Everyone reading this probably know Martin and I have been trying to get some projects off the ground here in Peru. It seems they are now happening. To be honest we have both discussed feeling totally inadequate at moments and it is always hard to know what difference the things we do makes, if any, but we certainly have been very blessed by them.
A few posts back I mentioned that I had attended a meeting at the hospital with a group of women who are called “promoters of health”. These women are considered leaders in their communities and they are helping to connect members of their communities to health services. Voluntarily, they attend different training sessions on various health issues and mostly know who in their towns are malnourished or sick in anyway. They also know who is pregnant in their community and try to ensure they attend their prenatal care etc. They are incredible women.
It was decided that these women would talk to the expectant mothers in their communities and if they were interested in meeting with me they’d let me know. One of the women got back to me and said there were five pregnant women in her town who might be interested so I went and met with these women for the first time about two weeks ago. They live in a place called “Las Campanas” which is about 10 to 15 minutes out of Chulucanas. It is a very under resourced community to say the least. I walked around the town with the promotor of health visiting these women’s home and she introduced me to them all.
That first visit was pretty brief and rushed so I went back on Monday morning to really chat with them. For about 3 hours I sat with these different women in their very humble homes and we talked about birth. I often felt uncomfortable and out of place and not totally sure of myself. They live in extreme poverty and their struggles are many. For one woman coming up with just one sol (about 40 cents) to get insurance at the public hospital to give birth has been hard. I was very aware, as they probably were, of the extremely privileged life I live and wondered how can we possibly connect and what was the point anyway. But I guess that is a great thing about birth, it is an experience we share and there were a few brief moments when the differences didn’t seem to matter and I felt that we were just two women sharing stories about birth, as women have done and will probably do for all time. I had to continually to remind them that I am not a medical professional, just an ordinary woman like them, passionate about birth rights and wanting to offer some physical and emotional support. It was a very special experience for me.
Martin had his first workshops last weekend. They went really well. A few little hiccups, things I would find very stressful, but they all dealt with really well. As Martin said Peruvians are fairly resourceful and coming up with solutions to things not going according to plan. People commented on how practical they were which was what they had really wanted. The other engineers involved were really excited to be involved and hoping to keep up the relationships which was another outcome were hoping for. Like me Martin really loved hearing them all share ideas. Again he had to deal with the expectation that he was the expert but he really tried to make it clear everyone was there as a student and a teacher.
As of yesterday I am officially no longer a breastfeeding mother. I was planning to go through to 2 years, which is in general what is recommended, but I have found myself stopping 3 months earlier (Nina will be 21 months in 12 days). It kind of just came upon us. We started weaning about three months ago. Although at that stage I wasn’t calling it weaning I just wanted to cut back a little. After we got here Nina was feeding a lot. I understood that would happen and I demand fed for about three months of been here but it was getting exhausting not to mention a bit awkward. While women in the mountains and jungle are known to breastfeed for years most women in the cities have adopted the more Western habit of weaning at 12 months, if they breastfeed at all. And in a very macho culture I felt quite exposed and vulnerable pulling my breasts out all the time in public. So as Nina was now settled I began weaning her from public feeding. It went very smoothly really. A few little tantrums in taxis if I didn’t have an alternative to offer her but if I did no dramas. From there I slowly began to put a bit routine in place for her at home. Attachment parenting says demand feed but I like routines, all be it flexible if needed. So we got it down to one when she woke, then morning feed (whenever), before nap, afternoon feed (again whenever) and before bed as well as one overnight. She then started going to daycare in the morning so that feed went and I stopped offering the afternoon one so it went too. Occasionally when she did ask I would agree but mostly she was happy to accept some grapes or water instead so we were down to wake up, before nap and bed and overnight. As Martin and I alternate getting up I then decided to drop the wake up one so I could sleep through on my days. She didn’t make a sound about it.
We were now down to three and I began to wonder if we should just keep going as we were in the flow. We were thinking of coming back to Australia at the end of August so I thought it would be better to wean before we left while she was settled. I couldn’t do it to her after another big move and I really didn’t want to go beyond two years. Now we are coming back in November but I guess the seed had been planted for me. I also like the idea of Nina been able to sleep without having to breastfeed. She doesn’t breastfeed to sleep but it was an essential part of her bedtime routine which meant I had to be there or it was pretty hard for Martin. It gives me a bit more flexibility especially as I am looking at supporting women in birth which can come anytime. So we decided try stopping the before sleep feeds. I was expecting it to be a nightmare and was willing to reconsider if it was too hard. The plan was for a week Martin would put her to bed, following the same routine except she had a glass of milk instead of breast milk. Again smooth as silk really. A little bit of whinging on the first day but certainly no real complaining. So after five days I put her to bed. She got into position for “teta” and I said milk and offered her the glass instead. She tentatively accepted. Now we were down to one. The night feed. The feed which I most wanted to stop but knew would be the hardest. But two days ago we did. First night was fine. When she woke up she took water and a bit of singing and was asleep again in less than five minutes. Second night a bit harder. Took water but then didn’t want to go back to sleep. I had to sit by the cot for awhile singing and patting til she finally went down again.
So there we are. I know everyone will have different opinions on this as they do most things motherhood. Here in Peru most people I have told are very happy. I have been told on various occasions by my in laws many of the myths associated with breastfeeding eg it’s no longer that nutritious after one year and that I am over indulging etc etc. On the other hand a lot of “attachment parenting” people think feeding beyond two years is the best for bonding with baby and raising happy and secure children. As for me I feel mostly good about the decision. As with training her to sleep I did it slowly over a three month period with minimal crying. The fact that Nina has mostly not complained, (in fact hardly seemed to notice some feeds going) and has been able to accept alternatives means that I think she was ready for it. And I guess the truth is for me while I would like to be one of those mothers who loved breastfeeding and wanted to breastfeed indefinitely I am not. It’s not that I hated it, there were wonderful moments but in general I found it hard work. Of course I do have moments of guilt and do worry that if she does get sick again and is not breastfeeding it will be a lot harder. And I do feel a little bit sad. It was something that only Nina and I shared and there were times of real intimacy and closeness when feeding. And I will miss that special bond that we shared. It’s weird too. I guess this is the final stage in getting my body back after pregnancy and birth.
For those of you who are still following our little journey here in Peru I can finally say we do mostly have clarity on how much longer we will be here and what we will be doing in the meantime.
We have decided to come home on November 25th. That will mean we have been here for a full year which feels like a nice round number. There are a few reasons for this. As mentioned in the last blog post Martin will be doing some workshops with local farmers about composting and some other issues to do with sustainable agriculture which go through til the end of the year. He also got accepted into a masters of sustainable agriculture which he will be doing through Charles Sturt Uni next semester. We thought if we were to head back and have to find jobs etc etc while he was trying to do that it would be really difficult.
As for me the school was really hoping we would stay through til the end of the year and I am pleased to be able to see the year through. No to mention my first meeting with the other “promotors of health” was fantastic. These women are all grass roots leaders in their communities trying to bridge the gap between the people and the health services. They have decided the best way for me to fit is they will refer pregnant women to me who may want the support of a doula during birth.
It feels good to not be waiting anymore but I think we learned some really important lessons in the time. And I am grateful for those lessons and think perhaps they will be as important as any lessons we learn while actually “doing”. As no doubt there will be more times of waiting and trusting in our lives.
We are also very grateful to people who have been able to donate some money to these projects so that we are able to stay. While we didn’t raise as much as we were hoping we have enough for now and can fully trust that tomorrow will look after itself. I was reading in Richard Rohr’s commentary on the gospel of Luke yesterday which said this,
“In chapter 5, Luke relates the calling of the first disciples, yet Luke immediately defines discipleship in the story of Peter. Discipleship is defined in terms of risk and trust. Jesus said, “Simon, put out into deep water and put your nets out for a catch.” Simon is the fisherman who should no the sea and understand it. At this point, there is no reason to trust Jesus but he replies. “We worked all night long and caught nothing. But if you say so, I will put out the net. So this new life, this new church, this new community is going to have to depend on trusting God and risking God’s truth against there own temporary truth.”
On the weekend we took a spontaneous trip to Trujillo (about seven hours from Chulucanas). Martin’s beloved soccer team “La U” were playing there so he was keen to go and see them and catch up with some friends. I thought it was about time I took a trip and saw a soccer game and I read Trujillo was a pretty city and there were some ancient ruins there from Pre-Incan cultures so agreed to go along.
So we arrived Saturday night about 7.30pm. We put Nina to bed and then ate dinner outside our room on the roof. It had some pretty nice views –
Nina and I
After a typical Peruvian breakfast, a little explore of the colourful city
and the stunning plaza de armas
we went to the Chimu ruins of Chan Chan which was built around 1300 AD and is the largest adobe city in the world. It was very cool.
Nina loved running around there.
After we made a trip to a local beach for lunch. I am not a huge fan of Peruvian beaches, usually surrounded by desert and ugly hostels etc but the food is usually good.
And Nina could play in the park.
We went back to Trujillo for a sleep and then off to the game. Unfortunately La U lost but we had fun.
And Nina got a La U shirt which she looked cute in.
The next day we made a trip to some more ruins. This time the Moche ruins that were built around 500AD. Unlike Australia Peru had a number of cultures before the Spanish arrived who all built. The Incas are the most famous bu surprisingly had one of the shortes reigns. Anyway here are the ruins. They were pretty special.
Last night, we went to the river to play some volley ball
And have a bit of a swim.
Nina loves it there and getting all sandy.
The sun was setting making it all the more beautiful.
I thought it might be nice to take some family shots. I realised the other week that we only have four photos of the three of us together and I don’t really like any of them (except one where you can’t really see our face cause we are looking at Nina). I thought that was pretty slack so I took the opportunity last night to get some photos of three of us.
And finally with the rest of the family (our sister-in-law, niece and their cousin).
This may be the coolest thing that has happened on “She’s a Mil” in her (I guess my blog is a girl) 8 year life. My friend Jenny (a very dedicated blogger and photo taker, whose blog, “just plodding along” I love to read) awarded me with:
I have copied and pasted from Jenny’s blog the details. Liebster is a German word meaning favourite, dearest or beloved. The Liebster Blog Award is given to blogs with under 200 followers who deserve more attention. It’s a great way to discover those undiscovered gems in the blogosphere. As part of accepting this award, there are a few little rules.
1. Copy and Paste the blog award on your blog.
2. Link back to the blogger who gave you the award.
3. Pick your 5 favourite bloggers with under 200 followers who deserve to be recognised and leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have received the award.
4. Hope the 5 chosen bloggers will continue to spread the blog award love.
I am not sure I can really do number three as the only blogs that I read are on blogfeed. Therefore I am just going to say my five favourite blogs are blogfeed, blogfeed, blogfeed, blogfeed and blogfeed and award blogfeed with the Liebster award.
Honestly, I love blogfeed and I think Ryan rocks for staring it. I especially love it here in Peru where I often feel far away from people. It makes me so happy when I log onto the feed and someone has made a post. I am especially grateful to Jenny, Howie, Tom and Lesley who blog very regularly and I wish Stella, Keith, Gem, Jo, Andreana, Ryan and Andrew would blog more and that David would blog at all.
Thanks so much Jenny for the award. I feel inspired to blog more and I hope others on blogfeed too.