My son, Izzy, was not quite ready to succumb to the nap sandman this morning, so I did what any intelligent breastfeeding mom would do: I shoved a boob in his mouth. Grabbing the nearest magazine soaked with baby drool, I found an article I’d meant to finish two months ago. We had 20 minutes before I had to leave the house. If Izzy fell asleep, I could tuck him into the car seat and avoid a wrestling match.
No such luck. You know that bridge between sleeping and waking, when babies seem totally peaceful and relaxed-until it’s time to do something? Try to pull them off then, and it’s like trying to take a slippery mango pit from a golden retriever. All hell breaks loose.
I had to get to the post office. But there was Izzy, eyes closed, lips moving two suckles every minute-not quite what we call “serious milking.” He wouldn’t budge. Every time it seemed as if he’d conked out, I’d shift, and he’d suddenly fish his little head around, searching madly for the wait-where-did-it-go nipple. Finally, as they say, I gave in to the Tao. Instead of struggling to carry out the day’s plans, I let go of my mental “to do” list. I looked down at his small face, his lips like a tiny manatee’s, and began to chuckle at this infant/tentacle.
And that’s when it happened. Izzy’s eyes remained closed, but something changed. His body tensed; his skin was listening. All of a sudden, I heard a noise. His mouth was still clamped down on the nipple, so at first it sounded like a grunt, possibly of acknowledgment: “Is that you, Mom? Forgot you were there.”
I giggled. Izzy’s lips pursed on the boob, waiting. The folds of my leftover postpartum belly jiggled beneath his torso, and he paused another moment. Then he chuckled to himself, still half asleep. One little eye slit open very slowly and looked up at me.
It was a chain reaction: I couldn’t stop giggling, and Izzy couldn’t contain himself anymore. His mouth loosened into a wide grin. I cackled. He chortled and flapped his hand against my chest.
This was my last chance. Still laughing, I made my escape. Quickly slipping the nipple out of his mouth, I whipped him over my shoulder and raced down the steps and out of the house, dripping little white blots on the carpet. Into the car seat we shimmied, leaving a trail of giggles and milk.
So add this to your 26 reasons to breastfeed. Stop the presses before another edition of The Nursing Mother’s Companion comes out. Call your La Leche Leader immediately and tell the world: You can actually transmit a sense of humor through your milk ducts.
The previous piece was the start of my "real" writing career, and I figured it would be fun, just after my son's 16th birthday earlier this week, to remember those early days when nursing was such a huge part of our world, and the foundation of our relationship.
When Izzy was born, I had been teaching high school English full-time, loved my job, and assumed I would give birth, get a nanny, and jump right back. That should have taught me the absurdity of planning for the future. Instead, I fell in love with stay-at-home motherhood, and ended up completely changing careers, which started with setting the goal of getting my writing published.
The thing with most of us who call ourselves “writers” is that there is a huge leap between writing a piece for oneself, and actually putting it out there for an audience. I had been a fellow in the Connecticut Writing Project the summer I was married (nearly 20 years ago), and had written loads since I was a kid, including keeping journals since the age of thirteen, but had never had the courage to submit anything besides a few poems to rinky dink literary magazines in college. My writing group spent four years sharing our pieces over dinners in restaurants, but none of us ever did anything with the finished works.
"Laughter Travels" was my first submission, and it immediately won first place in a contest on a breastfeeding website, and was later picked up in Mothering magazine, an international, renowned publication. Such an honor gave me the assurance not only was my work readable, but that it could actually make money!
The more I put ideas out there to various magazines, the luckier I got, and by pitching ideas on spec, there wasn’t much to lose. A number of parenting articles got published in magazines like Writer's Digest and Westchester Parent. When Izzy did a stint at baby modeling (completely serendipitous, I assure you), I did a piece on that topic for trade magazine called Tear Sheet. Once, I even wrote some erotica for a contest, which got picked up by Playgirl (and that piece probably won’t appear on this site) J I think I knew I was ready for something bigger after Fit Pregnancy paid me $1500 for a three page article on how to have a natural childbirth.
And so three years after Izzy’s birth, then pregnant with my daughter, Thea, I decided to go back to my journals from one of the best times of my life, just after college when I backpacked through Europe without a plan in the world. Life at the time was quite the opposite, having zero freedom. Using two hour stints at the YMCA babysitting while sitting on a couch in the lobby with a very old Brother word processor, I eked out what became the manuscript to my first book, Rite of Passage: Tales of Backpacking 'Round Europe. I couldn’t get an agent, and decided to go directly to the publishers, which resulted in a nice advance by Lonely Planet, and the book selling out its first printing of 10,000 copies within two weeks!
One never knows where one will end up. With everything that has happened in the past three years, I’m pretty sure the next book is in the works….so stay tuned!
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