As adults, it seems like we really don’t take a lot of time and effort to learn a new skill. Overall, we are busy perfecting the skills we already have, or expanding them. Several years ago, I actually took the time and effort to learn how to water ski.
I was in my first relationship with a man since my divorce. He had never been married and didn’t have kids, so he spent his downtime snow and water skiing, boating, and snowmobiling. I snow skied once in my life when I was in 8th grade, and I had been on small little fishing boats here and there but nothing fancy. Basically, I was completely new to all of this. I thought it would be very open-minded of me to try water skiing with my boyfriend and his family. So off we went, spending a beautiful summer day on a boat at Honeoye Lake outside of Rochester, New York.
Also, did I mention that I am NOT a water person? Quite honestly, bodies of water freak me out. If I can’t see the bottom, I want nothing to do with it.
My boyfriend went first, hopping up on the skis and gliding across the water. He made it look easy, effortless even. How hard can this really be?
Then it was my turn. They connected me to everything I needed to be connected to, slapped a lifejacket on me, and wished me luck. A few directives to keep in mind such as:
“Remember to bend your knees”
“Relax your arms”
“Let the boat do the work”
“Once you’re up, straighten your legs”
Ok, so here we go. I was up for about 15 seconds before I hit the water. They circled back to pick me up and try again.
“Remember, crouch down till you’re up,” his cousin yelled.
Round 2. I don’t even know if I got up into a standing position at that time before I hit the water.
Round 3. I was up for maybe 30 seconds this time before I face planted into the lake. And again, they circled around to collect me. I was bobbing up and down, trying to clear the water out of my nose and they were yelling instructions to me from the boat.
“That time was better, but you forgot to straighten your legs”
“I think you got excited you were up on the water and you forgot what to do”
“Next time, don’t try so hard. Let the boat pull you”
As I floated in the water listening to them, a thought came to me. “This is how my new mothers must feel. They are floating in the water while we shout instructions at them from the safety of our boat.”
Breastfeeding is one of the only instinctive things that has to be learned. It’s deceiving. We talk about how breastfeeding is so natural and intuitive, yet we need to learn how to do it. It’s hard for new families to learn the art of breastfeeding. In another time, another era, we would learn from communities of people living nearby, or sisters and aunts and mothers. We have lost that over the last few generations. Families are no longer there to support one another after a baby is born. Often not by choice, but circumstance. College, jobs and marriage can transplant new families hundreds or thousands of miles away. Things are just different. As a mother, breastfeeding advocate, lactation consultant, maternal child health specialist, I was in that proverbial boat yelling instructions to the mama in the water and I was also the mama in the water floating aimlessly hoping for that boat to come and save me.
A mother is born at the same time the baby is born, and they need just as much support as the baby does. This transition is scary and new, and families wander through the first weeks of parenting in a fog, trying to figure out feeding and sleeping. In addition, they are worried about returning to work, healing from childbirth, and being the perfect parent. Talking more about this transition during pregnancy may impact families in a positive way. Many expecting families take the time to go to birthing or breastfeeding classes, watch videos and read books. They are at doctor appointments regularly. This is the ideal time to educate new families about the realities of transitioning to parenting. Sometimes I think we are resistant to vocalizing the more challenging perspective to having a baby. Breastfeeding is a difficult journey, to say the least, and families should know who their support system is before they get on the boat.