Thursday, July 14, 2011

100 times = beginner status: thoughts on breastfeeding (and poetry)

I had the wonderful good fortune about two years ago to be invited to the intimate living room of Donald Hall, multi-award-winning poet and writer, and poet laureate of New Hampshire from 1984-1989. His wife, Jane Kenyon, also a poet who died way too young, could be felt in the house as well, her spirit saturated into every wall and room, decoration and memory, clinging like a ghost.

Mr. Hall spoke of his writing and revision process, explaining how he edits his poems a minimum of 100 times before considering them good and on the way to finished. I could not believe it when I heard this - 100 times! I can't say I have edited my own poems more than a handful of times, if that. His reworking speaks not only to his commitment to writing and refining his craft, but also to the process of a poem's birth it emerges in stages sometimes, and becomes its own animal whom you must get to know bit by bit.

Two days ago, I realized it was Lucinda's "day 10" in the world. I was thinking if we practiced the breastfeeding together about ten times a day, that would make 100 times already finished at the process. (Generally, methinks it is best not to tally these things, especially when one is lacking sleep and feeling like a veritable prisoner in one's own house, at the whims of a tiny little queen who only just days ago appeared out of nowhere...) And suddenly I remembered what Donald Hall said about his poems. And I thought, "Practice, practice, practice, and now I am only just a beginner"...which was strangely comforting.

We - Lucinda Grace and I - are getting the hang of this new job we share (me in feeding, and her in eating and processing the food). Breastfeeding is hard work and does not - contrary to popular myth - come naturally. You have to learn how to do it, and figure it out with your baby, and then work at it until it becomes natural. It gets easier every day and we both feel more confident now that we will be able to accomplish our goals.

I am thinking about practice in many contexts now. And realizing that 100 times at practice are just the start.

Let us give ourselves a break as we learn new ideas and activities. Let us consider ourselves both babes to this world and struggling poets, who will one day be discovered for our genius, but in the meantime, we will do the toil of practicing. It will pay off, I just know it.

Blessings to you Donald.


An old life

by Donald Hall

Snow fell in the night.
At five-fifteen I woke to a bluish
mounded softness where
the Honda was. Cat fed and coffee made,
I broomed snow off the car
and drove to the Kearsarge Mini-Mart
before Amy opened
to yank my Globe out of the bundle.
Back, I set my cup of coffee
beside Jane, still half-asleep,
murmuring stuporous
thanks in the aquamarine morning.
Then I sat in my blue chair
with blueberry bagels and strong
black coffee reading news,
the obits, the comics, and the sports.
Carrying my cup twenty feet,
I sat myself at the desk
for this day's lifelong
engagement with the one task and desire.


Kristin H. said...

No, it does not come easily. But nothing really worth it in life does. Kudos to you for sticking with it and a belated congratulations on the new arrival. I know how desperately you wished for a child and I am so happy that you are living your dream. You will be a wonderful mother.

Kristin H. said...

Fennel tea, by the way, for increased milk production. And hops. I drank non alcoholic beer. Those two worked like a charm.

Marie said...

I breastfed two of my children and didn't consider either time to be a success. I guess it did not come naturally to me. Love the poem. I revise my written work hundreds of times before I am satisfied as well. I quite simply in the end just have to stop reading it because every time I do, I find something I want to change! Love and hugs to you and Scotty and sweet little Lucinda! xxoo

Charlotte said...

Beautiful thoughts, beautiful poem, from a truly beautiful mother. Donald Hall would be proud of you - and so am I!