When I found out that I was going to be a mother, my whole world was shaken. My body was shaken. I felt my stomach spasm. I felt my soul shudder. I was terrified. I’m not ashamed to say it. Why should I be? It was an event that I felt totally unprepared and unqualified for. It was something that I still hadn’t decided I wanted. It was something that would change the entire course of my life. Why the hell is it not okay for a woman or man to freak the hell out and maybe spend some days crying about?
I know that there are many people out there who are fighting and longing to have children. I think that having that kind of love in your heart for a person that doesn’t exist yet is an incredibly beautiful thing. I didn’t have that sort of feeling about being a mother. And some dads don’t have that feeling either. The children come and you love them. You are willing to lay your life down for them. Show me the train speeding toward my child and I will gladly hurl them to safety and embrace my worthy demise.
But that doesn’t mean that parenting isn’t hard sometimes grinding experience. This was how I felt most often when my son was a baby. I didn’t feel like some women felt. There were mothers who fawned over their babies and hoped they’d wake up from their nap just so that she could see her baby’s beautiful eyes. I loved my baby’s eyes. But I loved his eyelids more.
As a naturally slow moving person, every nerve in my body fired electric when my son woke up screaming for food, not in 5 minutes, but right now. As a disorganized and spontaneous person, I’d curse myself every time I forgot to pack fresh washcloths or a bib.
But there were some things that I was proud of. In the hospital, after my son was born, the nurses came around and told me that my son was nursing perfectly. He needed no instruction. He was a born professional. Wow, this was easier than I had hoped I thought.
Then the pain started. Then the pain became excruciating. You see, the nurses had glanced down at my nursing son, saw him sucking away, and determined that all was well. But actually, he had developed a habit of latching on improperly. He was sucking on my nipple and not the entire areola.
I know that I have male readers as well and I don’t want for you to feel like you’re intruding on a private conversation among women. You’re not. I want you here. You are fathers and husbands and boyfriends. More importantly, you’re human beings. As human beings we should be open to understanding each other despite differences. the more we can know and understand, the more love and appreciation grows. Not to mention you may have a woman friend one day who has a baby and maybe you can say, “Hey, watch out for this issue. I read about this problem you might encounter as a new mom.” That’s called showing someone love, and that is not regulated by gender.
Anyhow, I found myself crying desperately as pain shot through my breasts. I could barely think. Time that should’ve been spent bonding with my beautiful baby who already loved me too was spent cringing in pain. I no longer looked forward to feeding, which I had at the start. I dreaded it.
Thankfully, on my last day in the hospital one of the women who works in the hospitals Lactation Center came around to my room to check on me. I told her what I was going through, that the nurse said he was doing well, and she set me straight. She showed me the proper way. It took time for my nipples to heal and to retrain my son to properly nurse. But once those things happened, I was the biggest advocate for breastfeeding.
The fact that he refused to accept a bottle of any kind made my breastfeeding efforts even more important. I tried every type of bottle that was supposed to feel real and he rejected every one of them. Thank goodness that I was able to produce milk and have time with my son to regularly nurse. Everything was all good.
And then. Then I was out of the hospital and back to life. I remember one day my now ex-husband and myself decided to just go cruise around the mall because I was feeling trapped in the very small world of our condo.
Inevitably the kid got hungry and started screaming his dear little guts out. To see the kid, you’d think I had just been pulling out his nose hairs one by one with tweezers. We found a bench in the emptiest corner of the mall and I pulled out his blanket, whipped out my boob under it and tried to nurse him. He didn’t want to be covered up. He was interested in the sights around him and probably hot from all that crying.
I covered my breast and his face with the blanket; he pulled it off. Again and again this repeat. Remember, I’m a struggling mom. This is one of my few times out with him. (I was really terrified as a new mom and hardly left the house with him alone but that’s for another post).
So what was there left to do? I was perfectly fine with saying screw the world, my breasts are designed for this. Fuck you if you’re offended seeing a breast with a child attached. But that’s not what happened. I took my husband’s and societies definitions of acceptable and walked my baby into a mall bathroom to feed him freely.
Excuse me, but what the fuck. How many of you take your lunch into a bathroom to eat?
So not only was I relegated to feeding my son in a bathroom to the sound track of people flushing all manners of body trash, I had to stand up to do it. Outside was a bench and clean air, but as a breastfeeding mom, society told me to take standing in a bathroom. That was my place.
I cried. I was a new mom. I was standing in the bathroom. We had been walking a lot and my back was hurting. Breastfeeding makes a woman’s core temperature rise, so I was hot. And I started crying. You see, I realized when I got pregnant that I’d face some miserable moments, and I did. During the pregnancy and afterwards, often in the middle of the night or day or morning. Whatever, it popped up all the time.
But those times of misery were in service to my baby. This misery was in service to people I didn’t even know and who didn’t give a damn about me.
I felt like an outcast. I felt like I had sacrificed my freedom and my place in the world. I felt like a bad mom for putting my child to nurse in this crappy environment. Back at home, his dad insisted that everyone wash their hands before touching our new baby, but here I was in a public restroom. I felt like I was allowing an injustice and going along with it.
And guess what folks? I was.
My daughter was born prematurely. When I went home from the hospital, she had to stay behind. That was tough. And that is an understatement. The staff in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit told me that they best thing that I could do for her is give her breast milk.
Okay. Of course. So I pumped milk every 2 hours, even when only 4 drops was all I could produce at first (no exaggeration). And everyday I drove down to the hospital so that I could hand over the precious liquid. As the days passed, I produced more milk and she soon was able to use a bottle.
I was missing the connection of breastfeeding so much, so imagine how happy I was when I was told by staff that she had gotten big enough and strong to nurse. Till this day, it’s one of the happiest moments of my life.
But when I took her out in public, I had two choices. Option 1 was to nurse in public and put a blanket over her sweet face while she looked up at me in careful study and satisfaction. Babies and moms get a great rush of happy hormones when they nurse. Eye contact during any type of feeding is very bonding. (This is way it’s great for dad’s to take part in feedings as well). But who cares about that. Put your boob away! Option 2 was to forget about the blanket and find a freaking bathroom to stand in. Either option is a buzzkill of a beautiful experience, and for what? Because society has an issue with women nursing in public.
A lot of the same people who have no problem ogling breasts in tv and movies find a problem with women nursing in public. Who owns breasts anyway?
There’s a movement going on: Free the Nipple. I’ve been hearing about it here and there, and honestly I hadn’t much looked into it until recently. I heard that women walked the streets of New York and other cities topless. I wasn’t sure what kind of message that was sending.
I do know that wearing bras has an adverse effect on women’s health. I do know that the male dominated film industry has been capitalizing on women’s breasts for fucking ever. I do know that I want to feed my baby in the least stressed condition possible. I know that hormones good and bad are passed to our children while they nurse.
As for me, I barely wear a bra anymore. That’s also for another post. I’ll try to make it soon! My male readers have certainly perked up I’m sure.
Anyhow, I was listening to a Stuff Mom Never Told You podcast (which I highly recommend) and the episode entitled “Nipple Nonsense” introduced me to the reasons, the logic, behind the Free the Nipple movement. Wow was I enlightened.
Turns out that women are getting arrested in various parts of the country for the crime of breastfeeding in public, also known as public lewdness, or indecent exposure. What?
I suppose that it’s indecent because men have relegated the breasts as sexual objects superior to their purpose as functional objects. They are made for nursing! How can that be lewd? How are people not seeing a difference between a nursing breast and any old tit? And I won’t just blame men. There are many women who find breastfeeding in public, or in front of anyone for that matter, lewd.
Back in the day, the men of New York decided to throw a fit and demand that their nipples be freed. Male nipples were considered inappropriate for public consumption, even at the beach.
They protested. They were arrested. Eventually, in 1936, they won. They freed their nipples. When men go to the beach, they take their shirt off and get a goodly tan. Women get sent to prison.
Part of what Free the Nipple is advocating is freedom to rule over our bodies in the same way that men can in the same situations. Women can walk down the beach with a thread up their ass (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and a sliver of thread on their boob, or X marks the spot tape, but as soon as that areola is showing, here come the law books.
What that says to me is that the problem isn’t truly about breasts. It’s just about the nipple. Women’s nipples are more powerful than men’s nipples, I suppose. And bare-chested men, apparently, are not at all titillating. Right ladies?
Of course you don’t find this any more attractive than if he were wearing a shirt.
Not! The idea here is that women have no sexual desire, so we can control ourselves around shirtless men. So the reverse implication seems to be that men, on the other hand, cannot control themselves. Women breastfeeding in public?
Society can’t allow such lewd and titillating behavior?
I feel that society will never get used to breasts, and that women will never be able to reclaim their breasts, if we continue to feed the idea that the female nipple is shameful. How many of you women have been totally embarrassed because you were cold and your nipples were showing? How many of you feel that despite the health benefits of going braless, you’d rather not because it will be perceived as slutty?
We women are always demanding that we be seen as valuable, and we want women’s contributions to society to be viewed as valuable, as they should be. I personally cannot think of many things more valuable than a mother having the gift of being able to nurture her child. I say gift because, sadly, some women don’t get the privilege. But here we are criminalizing it. Of course, the generations will keep being shocked if we aren’t striving to do our part to normalize it.
It’s my view that future generations will laugh at our prudeness. Some will say it’s because the world is deteriorating into a hotbed of moral corruption, and in many ways that’s true, but in many ways we are coming to realize that Nature had things right in the first place. It’s us that screwed things up.
I’d rather my son see a nursing mother in the mall and I say, “Isn’t it so cool, son, how women can produce their own milk source for their babies?” than to have to walk past an 8 foot poster of a Victoria Secret model’s boobs being held and squeezed together in our faces. Breastfeeding creates a natural and positive appreciation for women. The bra boobs creates a natural and (sometimes) positive appreciation of breasts, in a sexual way. Let’s be honest, both feelings are natural.
Think about this, please. If we as a society allow breasts to be broadcasted in every sexual way, yet deny their appearance as real objects of value, what message does that send? And what a missed opportunity to educate children (and some grown ups) on the value of women’s bodies. There was a time when pregnant women were kept hidden away so that children wouldn’t be corrupted. The kids got used to it.
What do you think readers? Is a woman’s breast something to be kept always under wraps? Do you think that there should be exceptions to our current cage the nipple laws? Do you, or have you, freed the nipple? Do you feel like the breast being involved changes the nipple dynamic between men and women?
What about little girls and boys who are equally flat-chested? Should little boys have the freedom and comfort of toplessness while flat-chested, prepubescent girls cover up?
Tell me what you think about our nipples and breastfeeding and equal toplessness at the beach. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts, and thanks for listening to mine. Men, I’d like to hear from you too. Thank you kindly.