After Your Milk Comes In
Lauren Goodwin Slaughter
They kept saying the baby looked just like her husband. Her mother-in-law even brought her husband's baby book to the house to prove it. Visitors would look at the pictures and exclaim at the similarity. "Movie-creepy" someone said, "like when the same child actor plays the part of the main guy as a kid then all of a sudden the same actor's the main guy's son."
Marriage represents a special bond between two people that is matched by no other relationship. At least that was the original idea. Marriage is unique--totally without parallel. It transcends all other relationships. How truly amazing it is!
The one of the husband's naked butt got the most remarks. "No way! They even have the same butt!"
The greatest overall influence you will have on your children will not come in your role as an individual parent but in your joint role as husband and wife. The husband-wife team is the model upon which much of this material is based.
Why so many people at the apartment? She knew them then suddenly didn't. She had begun to unrecognize them, their features smearing into holes or pressed-eye triangles. One time, when she was pregnant, she watched a television special about a disorder where you couldn't recognize people by their face and so you had to use other cues. Like a brooch or maybe a hairstyle. How much sleep? A blue blotch was talking. She guessed three-ish hours a night.
Once your milk comes in, your nursing periods will average fifteen minutes per side. As mentioned, some babies nurse faster, some slower. Studies show that in established lactation, a baby can empty the breasts in seven to ten minutes per side, providing he or she is sucking vigorously.
Her Va-j-j was now her Va-blah-blah. She still had not allowed her husband to touch her breasts--maybe she never would again. When she looked down at her new, red-faced, ravenous baby, there was her husband slurping.
Both breasts need to be stimulated at each feeding, and the initial time frame mentioned above will allow for sufficient breast stimulation.
The other day, her husband said he had a surprise for her: it was a new gold bikini he'd ordered online. Her enormous breasts had him in a state of perpetual turn-on. What's this? She kept saying, What IS this?
Work on getting a FULL feeding from your baby at each feeding. That is it. No snacking, full feedings.
Lunch was a ham sandwich slammed into her face. After, she'd watch Days of Our Lives as the baby slept on her chest. She had not watched the show since, years ago, she worked in the circulation department of the local newspaper answering telephones. Mostly lonely old people who were missing their crosswords called. "You people," they would begin, asking questions she could never possibly answer. Like, "what am I supposed to do with my morning now?"
Rock your baby and sing; place your baby on his or her back in the crib to watch a mobile; take a walk with your baby; run errands with your baby or visit neighbors; bathe your baby and place him or her in an infant seat near a window; play with your baby; have him by your side as you read or sew.
The hopelessness of the shaky-voiced, elderly callers disturbed her only at first. Soon she was rolling her eyes, fake-gagging into the phone or putting the call on mute as she gossiped with her coworkers about the newest storyline from "Days." John Black was missing again. His wife, Marlena, had been possessed by a demon.
When there is harmony in the marriage, there is an infused stability within the family. A strong marriage provides a haven of security for children as they grow in the nurturing process. Healthy, loving marriages create a sense of certainty for children.
Her first memory was of a pair of Chuck Converse black sneakers, just sitting there on the floor. Over the years she had asked, many times, who the sneakers belonged to but her mother swore neither she nor Dad ever owned a pair of black Chucks.
Be warned, insecurity is fostered by what is not taking place between couples as much as what is taking place. The goal of parenting is not simply to avoid excessive anxiety, but to create a world of confidence by what we do with each other as much as what we avoid doing.
Had they been widows, the callers? "Doc" (Black's pet name for Marlena who played some kind of therapist) levitated once, yellow eyes gleaming.
Most of your day will be fairly routine and predictable. But there will be times when you may need more flexibility due to unusual circumstances. Your life will be less tense if you consider the context of each situation and respond appropriately for the benefit of everyone else.
On a recent store list for her husband:
"Double-D!" Her husband, exclaimed, "Ha ha! Get it? You wrote, 'Double-D!'"
At this point, please turn to the back of the book to look at chart one: review it and remember to bring the book with you to the hospital. If you desire to make additional copies of these charts for your own use, please feel free to do so.
It was like no one else at work had been fazed by it. Marlena was a demon and so she was a demon. Who knew what exactly had occurred in the years between, but now the character--(that actress, she was also in that show with Wilford Brimley? House Something--or--Something House?)--could often be seen shopping at an outdoor mall or having a hushed lunch with her daughters. As if real people just walked around dressed, in clothes, in the middle of the day.
To be a good mom or dad, all you have to do is to continue as before. That's it. But don't kid yourself, this is easier said than done.
To improve the quality of the parent-child relationship, parents first must continue to evaluate the quality of their relationship with each other. Would it stand alone without baby? Weak marriages do not build strong families nor do they infuse security into the hearts of children.
"You know, you can encourage a child too much," her mother says during tummy time. He was seeing his reflection wobble in a little sun mirror purchased at an educational toy store. "Three months old and he's already spoiled."
Lauren Goodwin Slaughter's "After Your Milk Comes In" depicts a woman's experiences of new motherhood juxtaposed with excerpts from a popular book about "infant management." This juxtaposition helps brings the narrative to life in addition to showing how reality does not accurately reflect theory. The new mother describes how other people are obsessed with the similarity between her husband and their new baby. Her husband is obsessed with her large breasts. She seems in a daze, going through the motions but not really herself anymore. She is exhausted from lack of sleep, overwhelmed by the influx of people who bombard her with opinions and unwanted advice, and bewildered by the juvenile, sex-driven remarks and actions of her husband. Intermingled with this is some "expert" advice on how best to raise a baby. One such piece of advice is to continue as though nothing has changed. The irony is that, clearly, everything has.
Slaughter's story is full of observations about parenthood, both the high expectations and the wearisome realities of it. The snippets from the "experts'" book declare what makes a good parent and flaunts their simple equations for making child-rearing work. The narrative paragraphs show the tiring monotony of feedings, mind-numbing television shows, and days stuck in the house. I especially like how the story implies that being a parent is not exactly a glamorous job and certainly not one that can be learned from a handbook.
One of the best aspects of this piece of flash fiction is the language. Good flash fiction surprises its readers with unexpected words and phrases. "After Your Milk Comes In" is full of such surprises. For example, in the sixth paragraph, in her foggy, sleep-deprived state, the new mother describes how she doesn't recognize the visitors anymore: "She had begun to unrecognize them, their features smearing into holes or pressed-eye triangles." How perfectly "unrecognize" describes her mental state. Another good use of language is when the narrator describes her lack of sexual desire: "Her Va-j-j was now her Va-blah-blah. She still had not allowed her husband to touch her breasts--maybe she never would again. When she looked down at her new, red-faced, ravenous baby, there was her husband slurping." How disturbingly vivid the last sentence is, imagining one's husband feeding from one's own breast. A third example comes after a description of how a mother should feed her baby: "Work on getting a FULL feeding from your baby at each feeding. That is it. No snacking, full feedings. / Lunch was a ham sandwich slammed into her face." Clearly, the baby's meal is more important than its mother's and the word "slammed" is a perfect choice to depict that. Slaughter's masterful use of language helps make her story a good piece of flash fiction.
About the AuthorRachel Whitaker is in her second year of the Publishing Master's program at Rosemont College. She has had several film reviews and articles published in Ticket Magazine as well as the Ambler Gazette, both in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Upon graduation, she hopes to work as a copyeditor. Originally from Southeastern Ohio, she currently lives in Norristown, PA with her fiancé and their two cats.
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