After reading Sara’s post on Suburban Oblivion and watching Bill Maher make his incredulous statements on breastfeeding, I felt compelled to get in on the debate. If you haven’t seen the video, go watch. If you’re pressed for time, you can skip the about 2:51 left in the video, and that’s where it gets juicy. Have you watched it? Good. Read on.
I am very lucky. I grew up in a family that was very breast-oriented, that is, breastfeeding oriented. I remember, at 11 years watching my 19 year old cousin nurse her baby boy and thinking to myself: I hope my nipples NEVER get that brown! I remember my mom, who never hid her body from her daughters, telling us that her breasts were so small and limp because we sucked the life out of them. I remember my cousin’s wife nursing her son at my bridal shower, and hearing other mothers telling her how nice it was to see a young mother nursing her baby.
It was never a question of whether or not I was going to breastfeed my children. That’s how I was raised: breast is best, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
When I had Sacha, I was determined. I had heard that nurses will often slip babies the bottle in the nursery without consulting the parents, so I made a sign for his bassinet at the hospital that read: My mommy and I are learning how to breastfeed, so if I am crying or hungry, please bring me to my mommy. I was fortunate enough to have a fantastic nurse who helped me every step of the way with those initial difficulties, and by the time I went home, I was a fully engorged nursing mama.
We had friends visit us that first day at home, and I did not cover up to nurse. I was still learning, and I needed to see what the heck I was doing! Our friend Brad was a little uncomfortable, but he just made a point of playing with our cat rather than stare directly at the breasts, and we were all fine. When my mom and stepfather visited, I didn’t cover up in front of him, either. It was my house, my breasts. As I had more visitors, I became comfortable nursing in front of others without feeling the need to hide. In fact, the only place I ever covered up was in restaurants or mall benches. Not really because I felt I needed to, but it seemed to be the acceptable thing to do. And at that point, Sacha was still letting me cover him up. That changed after a few months, when he figured out how to use his hands to grace the world with a view of my breasts as he smacked and smiled at them while he enjoyed his meal.
I never let the fact that I breastfed stop me from living my life. I nursed in church, at the doctor’s office, in the staff room of my husband’s work, in the mall, in the grocery store, in the library, in restaurants, in my car, at Starbucks, in several airplanes, and in airports. Sometimes I covered up, sometimes I didn’t. I never intended to make people uncomfortable, I just wanted to feed my son. I wasn’t trying to pleasure myself, and although I have grown to love the bonding I share with Sacha when he nurses before bed, somehow, I don’t think that it’s the same as Bill Maher gets from fondling his sausage.
And so I persevere. I will nurse my second one, probably while chasing a toddler around the mall while the baby is clinging to my breast and my cover blanket has gone to the wayside, and I will not be ashamed or embarrassed by my breasts, performing their God-intended function. And I hope you won’t be embarrassed either. I’m not asking you to look, but I am asking you to support those mothers, like me, who don’t want to spend their lives in hiding trying to conceal the mystery of nursing, and who would like to be a part of the greater world WITH her children.