Betty Duffy

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"Engorgement is GORGE-y-ous!"

--The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding

Every now and then, my husband and I call live radio talkshows. He dialed in Carol the Coach to talk about the portrayal of adolescent attitudes in the movie, Juno. The topic was essentially a ruse in order to hear his voice on the air. Carol affirmed his concerns, however, and said “Thanks for calling in ‘Bob,’” with all the requisite smarminess. I, on the other hand, called Dr. Laura for affirmation concerning a marital squabble and was promptly chewed out, and disconnected.

The marital sqabble in question: My husband had a business trip in San Francisco and he wanted me to fly out with him. At the time I was breastfeeding our eight month old and was three months pregnant with baby number 2. The events of 9-11 had just transpired, and hyped up on anxiety and hormones, I did not want to fly.

I expected Dr. Laura to agree that my place was at home with my babies, but instead she said, “Give that baby a bottle, drop him off at your mother’s, then get on that plane with your husband where you belong… What are you going to do when that baby of yours is too scared to give a speech in school? You’re going to tell him to face his fears, just like you do. Click.”

My husband chuckled in victory. I professed my belief that Dr. Laura would disagree with any caller, regardless of how justified their concerns are, and stubbornly remained at home while my husband went on his trip without me.

Nearly ten years later, my husband and I are on our way to Colonial Williamsburg for our anniversary. We have left all five children with my parents in spite of my anxiety about leaving our one year old for the first time. He’s not weaned, but he might be by the time we return and that makes me sad.

My husband is going to participate in a Colonial furniture making workshop with Roy Underhill, of the PBS series, “The Woodwright Shop.” And I’m going to attend lectures on Colonial Art, cookery and fashion, and otherwise luxuriate in our hotel-room, if I can allow myself to be wholy present to my out-of-state condition while the lives of my children tick on without me this week, a day’s drive away.

We passed a car on the interstate full of retirees, two men in the front seat, talking, and two women in the back seat with loosely permed helmet hairdos and pinched expressions. “Look at those grumpy people,” I said, “They’re probably on the way to Williamsburg, too, for an elder retreat. I bet they’re regretting their dried up wombs and wishing they had enjoyed their children more while they were young.”

“Don’t worry,” my husband said, “We can make another baby AND a Thomas Jefferson Table while we’re here.”

I admit, I secretly enjoy letting my husband play the badguy about leaving the baby behind. After five kids and ten years, I really do feel ok about taking this trip, but I want to be persuaded, and go through that lengthy process of submission and acceptance. And my husband does his part in this game with a good nature and appropriate persistence.

I am keenly aware that this opportunity is a gift. My grandma likes to tell me that when she was rearing her children, it would have been unheard of for a mother of five children to go on a vacation from her kids. And I feel blessed that my own parents have not treated their retirement as “their time” but have welcomed the grandkids with unconditional abandon. So many grandparents prefer to say, “Been there, done that, find your own babysitter.”

Another quotable misperception on marriage from the Elizabeth Gilbert interview was that “People will always want intimacy with one chosen person and you cannot have intimacy without privacy, which is why couples draw circles of privacy around themselves. They demand that family, neighbors and the law respect their union, and that is why we have marriage.”

Au contraire, marriage is a public declaration, not an inward turning, but an outward turning of the couple towards the bringing up of children and involvement in community life. Which is not to say that couples should not invest the necessary time in maintaining spousal intimacy. I was probably mistaken all those years ago when I refused to go with my husand to California. But I do not believe that I’m entitled to this vacation. It’s a gift, and a benefit of the outward turning marriage that my parents have practiced for forty years, and continue to exercise in their involvement with their grandchildren.

My kids love it at their house, and maybe, since I’m pumping breastmilk while I’m here to keep supply up, the little one will have me back when we return. Until then, my breast is full, very full indeed.

Similar post on The Public Life of the Family


Rebekka said...

Have a great time!

Steven Riddle said...

Dear Betty,

Wonderful! Wonderful!

And Williamsburg is the place in the world I feel most at home. I hope your time there is indeed marvelous and blessed--what a tremendous opportunity to enrich yourself and thus your entire family! Recharge, learn, and grow.



Jordana said...

Have a wonderful time.

I don't necessarily think you were wrong all those years ago though. Babies are babies for a short time. In the grand scheme of things, they nurse for a short amount of time. A bottle isn't the same. As married people, we have to protect and nurture our marriages and intimate relationships, but I think one must also take the long view on such things. A husband should be around for a long time (given general circumstances and life expectancy) but as I said at the beginning, babyhood doesn't last.

You missed out on the flight years ago, but you are still able, now, to leave home without kids. A season for everything.

Young Mom said...

Enjoy your time together! I expect my husband to be the bad guy too when it comes to leaving the kids, I'm not sure if it could happen with out his encouragment.

Karyn said...

The California trip and the Williamsburg trip were two different scenarios and I agree with you - for as much as that's worth! Enjoy your time - I'm jealous because I would love if a grandparent would watch the kids for even an hour!

Anne said...

I'm jealous! My husband and I have been married for 17 years and have never been away from the kids. It's my husband who doesn't want to leave the kids! He thinks they can't survive without him-he makes a good mother! My parents are long gone and my in-laws were the "been there, done that sort" unless it was an emergency (and honestly, I think I'm going to be like that too!).

I imagine our season will come when the last one leaves home. I can be patient about this, but not about many other things.

Enjoy your trip, the kids will survive and I bet your milk supply will too! You're blessed to have a husband who wants to be alone with you from time to time.

Marie said...

You talked to Classic Dr. Laura?! (New Dr. Laura leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but I loved Classic). Wow, you are the big time. . . .

We hardly ever leave our kids, and we say it's because we're helicopter parents. But, in reality, it's because we haven't felt confidence in anyone we could have left them with. Other moms in places we've lived have been busy. We had one good babysitting that had great instincts, but was young -- when girls hit 15, it's takes a bit of a search to find one who can look out of her own world enough to watch a kid these days. Family was far and when there are serious issues it's easier to say "we're just not the type to go out without the kids" than it is to say, "thanks for watching them, but only if I can clear the house of all bottles first. . ." or "Thanks for watching the kids, Aunt Suzy, but while we're gone please don't let your fire-starting son near them" (I joke, but not much).
So, totally great with whatever reasons you have for this not being a common thing, vacations.
And totally hope you have a wonderful time on this one.

Peter and Nancy said...

Have a wonderful time! The best gift you can give your kids (aside from teaching them to love Christ) is a solid marriage . . . and I let my husband be the bad guy too. :o)

Owen said...


confused homemaker said...

Have fun! It's nice to get that time together & important to carve it out (even if it's not easy sometimes to do so. But as for Dr. Laura her touting being a Ph.D. would work if it had anything to do with what she talks about or she had some real gems of wisdom from a healthy marital relationship.

Katie Alender said...

Oh, dear! That Elizabeth Gilbert quote--I don't even know where to start (so I won't)!

jen said...

It is so complicated - to go, to stay. I hate Dr. Laura's advice, just so you know. I have a really hard time leaving my kids. I'm planning my first overnight trip away from my kids in more than 5 years. I'm OK with it, as I'll be gone less than 36 hours. I don't think I could relax being away from them. I do hope you have a good time, and how impressive of your husband to get to attend that workshop. Will he be on TV!?

berenike said...

Is that a Belted Galloway at the top of your blog, and if so, ... why?


Dawn Farias said...

Hope you're having a nice time. There is a bit of Dr. Laura advice that rattles in my brain and regularly convicts me of my worthlessness. Maybe your comment and the others in your combox have given me some permission to mentally tell her to zip it.

BettyDuffy said...

Had a wonderful time! Writing up notes right now. I think Dr. Laura was wrong back when I talked to her. But it was good to go now, and the baby did fine. Started nursing again right when I got home, though my mom says he didn't complain about not being able to nurse while I was gone, and even slept through the night. I do welcome that.

Berenike, Belted Galloway is my dad's cow. I think I just identified with her in those weeks after Christmas. Also, could you give me a pronunciation of your handle? Is it bear-a-NIKE-ee? bur-IN-i-KEE?

berenike said...

I'm such a knower of cow breeds :) (not really. We used to get the Scottish Farmer, and the B.G. is easily recognised :-)

Er, no idea, really. You're asking someone who thinks The Plague was written by Al-Bert Kaymuss. BereNEEkay?