But her little demon spawn was now approaching me. “What’s wrong with your baby?” He said, looking down at my newborn.
“She’s sleeping,” his mom explained, embarrassed, and probably a little confused about the question. I was too. Being a new mother, I was more susceptible to criticism than ever before in my life. I suddenly worried, yeah? What was wrong with her? Was she sick? Dying? Tell me what you know, child!
Then I thought maybe he was concerned because, well, newborns are kind of wrinkled and funny-looking. So I offered, “she’s so small because she’s only two weeks old.”
The kid considers it, continuing to gaze down at the baby in my arms. Then, “why is your baby Chinese?”
The weirdest silence ever, followed by a couple of awkward chuckles from the adults.
I explain slowly, “she looks Chinese because her daddy is half-Chinese.”
Then, all the women heave a sigh of relief. The mother of twins laughs and says, “oh, she really is Chinese? I just thought he was saying that because all newborns kind of look Chinese.”
What? What is happening?
I laugh more than I should, attempting to defuse things, but I’m actually feeling nauseated and kind of just wanting to leave. I’m not upset with the little boy; he’s just commenting on what he observes. It’s good to notice and explain differences like gender, skin color and whatnot. It’s the adults’ reactions that bothered me — that tense silence, when nobody knew my baby actually was Chinese.
But aside from the awkward attitudes about race and the exclusive Earth Mama culture, there’s another resounding reason I probably won’t go back to another La Leche League meeting. I realized from this experience that joining a group in which the only guaranteed shared trait is motherhood isn’t the best way to go about making new friends. Maybe it works for some people, but not for me. Being mothers isn’t like having a shared casual interest in golf; it’s more like sex, something deeply personal and different to everyone. I would rather make friends with someone based on a shared interest in writing, or volunteer work, or distance running — then, if that someone happens to be a mother too, that’s awesome, but it’s not a prerequisite for being my friend.
I must add that I’m fully supportive of La Leche League’s mission, and I hope that new mothers aren’t put off by my story. I would encourage you to go, learn some stuff and meet some people. That kind of environment (or maybe just that particular group of people) isn’t for me.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, baby is now one-year-old and I am still happily nursing. And my body temperature has cooled down to only twice that of the sun.