Nora is one month old tomorrow. This week concludes the only time I've spent with her by myself. Nathan was home for the first week, then my mom came for the second week. Between the two of them as well as the more than a dozen of Nathan's co-workers who provided meals for us for almost three full weeks, they all saved my sanity. Because feeding the baby was not an easy, painless transition, we have kept outings to a minimum. A dinner out with friends one night, at which the two waitresses were most interested in what type of shoes Nora had on underneath her blanket as she was sleeping in her pram (Answer: none; I think her feet are way too adorable to cover them up), several trips to the base for various Dr. appointments and newborn photo sessions, to the market with my mother (Nora's first market trip was quite exciting and she started learning how to spend her parents' money on clothes), and our big outing to the Amalfi Coast mountain town of Ravello. So far, she does quite well on outings.
Naturally for this family oriented country, having a small baby out and about is cause for lots of attention. Here is what is surprising. A standard question from complete strangers, including the men, is, "Are you breastfeeding?" After they get an affirmative answer, they want to know how often. This is how almost all conversations go from the Italian side:
"Awwwwww. Auguri" [Congratulations]
"Quando?" [When? A way of asking how old.]
"Bella, bella, bellisima" [Pretty - generally followed by more cooing.]
"Mascho o femmina?" [Boy or girl - always this is asked, even if Nora is wearing a pink, ruffled dress]
"Are you breastfeeding?" Asked in Italian - I don't know the word, but I recognize it when I hear it. The first time I was asked, the lady doing the asking just pat her breasts while the young man running the market stall stood with us to also quiz me.
"Quante volte? Ogni tre ore?" [How often? Every three hours?]
"Bene, bene" [Good, good]
This conversation has been repeated over and over again. Two days after we came home from the hospital, Nathan went down to our local salumeria to purchase prosciutto and mozzarella di bufala. He let Gennaro, the salumeria owner, know that "La bambina e qua" [The baby is here], and the first thing Gennaro asked was if I was breastfeeding. This fascination is bizarre to me. One friend posited that culturally, the young women in Italy are electing not to breastfeed, so the older folks are very interested in what I might be doing. My take on it is that we Americans really do seem like bumbling idiots here, so the Italians must think that I don't know how to feed the baby. And I suppose that's why I might also dress my baby boy in a pink, ruffled dress.