by KAREN BERGREEN
I have friends who were born to mother. A friend of mine (full disclosure, she’s a nurse) popped out her baby without an epidural and gave him a bath in her hospital room within hours of his birth. All this after delightfully feeding her competently-latching little charge with her abundance of milk. She got up, only in a little pain, to perform a diaper change, followed by a swaddle which could have adorned the cover of Martha Stewart Living.
I wasn’t this kind of mother. I needed a nappy-changing tutor.
Breastfeeding was a nightmare: My son was born premature, weighing only four and a half pounds. He had weak lips and couldn’t latch, so I had to take off my shirt and wear a silicone hat on my nipple every time he breastfed. We were a perfect match — I was a failure as a milk producer. I had a low milk supply and spent every two hours attached to an industrial pump, reading how-to books. I churned out a meager five ounces a day. A lactation expert came to my house and encouraged me to get donor milk.
I needed to wake him up every two-and-a-half hours in his first few weeks to make sure he drank enough.
Baths were out of the question.
And yet, miracles do happen. Mother’s Day was two weeks ago. My son is now 8. I am happy to say that even though I was quite terrible at infant logistics, he was “desperate to give me the four cards” he had made. They were all loving, imaginative and in better handwriting than that of both of his parents (and in cursive, no less).
How could this have happened? I didn’t sleep with my kid or wear him in a sling. I left him with a sitter when I went out to work. I forewent the donor milk and gave him formula that I bought in a store. My husband and I watched a particularly violent episode of The Sopranos the night we came home from the hospital.
Am I just lucky? If I believed everything I saw on TV and read in books, the answer would be yes. According to talk shows and parenting books, there is only one way to parent: the way the publisher is telling you — as you fork over $36.99 for their book.