Monday, June 7, 2010

Relative Insanity

I spent the weekend with my family over Memorial Day. My father, aunts and uncles are all in their late 70’s- early 80’s. Like most Italian families, we sit around the dinner table for hours talking (which I love).  Since we are obsessed about food, any kind of food, the conversation always includes discussions over food and the eating of it.  In my case, it ends up being about breastfeeding(this happens to me no matter where I am).

None of my cousins or I, were breastfed. When asked why, both my aunts shrieked, “What are you crazy?” Even after I acknowledged that breastfeeding was vastly discouraged, they disclosed that they would never have breastfed, even if it were encouraged. “They gave you a shot and it was all over.”, my Aunt Grace added.  Remember, this was when women stayed in the hospital for a whole week (1950’s-1960’s) and never saw their babies at night. My Aunt Ellie exclaimed, “We needed our rest!” Yeah, I guess so, in order to go home to sterilize bottles and create from a recipe, a formula mixture also wash more clothing and diapers due to spit up and diarrhea. I've learned over the years that discussing the many benefits of breastfeeding gets you nowhere with these people, (even though I still try) because they fully believe that my cousins and I were “just fine” then and are “just fine” now.

Well, the truth is, we were far from fine! As infants, multiple illnesses and hospitalizations for dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhea were common but yet that was considered normal and "fine." Even though we all had colic, well, “all babies have colic.” As a matter of fact, my aunt said that she had to stop putting Karo Syrup in my cousin, Lorraine’s formula because “she didn’t tolerate it too good”. Just a day after being home from the hospital (at 1 week old), we were fed cereal in our bottles....every day! Take a look at my baby picture at one year old. I look like a block of cheese on shoulders!

I have eighteen cousins on that side of the family. As adults, we are all overweight, some morbidly. Food, environmental and medication allergies, cancer, lupus, diabetes, pituitary and digestive issues are suffered by almost all. Yet in our relative’s eyes, we are "just fine". They refuse to see any correlation to how we may have been fed as infants to our present health. It’s an argument we will never win.

Just as a caveat, I would like to clarify that my parents were extremely supportive of my breastfeeding. My mom grieved over the fact that she was not encouraged more to nurse us. Never did my father make a contradictory remark or choose to leave the room when anyone nursed….I was blessed. As a matter of fact, my maternal grandmother wet- nursed a couple of babies, back in the 1930’s, after their mothers died in childbirth.

When it came to breastfeeding our own children, my cousins and I were quite successful. Too successful, as far as some of our relatives were concerned, especially since we nursed long-term. We supported each other and reveled in our accomplishment. Break through the barriers of misinformation and mythology and without the guidance of our own mothers, breastfeeding was ours and we proudly owned it. I remember at a family get-together one Easter, there were eight of us (cousins) nursing in my parent’s living room. As my Uncle Skeeter passed through the room, he covered his eyes yelling, “Do you have to do that here?” We retorted, happily, “Yep, here, there and everywhere............need a little cream in your coffee?!”