Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Three Months of Experience

Guest Blogger Alfie Toner is back!  And I'm so grateful that she is.  (Click HERE to read her first guest post)  As a seasoned mother of two, she has lots of parenting experience.  But, what about those first few weeks with her first child?  Even experienced mothers were inexperienced at one time.

Does three months of doing something equal "experienced"?  If you dig a ditch for three months, you can pretty much say you're an experienced ditch digger.  But, how about if you perform surgery or fight crime for three months - would you say you're an experienced surgeon or police officer?  If you play golf for three months are you an experienced golfer?

I recently reminisced with my sister about newborn babies.  Thirty some years ago, her daughter was born three months before my daughter.  I remember watching her with her newborn baby during the last three months of my pregnancy from the vantage point of a childless mom-to-be.  She let me try diapering my niece.  I was completely inept.  It was a disposable diaper, made to the right size and shape with sticky tab closures, but I struggled terribly.  Folding a piece of cloth and opening large safety pins near my helpless, wriggling niece would have been dangerous.  Meanwhile, my sister seemed able to change a diaper blindfolded.  I was in awe of her skill, confidence and ease as a mother.

We remembered nursing our babies together a few months later, when my daughter was a 4-week-old newborn and my niece was a fast growing 4-month-old.  My sister settled herself on a kitchen chair, lowered her top, unsnapped her nursing bra and let the baby lean in to latch.  Within a moment, mother and baby were happily bonding and nursing.  Meanwhile, I set up in a big arm chair and got pillows to prop up my elbows.  I put a cloth diaper in arms reach for clean up and burping, and made sure a clock was in clear view to track the length of time my daughter would spend on each breast.  I prepared a glass of grape juice to replenish my fluids and wondered how I would get to it without spilling if I needed to reach with my left hand.  I thought about the last feeding four hours earlier and remembered that I had started the baby on my left breast, so I should start her on my right breast this time.  I made sure my daughter was swaddled, then propped her up and fidgeted to unbutton my blouse.  A few minutes later, the actual nursing had finally begun.  I kept one eye on the baby and one eye on the clock.

My sister watched me as she sat contentedly bonding with her daughter.  Once I had officially settled, she asked what the heck I was doing?!  I explained that the baby book instructed me to sit in a comfortable place, have everything at hand and allow the baby to feed for a certain number of minutes on each side.  I was watching the clock because I didn't want to miss the moment when I had to switch my daughter to the other side.  My sister smiled and gently mentioned that strict adherence was probably unnecessary.

Laughing at this memory all these years later, I remarked at what a natural mother my sister had been as she comfortably guided me to relax and enjoy the bonding experience.  She told me that it only felt that way because she had a whole three month of nursing experience, she was three months ahead of me in knowing how to care for a baby.  Only three months or, perhaps, a whole three months.  I guess when it comes to some things, three months most definitely qualifies as "experienced".

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