It Takes a Village

Always I hear this, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Well, I didn’t have a village. My family immigrated to this country when I was almost 5 and it was me, my pregnant mom and dad (later my brother, 5 1/2 years my junior, came on the scene). My dad’s brother also moved here with his wife and daughter. But we didn’t really hang out with them too often because they ended up moving to the valley and we moved to Santa Monica. So, really, it was just the four of us in this really big land called America.

But on Mother’s Day 2008 – my first official, just had a baby Mother’s Day – we had a village at attendance around our dinner table. The boys, with Auntie Mara and Cousin Melinda, made us lunch. The Moms sat around and ate and laughed and admired the newest member of the Nehdar clan. The Moms included three generations of family. Kaleb has a great-grandmother. I didn’t even have a grandmother (in this country). Or a grandfather (ever – long story). Kaleb has a whole family tree that more resembles a forest.

He is a lucky guy.

I always envisioned myself marrying a man with many roots sprouting from his lineage. I married a man who is related to half of Los Angeles. And they hang close together.

And now that I’ve had Kaleb, I’m part of that history.

I have been admitted to the sacred mom’s club. This is a little like when you’re traveling in a foreign country and you see someone that you recognize originates from yours – suddenly you are bonded and feel like you’ve been reunited with someone that gets “it”. This is the mom’s club that I know belong to and this is how I felt that day sitting around the table sharing a meal and a world with these women for whom I had suddenly found a whole new dimension to appreciate.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! (click on the slideshow pictures to see an enlarged view of our day)

Binky and Bottles.

Kaleb still lives in the Valley of Firsts.

Everyday (almost) it seems he is experiencing something within his world for the first time. I doubt he’s as aware of the implications of this as much as we are. I doubt he cares – when he bobs his head up and smiles at us – but we are overjoyed, ecstatic with glee. “Did you see that?” We point at his toothless grin, “He loves me!” Further proof of his genius.

Everyday it seems he is becoming more cognizant of his surroundings. He makes eye contact and holds his gaze evenly until his attention becomes focused elsewhere.

He is three weeks and five days old now. Oh, they grow up so fast!

I had certain plans for how I was going to raise our son – at least in the beginning: Breastfeeding, cloth diapers, no pacifiers, lots of hugs and kisses.

Even though I had planned on breasfeeding, I bought a pump so I could express milk and have other people join in the feeding fun. Well, when the recommended three week milestone to start to introduce the bottle came, I discovered, to my dismay, he didn’t like the bottle.

He cried and threw distress at me with his blotchy, red, contorted face, that, really, he wasn’t very interested in this plastic nipple thing and would much rather prefer the real thing. OK. No problem. I am patient and I could work on it with time.

So, he fed on my tit. Relentlessly.

I complained to Kaleb’s doctor about my sore (and now damaged) nipples and he told me to give him a pacifier in between what should have been the time between feedings. He should have been eating every two hours but at times, he would give me a bathroom break (maybe) and ask for more. Sometimes for hours at at time. In the middle of the night. I was hallucinating patterns on my baby’s face. That didn’t seem good.

At this point, I felt I had no choice. The doctor said he wasn’t really eating for all those hours and my boobs really needed the break.

So, with a cocktail of feelings mixed with guilt, shame and hope, I gave him a pacifier. And he hated it. Secretly, I felt a little relief. My boy was above that. He didn’t need any false stimulation to address a burgeoning oral fixation. I didn’t need to hang that on him.

But the bottle, I was determined to work on. I had a plan. Maybe if I started with the boob and then switched over to the bottle, he might not notice.

It worked.

Yay! My boy would eat with other people. Yay! I could go and do things for more than 1/2 an hour outside the home and know my son would not starve or be uncomfortable!

Then he started to cry. And I thought to myself: maybe now that he took the rubber nipple, he might be coaxed to take the pacifier too. I tried. And again, it worked.

I put him in his stroller and we walked into the park where I treaded on a path of guilt. How could I encourage such false dependence, based solely on my comfort? How could I sell out my own son, so quickly, because I needed a break?

This was the day that he first ate from the bottle and he first took a pacifier.

I wasn’t so sure I was happy with either.