Friday, March 12, 2010

A Fine Line

In our newly rested state, we managed to get all four of us to shabbat services last Saturday morning. Ira hasn't been to services in a while, and he spent time crawling around the prayer space, happily visiting with friends, pulling up, smiling and laughing. The last time he attended, he wasn't yet crawling well, and it was fun to see him explore, and to see our friend's faces light up as he pulled on their legs, asking to be picked up.

At some point, Ira tripped a bit, and bonked his head on the floor. At the ensuing wail, Gail, who was right nearby, whisked him into her arms and out of the prayer space. She took him to look out the window, and soon enough, he was smiling again. It was almost time for him to eat again, and I wondered if he might need to nurse to settle down, but he didn't.

I stayed in services, and when Gail came back in, I smiled to realize that what she had done was absolutely normal. Sure, she comforts him when she's home with him and I'm out, but she also comforts him sometimes when I'm around, and when that milk I make is so easily accessible. I know nursing can be such a fraught topic in any family, perhaps even more so in two-mom families where one mom is nursing and one isn't. Discomfort and sometimes pain or jealousy around nursing come up all the time in any writing or discussions about parenting as an NGP.

In our family, we try to walk a fine line between making sure nursing happens, because we value it for our kids (both nutritionally and emotionally) and because we've both enjoyed it as moms, and also trying to make sure it doesn't grow to take up too much space in our family or unintentionally undermine the parental relationship for the non-nursing mom. It's important to us that we both be able to soothe our babies after the inevitable bumps and slights. It's important that we both be able to care for our babies independently during the day and both be able to put them down to bed. I also want to be more to Ira than a food source, or the mom who only nurses him while Gail does everything else in an attempt to "keep up" (we were closer to that dynamic during Leigh's infancy).

I wondered, back before Ira was born, if this would feel different once I was the one nursing (or for the first 6 months, producing more milk). And it does. I love the connection I have with Ira through nursing, and am pleased as punch that after waiting all that time for my turn, I have gotten to have this experience, and actually enjoy it (I know not all moms are so lucky). But I have sometimes had to remind myself to put on the brakes and give Gail space to do things her way. Gail had to warn me away from hovering when Ira was fussy (but fed) one Sunday morning and I was supposed to be getting some extra sleep in the other room. But what I was happy to realize last Saturday, as Gail carried our laughing baby back into services after his fall, is that for right now, we're in a really good spot walking that fine line, and we're not even having to try.


reproducinggenius said...

I love this post. You do such a lovely job of capturing the subtleties of the challenges we face in this area as two-mom families. I'm glad you two have found your balance with it!

Anonymous said...

Emerging from lurker-land to say I also love this post. I appreciate so, so much all the thoughtful writing you both do r.e. being a two-mom family, particularly as regards being an NGP. As one myself - in August - I think about this nearly constantly. And as you wrote once, I find the existing "other mother" literature depressing, off-base, hard to relate I've tossed it all out and am basically just reading blogs! Thanks again.

Carla said...

As always, you are so thoughtful and intentional. I think this fine balance can also be an issue in straight families, and I made a point to not use nursing as a soothing mechanism. I thought it was important that we both learn non-food related ways to nurse, not only so Josh could be an equal partner, but also so F would learn how to soothe w/o food - a useful skill later in life. Now that we're no longer nursing, I continue to try and not use food as a soothing mechanism...