Last month, we invited readers to share their response to a writing prompt inspired by Sarah Curtis Graziano's essay, "Why We Still Need Ramona's Realism" and Erika D. Walker's essay, "Farewell to the Boy Wizard." We asked readers to tell us how children's literature influenced their parenting. Below is Loren Lemmon's response.
By Loren Lemmons
"I thought you might be able to relate to this book," my husband said. The son of an elementary school teacher, he constantly bought new picture books for our one-year-old son, Cal.
The next day, before Cal’s nap, I pulled Katy No-Pocket from the bookshelf, mildly curious about why my husband thought I would relate to this story. The book was long, with big paragraphs on every page. Cal quickly lost interest, fussing and pushing himself off my lap, but I found myself unable to put it down.
Katy No-Pocket was a kangaroo that didn’t have a pocket. Her baby, Freddy, was constantly crying because his mother had no pouch and her arms were too short to carry him. As my husband had known it would, it struck a deep nerve. Like Katy, my body was missing what felt like an essential mothering function. I had desperately wanted to breastfeed my son, but despite throwing money at breast pumps and herbal supplements and lactation consultants, I had never produced more than a scant half ounce per feeding. Seeing my baby screaming hungrily into my breast instead of blissfully nursing was heartbreaking. I believed that I was failing my baby and that my body was failing me.
Eventually, after asking many animals how they carry their babies, and finding no acceptable solution, Katy meets a man wearing an apron with many pockets. The man offers his apron to Katy, and she is able to carry Freddy and many of his animal friends as well. While she will never have her own pouch, she finds a substitute that works for Freddy and herself.
My lactation consultant suggested a breastfeeding substitute for me. She showed me a set of tubes taped to my nipple that could deliver formula while Cal suckled. I loved and hated it. I was glad that I could at least pretend I was breastfeeding, but I hated that Cal was mostly drinking formula. I hated trying to maneuver the tube into Cal’s mouth, I hated when the tubes clogged, I hated the rashes the tape left on my breasts, and most of all, I hated washing the damn thing eight times a day.
However, after reading Katy No-Pocket, I felt a kinship with Katy Kangaroo. I too had a body that wasn’t quite working. But also like Katy, I had found a substitute. I’m sure wearing an apron was less convenient than having a pocket, and having functional breasts certainly would have been more convenient than rigging up my supplemental nursing system every few hours. But reading the book helped me to feel gratitude that despite its imperfections, I could still nurse Cal, and a sense that I was not alone – that we all had defects, whether physical or otherwise, and that we are all doing the best we can as mothers. Katy No-Pocket taught me that with a little creativity and invention, we can make our situations work for us, regardless of our deficits.
Lorren Lemmons is a mama to two blue eyed boys, a military wife, a nurse, a bibliophile, and a writer. She recently moved to Washington state with her family. She blogs about books, motherhood, and her undying love for Trader Joe's at When Life Gives You Lemmons. She has contributed to the Segullah blog and the Literary Mama blog.