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44 weeks | Change comes in waves of wonder | no. 0038
The water is speaking to me still. Last week I wrote about “Gripping the tide,” which was my masked-metaphor attempt at talking (and not talking) about the conflation of internal and external factors that became the impetus for introducing the munchkin to his first solid foods. Weeks back I wrote an impassioned post about us not being ready for solid food until he turns one. I will actually devote a more in-depth piece to this unexpected change of events, but for now I will say, the munchkin has reluctantly swallowed mashed banana, bit into a plum with gusto, sucked disagreeably on a lemon wedge, and smacked up a flecks of mango puree on his lips. Yes, all this happened somewhat humorously, somewhat heartbreakingly, in the few days following his 10-month birthday mark. Even as I write this, I am combatting the urge to delete it all because I am quite unsure about what it means to let the world know that we are not just breastfeeding anymore.
We are still 99.99999% of the time breastfeeding, though. Baby steps.
Breastfeeding exclusively is more than a gargantuan deal for me. If you’ve read just one of these Wednesday’s Bloom adventures, then you know it’s a central part to my mothering process, and that I have held the responsibility of being my child’s sole source of nourishment as extremely sacred. The work of breastfeeding is also a healing journey for me, as a mother who experienced many challenges before having the munchkin. When I learned that nature had intelligently built in a clause for mothers like me who needed to delay solids– with breastmilk being 100% capable of meeting an infant’s needs until the first birthday– then I stopped feeling totally defenseless when bombarded with criticisms that I was somehow disrupting my child’s healthy development.
I am still wondering what changed. There was no single switch that clicked. Up until the moment I placed a little dab of banana at his lips, I was still completely prepared to abandon the whole thing and wait two more months as I had so certainly decided on long ago. I felt the bounty of our accumulated days of uninterrupted breastfeeding begin to slip through my fingers. This is it. It surprised me too that interlaced with the agony of letting go were these bright spots of humor. Because introducing solids, it turns out, can also be quite hilarious. The facial expressions from your unsuspecting baby, at once so eager and so confused. Little hands grabbing for this magical thing that is actually permitted in the mouth. The eyes searching your face for cues for assurance that this never before felt sensation is in fact supposed to be happening.
As you can imagine, I am still struggling with this change. Even though the volume of solid food that the munchkin has ingested at this point is way less than a tablespoon, it feels like we’ve left some part of the forest that we can never again return to. This makes me ask myself questions about where we were, and what made me so afraid to move on. Especially since the whole point of life is to grow. What are you resisting, really?
I think I just wanted a moment to feel all there was to feel about this very early part of a human being’s life. To caress these deeply physical memories with a vivid and profound awareness that I was here with my son at his most vulnerable stage on the planet. Each time at the breast, another strand of love woven through his entire body. One by one, hour by hour, the hard and beautiful work of breastfeeding, and literally growing his body with my own body. There was something so perfect to me about this season. And yet I always knew we were gradually evolving past the need for us to only breastfeed.
I did not have a model for any of this, though. Rather I have been discovering the map by stumbling through it. This walk is very lonely at times, and when I do write that longer piece about introducing foods sooner than planned, I will discuss this loneliness in more detail. I am letting the words that can best tell this story emerge as they see fit because they journey through some of the more uncomfortable parts of my mothering. I hope that my efforts to acknowledge my right to mother slowly inspire humanity one day soon to take better care of its mothers. To cultivate a courageous joy for the vital work we do.
The banana did not at first go down smoothly. The munchkin tried a few more times before turning his face away from the new food and suddenly loosing interest in this extraordinary, life-altering moment. He then resumed his happy task of undoing the pile of clean laundry by placing socks, and towels, and onesies on the floor piece by piece. It occurred to me, as I wiped up smeared banana off of his hands, face, and the floor, that the sky had not fallen and we would likely be nursing the majority of the time for many more months. Yaaaaaaaaay!
Yes, I know that’s what everyone told me! But even so, it’s not going to be the same. Change can be necessary. There’s no turning back to those first days– okay, months…okay, roughly 83% of the infant year– of just breastmillk. That’s what no one would acknowledge for me. And that’s why I was in no rush to find out what I already knew: Even a welcome change can leave scars if you go too fast.
Feeling a little less pressured now, I have since looked up several different recipes for mashed and pureed banana. I am contemplating pumping milk to mix in with the banana, but I’m leaning more toward hand-expressing milk instead. With the expanding insights into all the ways there are to introduce solids, I can see that I am again in the wilderness of yet another forest. The amount of work involved with acclimating the munchkin to solid foods seems both daunting and exciting. Biting, chewing, swallowing foods that grow on trees, or in the ground, or in the sea. Teaching him how to taste the world around him so that he can know for himself the many flavors of abundance. Such an essential part of being alive.
The munchkin, my first born, was born on a Wednesday. Wednesday’s Bloom: Textual Portraits of a New Mommy is an ongoing multi-media documentary project about my process as a mother. Today’s story is a part of Volume 1, 73 consecutive weeks of posts, spanning about the first year and a half of the munchkin’s life. Each episode explores my weekly discoveries, challenges, questions, and hopes as a mother. I also facilitate the New Mommy Writers’ Workshop for all mothers and women active in their mothering work who are excited about cultivating their own writing practices.