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Posts Tagged ‘childrearing’

Blank Verse

October 2, 2014 | by

ErskineNicol_Kept_In

Erskine Nicol, Kept In.

It is not often in this day and age that something falls through the Web. And yet, today, National Poetry Day, I wanted to share with you the text of my favorite childhood poem and found myself completely stymied. Not a trace of it exists.

I even know the name of the poem—“The Call of the Child”—though I don’t recall the author. What I know for certain is that it was a little red-bound, tasseled pamphlet, probably dating from the first two decades of the twentieth century, keeping in mind that Jack London’s Call of the Wild was published in 1903. Okay, maybe calling it a “poem” is misleading—it was more a long piece of doggerel*.

“The Call of the Child” is the first-person lament of a baby who really, really has to pee. He complains about the urgency of his need, the pressure on his bladder, the indignity of wetting his pants and bed. He fantasizes about peeing with abandon, spraying fountains of urine wherever he wishes. At one point, he goes into a reverie, imagining a fantastic bed rigged up with a series of rubber hoses that lead directly from his penis down to some kind of basin, allowing him to joyfully wet the bed whenever he likes without discomfort or censure. Oh, and it’s all in rhyme. Read More »

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Notes from the Milk Cave

July 17, 2014 | by

Breastfeeding and boredom.

Wyspianski_Motherhood

Detail from Stanisław Wyspiański’s Motherhood, 1902.

“You are an animal,” my husband told me. We were in bed. The context was not what you’d expect. A baby was latched onto my right breast while the left leaked an opalescent waterfall of milk.

“I’m a mammal,” I said. This is about as deep as our conversations got in the first month of parenthood. We were upstairs in what we have dubbed the milk cave—the dim bedroom of the nineteenth-century log cabin in southeastern Ohio, where we are currently living. I spend the better part of my days here, watching as my baby’s eager, sucking mouth goes rooting, and then latches on with the force of a heavy lid sealed shut on an overflowing container. There is nothing soft or gentle about my baby’s latch. It is the precise enactment of its definition: a clamping on, a fastening of two bodies. I feel a sudden tug of suction, a rasp of thirst, then sleepiness. I listen for the ker, ker, ker of her swallowing.

Before I gave birth, I knew breastfed babies needed to eat every two hours. But knowing this did not prepare me for the sheer amount of time breastfeeding would demand. Even if someone had told me “twenty minutes per breast per feeding,” it would still have taken sitting down every two hours for forty minutes for me to understand, because just like every other aspect of pregnancy and motherhood—morning sickness, contractions—the imagined experience turned out to be laughably unlike the experience itself.

I was hunkered down in the milk cave in a mess of sheets, sticky with an overabundance of milk, balancing the baby in the football hold and watching her eyes blink slowly open and closed with the rhythm of sucking. I’d finally finish, set her in her Baby Björn, and start digging into e-mails and then, again, she’d shove her fist in her mouth and start smacking her gums with comic franticness. Whole yellow and green summer days slipped by between the milk cave and the breezy porch, gazing at baby on the breast, at the whirring fan and the sheets with their pattern of roses, at the pastures of wavering grasses incandescent in afternoon light. Nights I awoke at two, at four, at six, and in the grainy coffee black, I’d hold the warm parcel of her, feel the eager pressure of those small gums, our animal bodies pressed together, the trickle of milk, the darkness undulating a bit in my delirium. I’d try not to fall asleep, have half-thoughts, then enter a space of no thoughts at all. Read More »

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