Wednesday, January 30, 2008

From instincts to egg-timers... I want to give birth under a tree!

Last night I hosted the first meeting of our new breastfeeding group. It was so lovely to have a room full of mothers (mostly new ones but a couple of old hands too) and lots of tiny babies. Actually, lots of very young babies the same size as Bella. Here was I celebrating the lack of health visitors knocking on my door with scales in hand and feeling sure that Bella was huge and perfectly fine thank you, and then along come three babies half her age and exactly the same size. I think they are just big babies, but still, as I am packing to leave for the UK tomorrow, that familiar sensation of uncertainty is beginning to creep in.

What is it about the western world’s obsession with weighing babies? Last night we learnt that at least three of us had experienced being alerted about our babies’ slow weight gain, despite their physical and emotional development being right on track. I only discovered that the centile normally used for weighing and measuring babies in the UK is based on formula-fed babies, not breast-fed ones, after I had started giving Jemima solids. My request for the health visitor to use the breast-fed one from then on was greeted with much skepticism and a ‘well, I don’t know where I put it, but if you insist. It is really not that different’.

I pointed out that the discovery that breast-fed babies’ weight gain normally tails off a bit at around six months, whereas the formula-fed babies’ does not, was quite important given that it was this very fact that led my health visitor to panic me into getting Jemima onto solids “ASAP!”. The full story from my book will be up on this site soon, but last night just reminded me of what it is like to be a new and insecure mother without accurate information. After the evening ended I read
a leaflet on breastfeeding myths written by La Leche League which I have decided should be included in the bounty bag they give you at the NHS antenatal classes.

I suppose, being in Cambodia and also being a second time mother, I have just not had any of those group conversations about sleep, feeds, routine etc that I had the first time round, since Bella was born. Meeting lots of mothers again last night made me miss it a little bit and remember just how important it is. It also showed me how much more confident one can be just going it alone. Of course the first time mothers had been going for regular check ups and had lots of questions, just as I had the first time round. Many of them began with “How do you know?” How do you know when your baby is full/when your breast is empty/when they need to feed/when they need to sleep… I realised that most of my answers were: ‘your baby will show you.’

It took me right back to the days of Wednesday teas with my lovely ‘first timers group’ organised by the National Childbirth Trust. I was so new at it all, had not read any of the books the other mothers had and all my beliefs or instincts about parenting were shaken by the slightest comment or question. I even picked up a copy of Gina Ford’s ‘Contented Little Baby book’ at one point. I was exhausted by the time I got to 830, mother have toast and juice for breakfast, or whatever the advice was for that 15 minute period of my day in my new egg-timed life as a mother, so didn’t pay it any heed. This time round I feel I have a good balance of experience, support but mostly, confidence in my baby’s ability to tell me what’s up.

I really am thinking aloud here, sorry. Where is all this going? I’m just trying to sum up what it feels like to be going home I think. Maybe if I put it this way:

Yesterday I hung out with an inspirational friend and new mother who was visiting PP. Normally she lives in a tiny Cambodian village by the river, with no internet connection, and is entirely dependent on her baby’s responses and the occasional ‘help!’ text to me.

Today I received news that another friend has just given birth to her first baby under a tree in a village in Sudan where she lives with her Sudanese husband who, yes, delivered the baby girl!

Tomorrow I will fly back to Winchester, where beautiful mothers push their designer-clad babies about town in state of the art prams, top of the range buggies (are they even called buggies now?) and where the baby book shelves of Waterstones are heavily laden with Gina Ford’s series. There are lots of trendy, young, work at home, baby-wearing dads around too.

Talk about extremes! I am left feeling a bit nervous, very excited but mostly dismayed at how utterly mundane and normal my life is. I want to give birth under a tree!

If you like this post have a look at the Parenting Manual Fatigue Club on Facebook, for the revival of parental instincts .


Kat said...

Ha ha ha! Not buggies or prams but travel systems. Makes you smile. Have a good trip. Kat x

Ruth N said...

Well, if you spot me I'm the scruffy mum with the baby in a sling. I certainly feel the odd one out in winchester!

Samantha Drake said...

I love it!!!

So true and put so well. I was chatting with a friend today and we felt so sad at what our society (here in Britain) has become in terms of parenting. Could we push our children any further away? It's heart wrenching to think at times to be honest...

Of course then I read your blog and am comforted by it as usual!

You're a star. I have promptly joined the Facebook group and wish you a wonderful trip!

Samantha x

Have a great trip and wa

Fiona said...

I have totally adored reading your "blog"
It has been wonderful to read that someones life can be as fun,infuriating and really ,really exhausting as mine!!

Georgie said...

Oh thank you everyone!! Lovely comments and I shall look out for the scruffy mum in Winchester! i'll be the onoe whose baby girl is all dressed in her boy cousins' warm clothes and whose toddler's last year's winter trousers dont reach her shoes... can't bring myself to buy a while new winter wardrobe for only three weeks!!!