her to give him sugar water between feedings.