Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What is up with Mommy today...

I find myself needing to process this morning, folks.

As summer turns to fall here in the Midwest, the nights are getting longer and colder, and that necessarily results in this guy here wanting to snuggle more.

Early this morning (it was still mostly dark), I had just finished nursing little sister back to sleep and resettled her on the bed when I felt the tell-tale nudging and patting on my opposite shoulder. Half-awake, I carefully turned over so as not to disturb the sleeping baby, and sure enough, there was my sleepy-eyed two year old sitting up and signing for milk. I laid back down and gestured for him to come over, and he wasted no time curling up against me and opening his mouth wide to nurse. As he latched on, his head on my arm, he gave this deep, contented sigh and closed his eyes. his whole body relaxing into warmth and comfort.

I was already drifting back to sleep, but that sigh, that moment of pure peace followed me, and I heard a voice say, "Laura, THIS is what he will remember."

Hours later and I'm still thinking about that. Because when I actually woke up, cuddled so tightly between my children that sitting up without disturbing at least one of them was impossible, that statement echoed in my ears, and for some reason I was overwhelmed with a deep, wrenching sorrow. Sadness just isn't a good enough word for that feeling, for the wave of pain that stops the breath and pricks stinging tears and, just for a minute, you wonder if it's possible for your heart to physically rip itself in two, because it sure doesn't feel like it's ever going to beat again.

I chose to disturb Ana, she's much easier to resettle.

Getting ready for the day while my son still slept provided ample distraction from that tearing, aching can't-breathe feeling, which is good because what I really wanted to do was curl up in a ball and tell the world to take a flying leap. I wiped my face, put Ana in her swing, peeled a banana and opened a cheese stick, spread peanut butter on a slice of bread and set it all on a tray with his favorite fruit, green grapes, all on auto-pilot. All in that distance that says, "Don't think, just move."

By that point JJ was awake, I could hear him calling "ah-ee! ah-ee!!" (Which is "Mommy! Mommy!!" in JJ-speak.) Ana was still asleep in the swing, so I went back into the bedroom. We spent a few minutes letting JJ nurse and wake up properly, both got dressed, and came back out to the living room, where we sat on the sofa and cuddled through an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

Which brings us up to the present moment. My brain is awake, I can breathe, but I'm still trying not to think too hard, because I can feel that swirling undertow threatening to yank me off my feet if I look at it too closely.

And I don't know why.

That's the really awful part, I don't know why. Because that moment of flawless serenity and love was beautiful and all-encompassing. It felt like I could stay in that moment forever, right there with both of my children, happy, safe, content. That hour between falling back to sleep and waking up was the most restful sleep I've had in three months. For that hour... I remember the feelings, but ... what I think I remember of what went with them feels like unzipping a compressed file, or watching home movies on fast forward. Microsecond images, layered emotions.

This is what he will remember. A moment of total safety, love, contentment, security. He woke up cold and hungry, and Mother was there to make him warm and full.

This is what he will remember. When he is five and some precocious little girl thinks he's cute and kisses his cheek on the playground, he will remember that Mother kissed it first.

This is what he will remember.  When he is seven and he has to say goodbye to an elderly dog, he will remember that Mother makes it better.

This is what he will remember. When he is eleven and the hormones start making him a little crazy, he will remember that Mother sometimes feels a little crazy too.

This is what he will remember. When he is eighteen and graduating high school, when he looks at the boundless horizon of his looming adult life and feels afraid, excited, confused, invincible, and very very small all at once, he will remember that Mother will always make room for him, and strike out in confidence from that place of safety.

This is what he will remember. That from his earliest memories, Mother represents safety, comfort, feeling treasured, feeling secure, being challenged and built up, being supported and helped and even left to make mistakes and learn from them on his own, but most of all love. Being fully, wholly loved, without reservation or caveat.

And all of that is wonderful. It's amazing and beautiful and staggering in its vastness.

And it makes me deeply, unbearably sad.

And I don't know why.

Trying to figure it out is making me weepy again. In the time it's taken to write this out, I've stopped JJ chasing the cat with his play-stroller twice, changed three diapers, nursed Ana back to sleep and put her back in the swing. I want to cry, scream, shriek my pain at the heavens, or curl into a tight little ball and pretend the world goes away when I can't see it.

JJ knows something is off. He keeps coming up to me with a grape, a toy, a book, doing a silly dance or making faces, trying to distract me. After I got a little frustrated with him chasing the cat, suddenly I just stopped, picked him up, got him changed, and laid down on the bed with him for a minute. Just looking into his eyes. Told him Mommy was having a bad day, but I was gonna try really hard not to yell at him. Told him he could help me by by being kind to the cat and to his sister and doing what I ask the first time without whining. And for the past hour he's done just that. He just now buckled himself into that stroller (which he does when he wants to be reminded to stay put) and is quietly watching Sheriff Callie. Every few minutes he looks at me to see if Mommy is feeling better yet. It's not his normal "Mommy, come play with me" behavior, he's plainly been trying to jostle me out of my funk.

I think I'm going to let him.

Because all this feeling stuff is hurt-y and sore and it really kind of sucks.

And this other stuff over here, the loving stuff, this is better.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Modesty vs Breastfeeding in Church, Pt Two

Part One is my answer to a specific incident.

Part Two: A wider context 

If you read my blog regularly, you already know that I consider the Western attitude toward breastfeeding to be based on political/business-driven lies, antiquated, misogynistic, and just plain weird and silly. But this time I want to talk about that same attitude in the context of the Christian church community. Because it exists there too, often more insidiously than in the secular world, as proponents will use Scripture out of context to support the dogma of feminine modesty and mask the underlying oppressive and unBiblical attitudes toward women inherent in such a position.

Point of clarification? My church is full to bursting with amazing people who are supportive and nurturing and open to differing opinions and approaches to life. Over the years I have been a member, the subject of breastfeeding in public has come up several times, as my son was about six months old when I began attending services. The first time it was raised was when I asked the Pastor if it was alright to nurse JJ in the sanctuary. (Cut me some slack, this was 2 years ago and I wasn't nearly as confident then.) His response? "Of course! If you are comfortable, we are comfortable!"

Win-win, right?

Well, usually, yes. Most of the time, if someone is bothered, they're either willing to discuss it and try to understand my reasoning, or mature enough to select an option from the list I gave in Part One and mind their own business. But in the grand tradition of busybodies everywhere, there is always somebody who figures he or she is the authority on all things appropriate and it is her/his moral duty to censor the world and impose decency upon all. Within the Church, this presents a logical dilemma that we need to explore.

See . . . Jesus had his guys, but he also hung out with the chicks. A lot. And not necessarily the proper ladies of his day either. He pal'd around with the prostitutes, the divorced, the remarried, the single gals. He loved kids too. Given the lack of pharmaceutical birth control and Jesus' penchant for seeking out the ostracized, do you really think that there weren't any single mothers with fussy littles in the bunch? Unlikely. And to my mind, it seems even MORE unlikely that Jesus, who walked with tax collectors and Samaritans, Jesus who said "let the little children come to me," would be disturbed by the presence of a breastfeeding infant, require they use a bottle (really?), or demand that the mother and child remove themselves until they were finished with such an inappropriate activity.

That just doesn't track, folks. That dog don't hunt. Shop it somewhere else, I ain't buyin'.

Women were INVOLVED in the early Church. They didn't just cook and keep house and raise babies for the men, nor were they relegated to teaching baby sabbath school classes or singing in the choir, nosirreebob. There were women deacons, women pastors, women missionaries, and believe it or not, there's some argument that not all of them were married! You gotta know there were hungry babies at inconvenient moments, when they couldn't just drop everything and leave in order to feed a squalling infant. It doesn't make sense for those early teachers and ministers to have been subject to the modern idea that feeding a baby is indecent.

So I have a question, a question that pretty well encapsulates the whole issue for me . . . do we live under the curse of Adam or the sacrifice of Christ? Are we IN the world, or OF the world? Because, this idea that feeding a baby is immodest? It's a very secular, very modern idea. Even in the days when the Church dictated women's dress, behavior, and social activities to a degree aptly called "puritanical" in the modern mind, feeding a baby was a practical necessity and not considered immodest in any way, but a most ladylike and womanly activity. Mother found a convenient seat wherever she happened to be and fed the baby, and it was incumbent upon the men to look elsewhere.

Of course the Church has always been (overly?) concerned with female modesty, but it is difficult to discern whether these attitudes come from the church, or from the world. Very chicken and egg. At some point though, the Church has to look at the world's attitude that breasts are primarily sexual and question it. We have to ask ourselves why we, the Church, continue to bow to the worldly view that the female body is first and foremost a sexual object, and as such must either be displayed in the context of sexual attraction, or hidden away, lest a woman minding her own business tempt a male to sinful thoughts. We MUST ask the question, WHY do we continue to place the burden of preventing lustful thoughts or actions first upon the person lusted after, and upon the one lusting only as an afterthought? This is no different from the first response in Western culture to learning of a rape -- what was she wearing? Why does the Church continue to conform to the ways of the world in this matter???

It seems to me that it is long since time the Church took a hard look at how closely we follow worldly thinking on the topic of breastfeeding (as a subset of the feminine modesty issue) and insist on a paradigm shift. We need to acknowledge that while all human bodies CAN be sexual, that does not mean that female bodies are ALWAYS, or even PRIMARILY sexual. That while breasts are absolutely sensual and attractive in a sexual context, they need not be seen as sexual in EVERY context. So I ask again, are we IN the world, or OF the world?

Know how we change it? By deciding to change it. By saying "This is stupid, unhealthy, and impractical. We are adults who can discipline our thoughts, and by doing so, set example for our children." By taking a breath when we see a woman nursing a child, and instead of berating her and trying to hustle her away or cover the offending boob, we continue our conversation as though nothing untoward is happening. Because nothing untoward is happening! How do we teach our young people that there is nothing sexual, shameful, or immodest about a woman nursing her child? By not treating it as sexual, shameful, or immodest, but as normal, beautiful, healthy, and appropriate. These are societal constructs, nothing more, and by giving them credence inside the church, we give the world power where we should be honoring only God.

It's hard, but it is also simple.

We must choose to change.

Modesty vs Breastfeeding in Church, Pt One

My Answer

I'm having pretty gnarly post-partum issues the past couple of weeks (topic of a later post, PPD in real life). What happened Sunday afternoon was humiliating and brutal and instead of defending my child, I froze. Couldn't say a word. Did NOT cover her, but otherwise? Totally choked. Somehow though, I can't seem to muster the energy to get angry about it. I'm actually pretty f*****g miserable, if you care to know the truth, and I just don't have it in me to get mad about anything that does not fall under the heading of Survival Mode. It occurred to me that I can't be the only person this has happened to, and reading my response to the situation might help someone down the line. So here it is, my calm and prayerfully considered answer to, "Oh my gosh, what are you doing? Can't you cover up?? You're in church!!!"

When you eat lunch with your head under a blanket in the hottest part of the summer, then we can talk about me covering up my nursing child. Until then? Not gonna happen.

Please do not pretend that your concern is for the hypothetical men or children who might see "something inappropriate". It's insulting to all concerned. You are the person confronting me, be honest enough to own your issue.

Be prepared to deal with me ignoring you if I'm not up to debating the finer points of modesty vs. worldly thinking vs. personal responsibility. Because I'm running on fumes, and if I don't trust my mouth I may simply decide not to say anything at all and return my attention to the baby. It happened by accident this time, but on later reflection, it really doesn't seem like all that shabby of a fallback plan.

I am not flaunting myself, vying for attention, or trying to seduce or offend anyone. I am feeding my child, in the way God intended children to be fed.  You are the person looking at a nursing baby and interpreting it as something sexual. Might wanna talk to a pastor (or God or your therapist) about that, but in the meanwhile, stop blaming an infant for your inappropriate thoughts.

Incidentally, the dress I was wearing covers less when it is fully in place. As I have previously received your compliments on said garment, I can only conclude that you approve of the use of breasts as a fashion accessory or a means of drawing physical attraction, but not as the baby-feeding device they were designed to be. Give that some thought, cuz it seems a bit backwards. Also? Pretty sure God knows what my breasts look like, and approves of their use as baby-feeders in His house.

Ana is 10 weeks old, and breast-milk is her only food. You, however, are an adult, and thus you have several options for dealing appropriately with your discomfort.

          A) You can look at my face and continue our conversation. It's really not hard, several of those men & kids you profess such concern for do it every week. Other women too.
          B) You can direct your gaze anywhere else in this rather large room and find someone else to talk to. I promise, I won't get up from my comfortable chair by the wall and follow you about.
          C) You can just keep walking. Again, won't follow, promise.

You will note that deliberately and loudly shaming me, then snarkily commenting "Well FINE, if you're gonna be that way about it" and stalking off in a huff because I do not accede to your demand is nowhere on the list. Again, you are an adult, have enough personal responsibility to address your own moral dilemmas and not expect me to do it for you. Because I won't, not about this. I will not impede my daughter's ability to eat comfortably and breathe freely in order to save you the trouble of exercising two seconds of self-discipline. Same goes for hiding in a bathroom. Ew.

My baby comes first. Before your right to not be offended (which isn't actually a thing, by the way). Before my right to avoid harassment. Before anyone else's needs or wants or whims or sensibilities, my baby comes first.

Part Two explores the larger conversation that needs to be had.

Friday, August 22, 2014

About That Video I Just Saw

I just watched an amazing display of athleticism and skill, the video shared by a Christian educator whose faith I know well and whom I respect greatly as one of the few teachers who bothered to actually see me. I say this not to call out the person who shared the video, but to clarify that this is merely background information to set up my inquiry.

The demonstration was given by a person wearing what can be kindly described as minimalist swimwear, equipped only with body, mind, musical accompaniment, and a vertical pole affixed in the center of a viewing area.

It occurs to me to ask why no one is decrying the performance as immodest, obscene, too sexual, etc, or bemoaning the effect it's viewing might have on the libido/impure thoughts of our impressionable youth? Why is no one getting the vapors over the athlete's copious amounts of exposed skin or minimally covered naughty bits?

Oh, that's right . . . it's a guy. Now, because the athlete is male, it's a sport (it's called Mallakhamba, click for the nifty history). Because the athlete is male, it is #SafeForWork, suitable for sharing on social media, and completely appropriate for viewing by family members of all ages.

It actually is all of those things so far as I care, that's not what I'm being sarcastic about, just to clarify. I'm being just a teensy bit snarky over the undeniable fact that if the same Christian educator had shared the same video of a female clad in similarly minimal attire, all other factors being the same, a lot of people we both know would be losing their damn minds racing to light the torch and raise the pitchfork. Because, it's a girl! Too much skin!! Too much sexy!!! How dare she move her body in such a sensual, eye-catching way in a public place! How could you share such an inappropriate video?!?! There are CHILDREN watching!!! WON'T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!?!?!?

This is why #INeedFeminism, people. Because two otherwise identical athletic performances would be judged with wildly differing attitudes based solely on the physical sex of the athlete. This is why I have made conscious effort to get over modesty programming and gender-shame from the world I grew up in, because there are far too many situations where those rules only apply because I was not born with a penis. This is why I minimize gender-stereotypical toys and clothing for my children, and will NOT be teaching my daughter that her value as a person is dependent on whether or not she has had vaginal intercourse with a man, nor teaching my son that he is a slave to his eyes, hormones, or the awesome power of  The Magical Vagina.

I'm not mad. I'm not even upset. I'm just pointing out . . . if that were a female, people would be going absolutely crazy trying to shove a really impressive performance behind the curtain of "That's Not Appropriate".

Well . . . Appropriate is boring, and I've seen girls do it better.

Oh, the video?  Here ya go… the original user shared it as Public and has numerous similar presentations on YouTube, so I don't feel badly linking to this one on Facebook.

Sabado Gigante Mallakhamba

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming of baby cuteness.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Myths, culture, and a very sore tongue...

Yup, sore tongue, from biting it. As in "No, I will not flip out on the first-time mother who just regurgitated a half dozen of the most infuriatingly illogical anti-breastfeeding myths perpetuated on mothers in western society that boiled down to why my son is too old to still be nursing. I will take a breath and politely state that these things are not correct, and gently suggest that she do some research." Now, mind you, my son was not actually *with* me for this conversation, just my six week old daughter. The conversation was lovely, all "let them nurse until they're done!" until I had to go and mention (with, admittedly, some small degree of pride) that my almost-three year old son was still nursing, and at that point things instantly spiraled into raised brows, judgmental tones, and cultural myths about the proper age of weaning. "I'm all in favor of breastfeeding, but..."  (Here's a clue, if there's a "but" attached to that sentence, you're about to prove the exact opposite.)

Sore tongue. Very sore tongue.

Now, I could list every statement that made my teeth hurt, and rant about the ways they're wrong. I could link to peer-reviewed studies and medical journal articles and so on giving the current research which backs up the historical reality, but it's been done, a lot, by other bloggers who have more patience for hunting such things down. If you're reading this, you have access to search engines. Google "breastfeeding myths" and dive in, the education is endless.  (Okay, I'll link just one, because it's brilliant and fascinating and a great jumping off point. "A Natural Age of Weaning" by Kathy Dettwyler. Nutshell, natural human weaning can be expected anywhere from two and a half to seven years of age.)

I don't want to put out my own version of everything you'll find under the above mentioned search. I want talk about the culture that allows these lies (let's use the ugly word, because it's accurate) to become so ingrained that they are passed on, mother to daughter, educator to student, doctor to patient, without a second thought.

See, this idea that there is some predetermined age that is "too old", that breast-milk ever becomes bad or unhealthy or worthless, that mothers don't wean out of selfishness (or worse, are sexually abusing their older nurslings), all of these and more are inventions of western culture during the past century at the very most. Fifty years ago, it was still perfectly normal in the United States for a woman out and about with her nursling to simply unfasten her top and feed the hungry child. To this day, there are cultures all over the world, all along the scale of first-second-third-world nations, where it is STILL normal and expected that children will nurse at their mother's breast until the child simply no longer wants to breastfeed. Throughout history and around the world, breastfeeding dyads (that's mom and child) have been respected, protected, honored, and held up as metaphor for beauty, strength, trust, healthy relationships, etc. Breastfeeding to natural term, when *both* mother and baby are ready, is healthy and natural and has been the accepted norm for thousands of years. These modern ideas centered around "too old"... they make very little sense when you actually stop to think about it.

A couple of things to consider, just some starting points as food for thought...

------- When Samuel's mother took him to the Temple to serve the priesthood, it was when he was weaned. What use exactly would the aging Eli have had for a one year old??? Or even a two or three year old, for that matter.

------ A pacifier or thumb is seen as an acceptable substitute after weaning... and yet both have been shown to negatively impact the development of facial structure, alignment of teeth, speech, etc. Breastfeeding, no matter how extended, does not, and in fact has a positive effect on the development of the dental arch.  Logic fail.

------ Every time I have been questioned on natural term breastfeeding, I've discovered that the person thinks my son is still consuming ONLY breast milk. *facepalm* Yes, because a formula-fed toddler is still taking ONLY formula at nearly three. He eats a normal amount of food for his age and nurses to sleep, for comfort, to reconnect with me or his sister, if he's thirsty, scared, has a belly-ache, etc. At this age, breast milk has become ... what's that word the big companies use for the extra stuff they figure our young kids should be eating... Oh, yeah... *supplemental* to his solid food diet. Now, most kids will go through a picky phase. All those supplemental drinks and snacks marketed toward picky toddlers? Nature's answer: Breast milk. (Note: Breast milk does not provide sufficient amounts of vitamin D for even a small baby, so yes, Ana gets vitD drops along with her sunlight, because I burn easy and we don't get outside as much as I'd like.)

------ Let's just say, for argument's sake, that there is some arbitrary post-partum date upon which morn a mother's breast-milk no longer holds any nutritional value. (There isn't, but go with me here.) I'm nursing an almost-3 year old and a 6 week old infant, often at the same time. In order for the above assumption to prove correct, my body would somehow have to be switching between healthy, rich, nutrient-packed milk for Anabelle and ... well, I guess water? for JJ.  Just pause and think about that for a second. I'm good, friends, but I'm not that good.

------I have an almost-three who generally does as he's told, most days goes to sleep within 30 minutes of bedtime, sleeps through the night, does not throw screaming fits or tantrums, is healthy and strong and frighteningly smart, and six weeks in shows no evidence of being the least bit jealous of his baby sister. Tell me exactly how removing the ONE guaranteed never-fail comfort and connection tool from this equation makes sense?

------ While this is changing, doctors as a rule (even pediatricians) do not receive accurate up to date education about breastfeeding in their years of education and training. They have to seek this information out in their own time, of which they have very little. So they fall back on the decades old fiction devised by formula companies and perpetuate the myth that cow's milk or formula is somehow better for humans than... wait for it... *human* milk.

I couldn't resist, I cracked right up when I saw this.

SO... a first time mom spouted a bunch of the usual "he's too old!" sound-bites at me. It's actually not her that I'm mad about. It's the medical professionals who didn't get the right information in school and so repeat to new mothers the lies dreamed up a century ago by formula companies. It's the backwards cultural paradigm that places sexual display and individual discomfort at a higher value than the natural process of feeding one's child. It's the reality that the mothers least able to afford formula and processed "supplemental" drinks and foods are the ones most targeted by the companies which produce them, all subsidized by a government that refuses to acknowledge we are the only developed, industrialized nation in the world without federally mandated paid maternity leave.

Rather than educating mothers about the free, healthy, and generally unlimited bounty produced by their own magnificent bodies, we allow these myths to be passed on, year after year. THAT is what makes me mad, not one young woman with her first child doing what her __insert authority figure___ said and needing to be validated that she is doing right by her child.

So no, I will not force-wean my son before he decides he is ready. I promise, there isn't a ten year old boy alive who wants it known that he still gets milk straight from the tap. Pretty sure he'll give it up sometime before middle school.

No, I will not hide my son's nursing away at home, or refuse him milk just because a stranger might see and disapprove, anymore than I will subject my daughter to unnecessary and uncomfortable coverings for the sake of another's potential offense.

No, I will not pretend it's okay when -
              - people suggest I haven't weaned him because I am not ready. Because I really love having my breasts poked by an insistent two year old umpteen times a day. Okie dokie.                                                - Or that I'm making him too dependent and anti-social. Come meet him, he's anything but.
              - Or that he'll never bond with or trust anyone else. He asks for Daddy first thing every day. He sits and plays solitaire with his grandmother. He calls his various aunties on Skype without needing my help to do it. He abandons me to play chase with other littles at the drop of a hat.
              - Or that I should have weaned before Ana came because now he'll be jealous and won't learn to share. See photographic evidence below to the contrary.
              - Or that I am sexually abusing my son by allowing him to take nourishment and comfort at my breast alongside his baby sister.
Seriously, I will junk punch you.

I will not do these things. I will not hide, I will not be ashamed, I will not give tacit admission that there is anything wrong here. Because this conversation needs to be had. Children need to see mommies nursing babies, and toddlers, and even (legasp!) preschool and elementary age kids, and be allowed to ask questions. I don't get flustered when a curious 5/8/12 year old walks up while I'm nursing Ana or JJ and asks questions, I answer. Why? Because that is how we get back to a world where feeding a child is normal.

By feeding our children and treating it as normal.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

So, it finally happened...

Two and a half years in, someone finally got in my face about breastfeeding in public.

Well . . . sort of in public. Since apparently anywhere not within the confines of my house is technically "public".

Was it the two year old? Because, really shouldn't he. . . Stop. First, he'll wean when he's darned good and ready. Second, no, it wasn't the two year old, it was his sister, a thirteen day old infant who is still a bit shy of her birth weight. Third, had it been the two year old, dramatically less of my breast would have been visible, because he's happy with just the nip and can largely handle positioning himself.

Were you just out on the street somewhere? Because, public breastfeeding. . . Stop. We were at the pediatrician's office. Not that it would have mattered. An hour before I was in a public park mere yards from the well-populated jogging path doing the exact same thing and nobody so much as looked at us sideways.

Ah, well, if you were breastfeeding out in the waiting room. . .  Stop. We were in a private exam room. Not that it would have made a difference. See above.

Huh. Well, if another patient was walking past the door and objected. . . Stop. The door was closed, and the person who objected was a female nurse. That's right, a trained medical "professional" took it upon herself to communicate that my exposed tit with a baby hanging off the end was a shameful thing that needed to be hidden from sight as quickly as possible.

Hold on, there, Miss Hyperbole, surely she didn't
SAY that?? Not in so many words, no.

She was done with all the pre-doctor vitals & such business with Ana, and was puttering about the room "tidying". I've never seen a nurse take so much time in an exam room after the pre-doc workup is complete. I didn't think anything of it at the time, because Ana was fussing from being stripped down & poked & prodded, and she was rapidly heading toward Screechville, so my focus was on getting her latched & calmed down. Which was easily accomplished, thanks to a nice wide bench seat in that room. Padded arms, even. Lovely.

At this point, the nurse said "Do you want...", dove into the bottom of the cart that held the baby scale, and retrieved a towel. I thought she was going to roll it up and offer it as a prop to put my arm on (which I would have accepted gladly, near to 8 pounds gets heavy fast!), but no. She shook it out, and without saying another word, proceeded to spread it across my chest and nursing infant, blocking my view of Ana's face and what she was doing with her mouth and what I was doing with my hands to hold and help her.

When I came on messenger that evening foaming at the mouth over the incident, a very dear friend said to me, "I pity the fool! What did you say?!?"

What did I say? I was stunned. Floored. Astounded. For a very very brief moment, I was actually speechless.

You, speechless? I don't believe it.  Yeah, yeah. Shush, you.

I said, "No, thank you." She ignored me and kept spreading and patting and even tucking, seemingly determined to eliminate every last crease and wrinkle that might possibly reveal flesh. There were hands in places that frankly only my husband's hands should ever go without getting my express permission first.

I said, "I don't want her covered, please." The nurse's response was to flip the bottom two inches off Ana's face, leaving her mouth and my hands and chest still covered. Then she started to argue with me.

"Oh, well, you know someone might see while we've got the door open, dear."

"I don't care. Anybody who works in a pediatrician's office that has a problem with boobs is the wrong line of work."  The other nurse in the room, who had been awkwardly silent until now, chuckled at this, started to say something that from her tone sounded supportive, but was talked over when the first nurse kept nattering on.

"Oh, well, you know it might be one of the other patients..."

"I don't CARE. That'll be their problem, not ours!" I took a hand away from proceedings at this point to pull the towel off and throw it aside, and of course Ana lost her latch without the support of that hand, because my breast is still bigger than her whole head. So I had to get a now fussing baby latched again, while I'm pissed and listening to the nurse going on still.

"She doesn't care. Well, alright, I'm sorry if I offended you."

If, she says. IF.  Then there's that tone. You know the one. Tends to be employed by fussy-britches who begin their statements with phrases such as "Well, I never!" and communicates the sense of "You clearly don't know what's good for you and you're not going to listen, so fine, have fun making a show of yourself, you tawdry thing."

Oh, and did I mention it was nearly 6pm and we were the last appointment of the day?

SO. Let's break down exactly what is screwed up about this scenario.

1.) There was no "public". This was a private exam room, with a door, populated by myself, my husband, my infant daughter, and two female nurses, all of whom have presumably seen the female body in its full glorious nudity at some point or other.

2.) The person who objected was (yes, you read this right) a female medical professional working in a pediatric office whose stated mission includes supporting breastfeeding mothers. A woman herself, with ample breasts of her own, a NURSE, was so bothered by the sight of my breast that she felt justified in violating my personal space and interfering in my daughter's ability to feed. The excuse of protecting a hypothetical "someone" who might possibly pass by the very briefly open door from a tenth-of-a-second glimpse of bare breast is exactly that, an excuse. This hypothetical individual has the ability to look away, and social norms teach us that it is impolite to stare into someone else's exam room anyway. Given that it was, as I mentioned, nearly 6pm and we were the only patients still in the office, the chances of this occurring were exactly zero, and thus I can only conclude that the person who was actually bothered was the so-called "professional" who was tucking an unwanted towel around my breasts.

3.) "Do you want" and proceeding to cover me without actually finishing the question or giving me time to respond does NOT constitute getting permission to touch me, OR my daughter. If I had wanted to use a cover, I would have brought one, or asked for one. Because I'm an adult. I can use my words. Thanks.

4.) Feeding a brand-squeaking-new infant requires an unencumbered breast, both hands, and visual contact, especially when Mommy wears Ogre-Fiona-size brassieres. Deal.

5.) Federal law and Illinois state law protect a mother's right to breastfeed her child, covered or not, anywhere that mother has legal right to be. The comfort of random strangers does not enter into those sections of the law. Period.

6.) This is the biggest one. . . it is severely messed up that in two and a half YEARS of breastfeeding my son, not one single person, stranger or otherwise, has been unpleasant to me, and the very first time it happens, it's a medical professional shoving her definition of modesty into my baby's meal space. I'm actually rather glad it happened to me, vs some first time uncertain mommy who might take a hard blow from an incident like that. We need to think about this as a culture, what are we saying to women, breastfeeding mothers, when we tell them that the biological purpose behind those soft fleshy curves is something that needs to be hidden? What are we saying, when MEDICAL STAFF use their perceived authority to force a nursing mom to cover up when she doesn't want to? What are we really objecting to here, folks? Think about it.

Two weeks post-partum is the point where supply starts to regulate, and you start to get a break from the constant cluster-feeding because baby's tummy is a bit bigger. It's also the point where a LOT of moms give up because they're exhausted, sleep deprived, their breasts hurt, their hormones are still wondrously screwy, and someone, somewhere, says just exactly the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time. Mentions how formula would be so much easier, or asks why she doesn't just pump and use a bottle, or pulls a face when mom sneaks out just barely enough boob to feed the baby, or mentions that mom will have to go back to work in a month, so what's she going to do then, or suggests that since she's going to be a SAHM anyway, why doesn't she just stay home when the baby needs to eat? SO many women give up on a huge benefit to their babies right around this time, often because friends, family, or total strangers can't keep their mouths shut and mind their own business.

What are we saying to mothers, by allowing this continued cultural hissy fit about "modesty in breastfeeding"? We are saying that the immediate gratification and convenience of bottles, and alleviating other people's potential offense/discomfort are more important than the health and emotional benefits (for baby AND mom!) of breastfeeding. Convenience and not offending random strangers on the street is more important than the health and well-being of a mother and child.

That. Is. Messed. Up.

Ana is two weeks old, and still learning how to nurse effectively. Breastmilk is her only food, and will continue to be so likely for the entire first year of her life, and a significant part of her diet for as long after that as she chooses to nurse. In the end, it's not about my rights at all, it's about hers. Her right to eat when she needs to eat, without interference, obstacles, or ignorant strangers making it harder than it needs to be. Her right to experience sunlight and breezes and new situations,  to breathe fresh air, to make eye contact with her mother. Ana's small size and inability to communicate do not negate those rights. Her right to sustenance, easily and comfortably obtained comes before the potential social discomfort of older people who can choose to look away, and as her mother, I will defend her rights because that is my job. If you are offended, well... tough, my baby comes first.

It really is that simple.

(Because someone will ask, the doctor came in right as this nurse was leaving, saw the look on my face, and asked me what happened. She was just as bothered as I was, apologized profusely, and promised to educate her staff so this would not happen again. As I very much like this doctor, I'm good with that.)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Lessons Learned

So, five days into baby #2, I've already noticed a few things I'm pointedly doing differently from how I did them with JJ. Some things are just happening differently, others are "yeah, we're not doing that this time".  It's a bit of a mind warp to realize.

1. Taking the Anne Geddes pictures.  Oh, I took tonnes of pictures when JJ was born, you all know this, but I didn't really take the "posed" stuff as a rule. This time, yeah, doing it.

Because they only do this for the first few weeks.

2. Naps.
 Cute, right?
You might think that's a picture of JJ... until you look closer and realize that in the upper left is the rocking elephant I *just* gave to JJ about six months ago. Nope, that's Anabelle, and she's having a nap in the living room.

See, with JJ, we put him to sleep in his cosleeper, in the bedroom, with a CD of a thunderstorm playing, or a fan blowing, for white noise. Then we proceeded to tiptoe and whisper and treat the sleeping baby like an active IED, because, clueless first-timers. It got us a two year old who Will. Not. Sleep. anywhere else unless he's so tired he just can't keep his eyes open anymore.

I am absolutely determined that Ana is going to learn to sleep when she needs sleep, regardless of what noise is going on around her. So except for actual night-time sleeping, she hasn't napped in the bedroom, but out in the common areas with the normal household activities going on. Neither am I letting anyone constantly shush the two year old (though he is getting lessons in the concept of "indoor voices").  Right this minute, Ana is sleeping with her head pillowed on my knee, on the living room couch, with the tv on (at a normal volume), and right outside the wide-open windows, John is mowing the grass and JJ is harassing the dog. Loudly.

 She's not even twitching.

3. Charting breastfeeds and diapers.  Most moms will recognize this, or something like it:

Or maybe you used an app on your preferred electronic device. When JJ was born, trixietracker.com was my best friend. (And it's GREAT, for those of you who like to track diapers, feeds, meds, naps, etc.) Except it really really wasn't a good thing for me at all. My massively OCD self got extremely hung up on all the beautiful numbers it allowed me to keep track of, and it turned into a source of stress when baby didn't behave according to the charts.

So this time? Not doing that. Just not. Like, at all. I've been keeping it in my head day by day what diapers I got the day before, and that is good enough. I'm not writing down feed times, whether she started on the left or the right, or giving myself minutes of feeding time to obsess over. Just not. She's gaining weight and requiring diapers changed, and even if I leave her entirely to her own devices she's not slept longer than 3 hours at a stretch. Today I'm purposely getting her up to feed more often, trying to get her to do more of the cluster-feeding during the day, because I like sleep, but otherwise?

So. Not. Tracking. ANYTHING.
4. Introductions to pets.  With JJ, I didn't let the cats anywhere near him until he was turning over on his own, and certainly not when he was sleeping.  No, I don't have any silly ideas about the cat sucking the breath from the baby. But the smallest of my cats outweighs a newborn by a good fifteen pounds. So squashing the baby is a definite possibility.

Unbelievable cuteness.

See, Minnows loves babies. He adored JJ and made a very effective feline babysitter once I allowed him around the baby. So that's happening early this time too. And seriously, LOOK at that face. How can I say no? 

5. Cosleeping. Right from the get go. With JJ, he stayed in the cosleeper at first. I lasted 4 nights being woken up every 30 minutes by a crying infant. By the time he had his first checkup, I was so completely fried I could barely keep my eyes open. That doctor told me to bring him into the bed, just keep the pillows & blankets away from him and put him between me and the cosleeper, not me & daddy. It worked, suffice to say. This time? Right straight to the bedsharing. First two nights, I swapped beds with JJ so I could put the baby between me and the wall. Then it was just too much to remember, because that means putting JJ to sleep in our bed, and he's not used to it and doesn't sleep as well, etc. So we switched back, and the last couple of nights have been much smoother. She's got a little DIY "moses basket" made out of pool noodle that creates a small protected space, but otherwise? Right in next to mama the way we like it.

Baby's gonna go out into the yard for the first time here as soon as she wakes up, which is also different, but that's due to the season, not the life lessons of child #2! It was sorta winter when JJ was this size, and yeah, going outdoors with the baby is a lot easier in the summer time!

So how 'bout it, folks? What did you do differently with kid #2?