My children are 10 years apart in age, and one thing that has struck me since Maeve's birth almost 13 years ago is how much more complicated the world grows as they get older.
When children are small, you can see clearly how their perfect lives will roll out. You can see them graduating from Harvard — or perhaps Yale; you devote serious time to considering which would be better — going into law or medicine, gliding along until they finish up as President of the United States. Along the way, of course, there will be sports trophies, prom dresses, all the trimmings.
Reality sets in gradually. It turns out the kids have learning disabilities, or strange hair, or no interest in sports — whatever, and likely in multiples. Ten years or so after spinning all those perfect dreams, you might find yourself praying they'll finish high school. Or even, please, God, let them stay alive through high school.
When Maeve was in preschool, I remember sitting in a group listening to moms in the Harvard vs. Yale stage, while my mind was on the then-exotic sensation some teen-aged boys in Nora's vast social network had created by sending nude pictures of girls they had probably known since kindergarten out across the Internet. I remember thinking that perhaps I had seen some of those boys, and those girls, on swings in the park or at a library reading hour when they too were small.
What I mean to say is that many of the things that seem critical when children are little get put firmly in perspective as they grow.
Poking around Lisa Belkin's Motherlode blog on the New York Times website this week, I landed on a post called "A Breast-Feeding Guru Who Uses Formula," which attracted me because I have been writing about breast-feeding. Through Belkin, I discovered Katie Allison Granju and her mamapundit blog. (I know, where have I been?)
Granju is a writer and digital-media expert who has become an authority on breast-feeding. Nevertheless, she found with her fifth child, Georgia, now seven weeks old, that she was unable to breast-feed. "I did have colostrum for the first week or two, but I never got the full enchilada," she writes in a post on Babble.com.
She tried "pumping, herbs, supplemental nursing system, plenty of skin to skin with baby, nursing on demand, nipple shields," all to no avail.
She is "resigned" now to the fact that Georgia is a bottle-fed baby, and she does what she can to inject warmth and meaning into an experience she never expected a child of hers to have.
But Granju believes that a horrific recent event in her life has contributed to her inability to breast-feed.
"I suspect that the biggest factor in my inability to produce milk at the moment is that my oldest child died in my arms only a few weeks before G was born. God only knows what the shock of that experience did to my body and its normal functioning," she wrote.
The death of Granju's son Henry from a drug overdose is about as terrible as this world gets. We dream for our children but they live the lives we give them. My heart goes out to the Granjus.