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Love and the Nursing Strike [Stay at Home Nerd]

Love is full of shit. That was the original title of this post. A rough draft sat on my computer while my computer waited at Melrose Mac to be brought up to date. Seems like the whole world got connected via iCloud, twitter, and Mountain Lion while I was still using Leopard, MySpace, and a home phone. The post centered on the potty training of my three year old and the endless diaper changes involved in having a newborn. There were some funny comparisons between the romantic loves that border on lust we are saturated with via advertisers (see the Carl’s Jr. Super Bowl commercial where a bikini clad young woman on a beach makes love to a fish sandwich) and the reality of having two kids shit themselves at the same time and only having one changing table.

For those of you who don’t have a changing table, a changing table is a place of calm amongst the storm. It’s where you put a kid that needs a fresh diaper or new undies. It helps contain the mess. There’s lotion, wipes, disposable bags, diapers, underpants, wash cloths, blankets, burpies, binkies, changing pads, anything and everything you need to get the job done cleanly and efficiently. It allows you to operate like a surgeon who graduated from one of those medical schools in Puerto Rico or the Caribbean, you know with the same basic training as everyone else, but an undying need to prove yourself.

When both kids poop at the same time it’s def-con five. The end of the world is imminent. At the very least something that’s not supposed to have shit on it is going to get shit on it. The carpet, the stairs (and we don’t even have stairs), other humans (watch out friends), are all potential targets. It turns out that babies and kids, at least my baby and my kid, really don’t like having a mess in their pants. If I don’t take care of it fast enough they cry. I don’t like crying. Thankfully the newborn can’t roll over so I can change her quickly and leave her on the table. This will work until she rolls off it, or better yet until I see her roll over and make a mental note to no longer leave her alone on the table.

While she’s stuck there I can literally shake the poop out of my son’s Thomas the Tank Engine underwear straight into the toilet. “Look I’m pooping,” he’ll say unaware of the lie he is telling. Doesn’t matter. I’ll give him a sticker anyway. If there were time, I’d give him a bath or hose him down, but since there’s never time I’ll carry him, my hands under his shoulders holding him and his poop as far away from me as possible, to the changing table where I’ll gypsy-switch them. After cleaning (wipes), protecting (lotion), and securing (fresh undies) the boy, I’m done. Well, almost done. There’s still a dirty pair of underwear wrapped in a mound of toilet paper sitting on the bathroom floor that needs to be disposed of.

That’s it. Love is full of shit. It’s a thankless job that you would only do for someone you love. A perfect example of what it’s like to be a parent. At least that’s what I thought until my two month old daughter went on strike. There’s a term for it. It’s called a “nursing strike” and it means the baby won’t nurse from the mother. There can be a variety of reasons and in this case it seems like the permanent congestion my daughter was born with thanks to her older brother being in preschool is the culprit. Why is this a big deal? Because nursing her baby is the one thing a mother can do that is irreplaceable. There’s substitutes, there’s formula, there’s pumping, but nursing creates and sustains a bond between mother and child that only they can experience and only they can share. It’s also, at its essence, about keeping the baby alive. So, when a baby goes on strike, when she refuses her mother’s milk, she is rejecting her mother and her mother’s love.

Now isn’t that what love is truly about? In the face of rejection saying, “I love you anyway. And I’m going to do what’s best for you.” What’s best for a baby on a nursing strike is a whole lot of holding and rocking, followed by breaking out the breast pump and making two bottles of back-up milk. It’s about handing dad the keys to the car, and in order to avoid nipple confusion, letting him feed the baby from the bottle. It’s about letting go earlier than anticipated and hoping that connection isn’t lost forever. As a witness to that kind of love last night, which is pure, and good, and right I was moved, which is different than having a movement, which my son just did and my daughter is doing now. How do I know? Because she sounds like an eighty-year-old man taking care of business in a public stall that just found out he owes back taxes. Maybe love is full of shit after all.

featured image credit: mollystevens

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