We’ve reached that point. The baby is on strike! Before motherhood, I couldn’t have imagined what that would have possibly meant. Maybe the baby decided to stop crying? Or he figured out that clothes were the enemy and he decided to stop allowing his parents to dress him? Possibly even the baby just stopped growing since, after all, life only goes down-hill once you allow the aging process to continue…
No. It’s not anything as simple as those options. Painfully, having a baby go on strike means he is railing against one thing alone: breast milk. And if you are the cow-udder mama who is the one to suffer the brunt of his angst, you will know of the suffering that is to follow.
Basically, it goes down like this: You will be doing your whole motherly routine. Eating burritos. Scarfing down chocolate chip cookies. Taking antihistamines for ragweed. Training for a 5K. Whatever. The main thing is that you are trying to live your life. Doing the best a mother can do. Trying to quench your needs as well as your children’s. Then, as with all things which try patience and will, you get a curveball thrown your direction from nowhere. Your big baby, who loves boobies more than even the best Hustler subscriber, suddenly and without warning wants nothing to do with it. And you think, “Maybe he’s just not that into me.”
But, like any good woman, that won’t stop you. You give him a “break” and try again later. This time, getting out your special comfy breastfeeding pillow that you haven’t used since his arrival from the hospital, you think maybe you just need to spice up his surroundings. Treat him to something special. After all, maybe he’s uncomfortable in the position most natural to the mammalian world. So, you try the pillow only to have him pull away from you screaming and screeching. Clearly not the response you expected!
Your next line of thought directs you to question the position that he has been using. You pull out the trusty breastfeeding manual that a lactation consultant once gave you. A variety of baby holds are shown on a chart that resembles the Kama Sutra. You are mildly disgusted, reflecting on Shanna Moakler’s words regarding breast-feeding as a mildly incestuous practice. Though you once scoffed at her ignorance, with this chart in hand you now feel that the listed moves would curdle the stomachs of even the most adherent mothers in the La Leche League. But you hold your nose and try some of the less-traveled roads anyway. The football hold. (Go Bears!) The cross-cradle. (Awkward.) The over- the-shoulder. (Double awkward!) And don’t even ask about the “all fours.” (Can I get a Moooooo?!)
Despite being creative and persistent, nothing works. Now he is really building up some pent-up frustration and alerts you to this fact by the ever-increasing volume of his yelling. The decibels build and, if you are lucky enough to force your breast into his mouth for a nanosecond, the only thing that happens is the despised clamping motion of his jaw followed by a high pitch shrieking that continues ad infinitum. All the while, hours have gone by without either sucking or eating. The merry-go-round of crying, pinched nipples and frustration meets an apex. His union is definitely not caving in until you meet his demands – whatever they are. Needless to say, you are spent. And your boobs hurt.
There will come a time when even the most patient mother will envision selling her child to the Gypsies or letting him spend a night in the forest with a pack of wolves. But, knowing that even the most formidable beast won’t have him, and that the law is not on your side, you can only repeat a serenity mantra to yourself during this madness. “This, too, shall pass” is what kindly old grandmothers will tell you. Sympathetic friends will offer sage advice with the notion that in a year from now this will all be forgotten. Retro kittens, even, will tell you to “hang in there, baby.” But in your mind, the best words of all are simply “Just you wait, baby. Just you wait!” It’s not a threat. Not even a thinly veiled wish. Just an inalienable truth.
Yes, one day this shall pass, and you will forget, and you must hang in there; but, the best thing to remember is that one day, in some form or fashion, someone will go on strike against them. And if they think whatever they are crying about is so terrible, just wait! Life will get worse. It always does.
In the meantime, Mama, these strikes are about as consistent as the ones in France. They come. They go. Not always in that order and not by any sort of rhyme or reason. But, eventually, things do return to business as usual. You will once again be a milking cow whose udders hurt from the tugging and suckling associated with the world’s most natural act. You will nourish that hard to please individual they call a baby. And you will do so knowing that you stuck it out, hung in there, survived in the trenches when no one else thought you would – not even your baby. And, if you make it out alive, swelled with the pride of such a tremendous act (not to mention the engorgement that will surely follow), then my only word of advice is to never look down again. Because those knockers, honey, well they may not be quite as resilient as your will…