American in Spain

Sucking At Sucking

March 28, 2009

Nora, you've got a problem. You suck at sucking. You were given a shot at Mama's nipple at the tender nothing-but-instinct age of 50 minutes, and you failed miserably. You were really upset that you actually had to do some work to get your food now. Things were so easy when it was all just piped in from Mommy and you could just lie there. Now that there is work involved, you're having none of it. The nurses at the hospital gave us a pezonera, a little plastic nipple cap that is used when mother's have sub-par nipples, and you enjoyed having that in your mouth, but you apparently don't understand the suction part. The thing is, though, the nurses, doctors, and uncountable swarm of other people that have seen Mommy trying to feed you all comment on the perfect shape of Mommy's nipples and how weird it is that you just don't get it.

When two computers start communicating with each other, there's an initial exchange of information called a "handshake". Following a preset protocol, one of them gives information about itself and the other uses that information to adapt its response until both systems are "on the same page" to use a current cliché. Breast feeding is the same way. The breast specifically needs your sucking to know that it needs to begin milk production and just how much, etc. The problem is that you weren't sucking hard enough, so the breasts weren't producing milk, which really pissed you off. We begged the nurses to give us a little bit of milk in a syringe to give you, and every time they explained how absolutely paramount it was that this baby-breast handshake occur and how introducing "free milk" into the equation could be a major setback. Every time they made sense, until the end of your second day when we threw in the towel and gave you a couple drops of milk. Our reasoning was that we needed to give you some positive reinforcement every time you stayed on the nipple (never the nipple, only the stupid nipple cap thing) for more than 10 seconds, because you clearly don't understand the process nor where milk is supposed to come from.

Then, after our first day home, when you and your mother were very relaxed, you actually suckled (the cap) for the first time. Both breasts, even. A two course meal! Handshake now complete, the breasts started producing milk like mad. Just before your mother exploded in a big white splash, we made it down to the midwife's office and she helped us extract some of the milk. The Colindres midwife has 4 or 5 breast pumps that are loaned out for the period that new mothers need them. Unfortunately the town is reproducing like rabbits at the moment and all the pumps were occupied, so they sent me running to the pharmacy to buy one. 55€ for a few plastic and rubber parts. Your mother said that she'd have paid 500€ at that point. (Note to self: go into pain-reduction device business.) I raced home to sterilize the pump, and back to the midwife's office to pump away. After we got a little bit, the midwife gave me a syringe full of the good stuff, and I went about feeding you your first proper meal. You loved it! Food! And all you have to do is lie back and swallow (the latter often proves too much of a bother, as well).

Ever since we've been trying to get you sucking breast, but so far we've always fallen back on the syringe. I suppose that some babies are just born for the bottle. I have to wonder what children like you did before we had all this technology. I suppose they just didn't survive. Economic crisis or no, you've chosen a good time to be born.

The other day, I entered the room where your mother was swinging you about to calm you down and she was saying, "...and that is the basis of Capitalism!" "What is?", I asked. "Working to get food," she replied. True, true.

The way I see it, babies have two responsibilities: being cute and sucking teat. You can't help but do the former even when you try not to, and you're a complete failure at the second. Oh least you'll be the prettiest woman in the welfare line.