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Monday, May 2, 2011

Chichis: Our Medicine

During my pregnancy, I tried not to be anxious about tandem nursing my two-year old and new baby.  "It'll all fall into place", I thought when concerned women, asked "HOW are you going to do it?".   Akinyemi was two years old, and only nursed at bedtime and before naps.  I had it made: he was independent, potty trained and self-weaned!  After I gave birth, my newborn self-latched like a pro and my bosoms were explosive.  The first beautiful nights we spent together were so perfect that my husband, Sherman and I blissfully joked about all the things we would do.  "Having a newborn is easy", Dada boasted- as if he was to credit.

My breastmilk was rich and sweet.  Akinyemi loved it.  He demanded, "chi chi, chi chi!" every time I nursed his brother.  Looking forward to tandem nursing, I gave them both all of the milk they wanted.  After a few days, my back hurt, my nipples were sore, I was parched, sleep deprived, and frustrated.  Instead of my newborn's demands keeping us up, it was Akinyemi.  At one point, he nursed more often than our newborn.  "Empathy, Panquetzani, EMPATHY", I reminded myself as he shrieked, waking our newborn.  I held him and explained that I was tired, my nipples hurt, it's difficult to nurse two boys, laying down, etc.  Here we are, two and a half months later, nursing twice as much as he did during my pregnancy, his cheeks fuller and bowel movements looser.

On really tough nights, I resent that he nurses so often.  His teeth really bother me now, even though he has the same amount as before.  My difficulty with him reminds me of his newborn stage.  Reflecting on my experience as a stressed out, isolated, and confused first-time mom, I realize how my postpartum emotions has affected our current breastfeeding relationship.  It brings back memories of being raised by my teenage mother in Echo Park.  
Mom, 17 and me. Riley High School, Lincoln Heights.

She hated giving me rides, money for school, complained when friends stood over, and a couple of times, plainly called me a burden.  She was 16 when she dropped out of High School, and began    She never had a personal sex talk with her mother, a traditional Catholic who was busy with her job, community work and seven other kids.  She was ashamed to have me in her womb, dreamt of being a 10th grader in High School again and longed to be with my father (he was banned by my grandparents after impregnating my mom).

Raising a child is difficult, and my awesome mother did the best she could.  Nevertheless, her method of raising me always tries to bite me in the ass.   Although it's inconvenient nursing a two and a half year old (who could drink or eat anything else), I know I have made him feel like he's an inconvenience.  It's a horrible feeling knowing your primary caregiver is angry at you for existing and having human needs.  I've had to realize that my anger has more to do with my experiences in utero, as a newborn, and the way I was raised - not my breastfeeding situation.

Now that I am aware of my feelings while nursing Akinyemi, I do my best to hold him when he cries, without judgment or resentment.  I ended this morning's nursing session when it became painful.  He cried and screamed.  I held him, he tried to fight me off, but I continued to hold him, explain my reasoning, and speak to him with empathy.  My husband woke up, asked me to nurse him and end the torture! After a couple of minutes, I let go.  He stopped pushing me away and laid on me with his arms and legs wrapped around me, cheek to cheek like a little monkey.  After a minute of silence, he jumped up and ran around the house, then raided the kitchen for fruit.   I never imagined myself weaning my son, and even though we are just shortening the amount of time during each session, I would still like to try child-led weaning once this newborn stage passes.

Reminding myself to stop, breathe, and deal with the situation appropriately is an every day struggle well worth staying attuned to my sons' needs. If nipples can heal overnight, then given time and the appropriate medicine, so can any other wound.

Two month old and two year old nursing.


  1. So sweet and so wise, smiling as we nurture :)

  2. It's interesting how any of our senses can trigger a memory. It's a unique way that helps us to tap into spirit a little closer, and heal. Thank you for your post, and sharing the duality of life.

  3. Yes! It's amazing how we posses all the tools within us to heal ourselves.