Bits and pieces - FamilyEducation

Bits and pieces

December 09,2010
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

Yesterday's post was sparked by a woman I saw waiting in the grocery store checkout line earlier in the week. She was young and had two small children with her--one about 15 months old. She was paying for her groceries with a WIC check and when I saw that, the memories came flooding back.

Her baby also was missing one shoe. I pointed this out to her and she sighed in frustration. Her baby, she told me, keeps taking off his shoes and socks and they've lost so many of them. I smiled, because T. used to do the exact same thing. Sometimes we'd be all the way in the minivan before I noticed and then I'd stand there in the parking lot, weighing the pros and cons of lugging both kids back into the store to track down the missing shoe. Almost always, the cons of this scenario won out and we'd drive home, minus one little baby shoe.

I saw the mother out in the parking lot, while I was loading the bags into my van. She had just finished loading her bags, too, and was strapping the baby into his car seat, all the while trying to corral the toddler with her legs.

She hadn't gone back for the shoe, either.

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A friend of mine also pointed out another way to view the WIC lady's comments to me. She felt that although the lady could have discussed weaning and re-lactating in a friendlier, gentler way (in other words, her "bedside manner" needed some work), she thought it commendable that the woman had even brought up the subject and hadn't pushed the formula at me without trying to explore other options. There's no point in going back in time and dwelling on regrets, but this doesn't stop me from feeling some Mama guilt over how it all turned out. I went on and nursed T. successfully for 23 months and while it wasn't a smooth start by any means (and I almost weaned her at six months when she had her surgery), my experience with L. taught me to persevere and not doubt my own body's ability to meet my child's needs.

The bottom line in the end, though, is that each mother needs to make the best decision she can, in the best way she can, with the guidance and support from those around her. Even though I had read so much about pregnancy and birth I hadn't given enough thought to breastfeeding, beyond making it my first choice. I went into it all thinking that every baby just knew how to do it--how on earth could this possibly be a challenge? But it can be. Babies, as it turns out, need some help getting it all figured out, just like their mamas.

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I've been doing nothing but administering and grading final exams all week and almost all day yesterday. My brain is fried. I'll be back on Friday with something more than bits and pieces (I hope!).