Becoming a Better Mother With the Help of Others

How I faced challenges and unexpected events of my maternity.

By Lucia Pasqualini

When I had my first baby, I had not spent much time thinking about how my new life would have changed. I simply relied on my organizational skills. I have always been very well organized. Every morning I set up the priorities of the day: one things after another. I suppose I thought I would have done the same with a baby.

At that time I was 29 and on the verge of moving to China after being assigned to the Italian Embassy in Beijing. I did not know anybody there and did not have anybody to rely on. I did not even speak the language. In any case it was not a very urgent issue. I still had some months before leaving for China.

At the same time I had not thought in advance about breastfeeding. I took it for granted. I strongly believed in the importance of breastfeeding. In my mind it was the most natural and easiest gesture of a loving mother. Well, I rapidly understood that it is not exactly like you see on a commercial. I was not very well prepared about the difficulties and the energies that breastfeeding requires.

I realized afterward that I did not have friends with children to talk about certain issues and doctors were not used to talking much about how to prepare a woman for breastfeeding. The result was that I got an infection and my nipples started to bleed. It was terribly painful, so painful that at a certain point I put a sock on my mouth. My son Francesco was incredibly voracious and every suck left me crying. Despite the incredible sorrow, I never thought for a moment about giving up. No matter how painful it was, I kept breastfeeding convinced that my milk was the best food for him.

Luckily I had four months maternity leave and I could stay at home. It was not exactly as I expected to spend those months but I feel grateful because breastfeeding was a fulltime job in service of my baby. After a few days, my routine was all about milk and inevitably, I felt like a cow. No wonder I felt the desire to go back to my life after a while .

And that is what I did. A few months before the birth of my son I had started a Chinese course. In my plan I would have stayed at home for a couple of weeks. I could not miss many lessons, and I wanted to be able to communicate once in Beijing. My class was twice a week and I would be staying out for 3 hours. I sent my husband to buy a pump. At that time we found only manual pumps. It took me at least 20 minutes to pump enough milk for the time frame during which I was not at home. The calculation of the time and the amount of milk available is extremely important in these situations. That is why I started to pump and preserve milk in the fridge in every moment and for every emergency. My life was suddenly all about milk. My Chinese class was the only moment during which I kept my brain still working and at the end the effort turned out to be very useful.

When I went back to work, I enrolled my son to the nursery of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and I started my old life. The pump was my best friend and ally in the organization of the day. After all, it was only a matter of time.

Once in Beijing my only priority would be finding a reliable nanny to manage my new routine. It was easier than I thought. We saw and tried a couple of nannies for a few days until I found the right solution for my working schedule. Some of my fondest memories about my four years in Beijing are so deeply linked to my Chinese ayi (nannies). My experience and my life there wouldn’t be the same without them. They were so lovely and caring and they helped me to become a better mother.