Integrated Mama

Alaina turned nine months old this week and I again found myself wishing to make a new polymer clay goddess sculpture to capture this new phase in our life cycle. I’m interested by how I began this series during my pregnancy with her and how I continue to feel “moved” to add to it as she grows and changes. While she is on the move a lot, she also spends a great deal of time riding on my hip in a pouch carrier. So, it felt àpropos to make another slingin’ mama figure, this time with the baby on her hip. While, as always, it isn’t perfect, I do like how my new sculpture turned out:

Slingin' mama goddess!

Healthy Baby Fair Booth--just popped out of baby carrier for photo op

I’ve written several times before about my desire to live an integrated life and I honestly think that babywearing makes it (semi) possible. She most wants to be with me, but often she doesn’t want direct play, she wants to ride along and see what interesting things I’m going to do. I think this is part of baby’s biology and part of how the motherbaby relationship is socially and biologically meant to be at this point—mother goes about her business (grinding corn, perhaps), with baby very close and watching. Unfortunately, this doesn’t include typing things on the computer, which is what much of my work actually entails. So, I save household work to do while she’s awake and riding along and I do computer-based work while she sleeps. That way, we (usually) both get our biologically appropriate needs met within our cultural context. Recently, I had a LLL table at the local Healthy Baby fair and several people came up to my friend and me to comment on how we were wearing our babies and how they were just riding along so content to look at what was going on. I tried to explain to one booth visitor who was expressing concern about the changes babies bring to life how I believe that babies can go along with mothers as they go about their tasks/days—it is possible to integrate the baby into the rest of your responsibilities.

Looking at the wavy lake from safe harbor of mama's body (in Ergo)

I was thinking about this again over the last couple of days that I spent with my family on a mini-vacation to Silver Dollar City (theme park in Branson, Missouri). As long as Alaina was riding with me in the pouch or Ergo she was totally happy. We spent hours outside on Wednesday in pretty bitter cold and she rode and looked and nursed and snoozed. On Thursday we took a lunch “cruise” on a Showboat (didn’t actually cruise due to wind) and again, she rode and checked out the world. Then, on Friday, we were back in the park where she got to go on her first rides ever like a big girl—the carousel (out of pouch) and on the Flooded Mine ride (where the whole family rode in a boat—she rode in the Ergo in the boat with me).

Big girl going for a ride!

Several years ago at an LLL conference, a sleep “expert” spoke during the lunch session. She was of the opinion (which is not shared by LLL as a whole), that nursing a baby to sleep is a “habit” that you don’t want to get into and advocates detaching them when they get sleepy so that they learn how to fall asleep without relying on nursing to get them there. She gave examples of babies and sleep associations and then said, “but if a baby is used to being nursed to sleep, they could fall asleep in the middle of Times Square while the ball was dropping on New Year’s Eve as long as mama was there too and nursing them.” And, I thought, EXACTLY! The problem with that is….?! That is one of the very best things about breastfeeding to me—home is where the mama is. So, this week as Alaina snoozed peacefully when she was sleepy while roller coasters sped around and bluegrass played and fiddlers fiddled and cold winds blew and people swarmed all over, I was thankful that I’ve never tried to get my baby to develop a different sleep association! Breastfeeding is magic like this to me, not an inconvenience or a habit to be restructured.

She is nursing in this picture

Of course, integration of parenting with work can also be a pretty significant challenge, as I touch on in my recent interview in the working/parenting series at Molly Westerman’s blog First the Egg. (I typed my responses to her interview questions on my phone while lying on my side in bed nursing Alaina to sleep.)

My whole series of sculptures

4 thoughts on “Integrated Mama

  1. Your work with polymer fascinates me with its subtlety and indigenous look. I support and encourage baby-wearing and breastfeeding to all the women with whom I come in contact as I go thru my days taking care of little ones. I enjoy your blog for its honesty and forthrightness. Thanks for sharing your life.

  2. Pingback: 2011 Blog Year in Review « Talk Birth

  3. Pingback: International Babywearing Week! | Talk Birth

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