The nursing strike continues…it seems the pumping and bottle-feeding will be our new MO. Everyone says “that’s fine,” but what they mean is “that’s second-best,” so it’s hard not to feel like a failure, and it’s hard not to take Jonathan’s rejection personally. My latest lactation consultant, I’ve now seen three, says that the strike is either preferential or emotional. Preferential refusal stems from the fact that a bottle is just easier for babies – they don’t have to work as hard and the milk comes right away – and emotional refusal is the result of some kind of “trauma,” like a loud noise during feeding or pain/discomfort just afterwards. Obviously I don’t know which avenue Jonathan took on his strike, but in either case, I know I’ve compounded the problem by solely bottle-feeding for a solid week.
We were Tucson for Thanksgiving, but more so, we were there to spread my mom’s ashes over her parents’ plots at Binghamton Cemetery. Naturally, my emotions swung between the utter joy of seeing my family meet and swoon over Jonathan and my consuming sadness and stale anger over losing my mother. I was not fit to battle at the breast, too, so I gave myself the week to just give into Jonathan’s new proclivity. Meanwhile, he was also going through a growth spurt, thus ravenous, so when I wasn’t leaking through my shirt while trying to catch up with cousins who had not seen me since I was prepubescent, I was hunched, pumping over the toilet in my uncle’s house/the rental car/the air bnb/the airport terminal. That last one was particularly joyous as I had to do it at one of those charging stations – I think it was a first for many of us at the airport that day.
Of course, on top of everything, we got sick. First Ben, then me, and baby made three. We are all still coughing snot buckets, but while in Tucson, I attributed Jonathan’s fussiness to everything else – change in routine, gas, silent reflux, early teething – not only did I become even more of a nocturnal hyper-googler, but I was around several moms who’d seen it all and had their own theories. In the end, it’s possible it was a combination of many things, as it so often is, or possibly a dark horse symptom of which we’ll never know, but in any case we are now home and he is getting back to his merry old self…just with a snot surplus.
And that’s the holidays with a kid I guess. Travel is harder, health more precarious, family even more involved. For the most part the latter has been lovely. I genuinely appreciate the input as I am new at this and there is just a lot I don’t know. Of course, especially this time of year, the swarm of mothers around me forces me to confront my feelings about the one that is missing from the lot. I’m generally not an uber-emotional person (publicly at least – I’ve done a fair amount of crying in my car). But my own maternal hormones are churning and I guess I wasn’t (am still not) prepared to navigate this chapter without my mom. I desperately want to call her with questions and updates or to compare notes: was I this smiley? did William and Travis have this much ear wax? did you also forgo showering? And because I can’t do these things, I’ve been crying at the drop of a hat (or ornament).
While trimming the Christmas tree, I endured blow after blow of memories manifested. It was tradition that she gave everyone an annual ornament and each one adorned her handwriting – those festive dots at every corner of our initials. I, of course, will continue this tradition, down to the dots, with Ben and Jonathan, and that very notion made me weep and choke on my fifth candy cane. And Christmas was practically mom’s Super Bowl. She was an interior designer with an undeniable eye and so decking the halls was second nature. Aside from a tree heavy with ornaments, every window had a candle and a hanging star. Every surface had one if not three nativity scenes. Poinsettias flanked the fireplace and her piece de resistance was a wooden tree on the mantel, made by my grandfather, which mom decorated with the tiniest of Christmas trinkets known to man.
I had dad send me the mantel tree this year. It’s taken me three-days-worth of naps to unwrap, consult the reference photo, and place countless bottle brush trees, clay Peruvian nativity scenes, German candle carousels, wooden Santas, vintage toy trains, and, naturally, tiny pigs and apples – and I’m still not done. I’ll have to post a photo upon completion because this thing is no joke. Mom was, if anything, a world-class collector and curator, and I can’t think of a better way to honor her. Of course, there is a very real possibility that my cat will jump up and destroy the whole display, but in that case, I trust that my mom will wield her ghostly wrath and haunt Lu ’til the end of her Christmas-ruining days.
So that’s where I stand. Jonathan is waking up from his nap now so I have to wrap this thing up without any kind of bow or ba-dum-bum (pa rum pum pum pum?) Christmas puns FTW.