A Nest of Nursing Mothers

by Tina Blue
February 17, 2001

          The care and feeding of infants and small children is an activity too detached from the everyday lives of most people in our society. Like death, childbirth, nursing, and all the aspects of child-rearing are isolated to the point where most people do not expect to encounter them and are sometimes quite taken aback when they do.

          I ran a home daycare for 18 years, so that I could stay home with my own children when they were young. At one point, when my kids were in early adolescence, I thought it might be a good time to close the daycare and to seek more lucrative employment outside my home.

          But a friend whose daughter had been in my daycare from the age of two months was pregnant again, and she begged me to stay in daycare long enough to get her new baby through his first 18 months.

          Besides, two other women at her workplace were also due to deliver at about the same time as Theresa, and having heard about me from her, they were also hoping to place their infants with me.

          Meanwhile, another pregnant woman--also due around the same time--had found me through a referral from the local health department. She begged me to take her baby when it was born, because she had not been at all comfortable with any of the other daycare facilities or providers she had encountered during her search, which had begun the moment she knew she was pregnant.

          In Lawrence, there is a shortage of daycare slots at all ages, but it is virtually impossible to find daycare for an infant under 18 months. Most commercial daycares in Lawrence either have no openings or only a very limited number of openings for infants under 18 months, but once a child reaches that age, it becomes somewhat easier to find a place for him in a decent daycare.

          Because Theresa was a friend, I decided to stay in business long enough to get her baby off to a good start. I told the four expectant mothers that as soon as the youngest baby reached 18 months, I would close my daycare, so they would need to have other arrangements in place by then.

All the babies, all boys, were born within two months of each other. The youngest was the son of the woman who had been referred to me by the health department.

          Theresa and her two coworkers all nursed their babies as much as possible during the first year. They would take their lunch break at my apartment, and nurse their sons as they ate and chatted. It was quite cozy and amiable: the three nursing mothers, me bottle-feeding Baby James, and three preschoolers playing around us and watching us feed the babies.

          But it was definitely a woman's sort of coziness.

          One day a young man, perhaps 20 years old, developed car trouble near my apartment. He just barely managed to pull into the parking lot before his car died completely.

          I saw him heading toward my door, and I knew he would want to call a tow truck, so, holding Baby James, I met him at the door and invited him in.

          But as he stepped into the living room, where three women unselfconsciously nursed their infants while three small children played around their feet, the young man did a double take that would have done a vaudeville comic proud.

          Can you imagine how startled he must have been to find himself so suddenly, so unexpectedly, surrounded by small children and nursing mothers?
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