Friday, September 12, 2008

Show me yours and I won’t show you my disdain

In the mommy blogging world there is a bit of a boobygate going on. One of the most loved of the mommy bloggers, Her Bad Mother, recently had a rather unfortunate and jarring breastfeeding experience while on a West Jet flight. A flight attendant suggested that she cover herself up while breastfeeding when she not only finds doing so difficult, but quite correctly states that there should be no need for this.

It all has me thinking of my own stressful and tumultuous breastfeeding experiences.

L.E. is 5 months old now and has been weaned off the booby for 2 months already. With D. Jr. I lasted for what seemed like an eternity, but in actuality was only 7 months. My babies cannot latch on to my boobs very well due to what seems like a number of reasons – our collective physiologies, their nipple preferences, my inability to “get it” when it came to breastfeeding and so on. The only way that I could “comfortably” breastfeed my children was to be braless and just hike the shirt up and let them have at it. A blanket or any other cloaking device just made things near impossible for me. No matter what I did, I had to accept that after breastfeeding I would have a wet spot on my shirt about the size of a dinner plate. Needless to say this exciting and attractive combination of factors meant that I NEVER personally felt comfortable breastfeeding in public so I NEVER did. Seriously – with D. Jr. I hardly left the house for 7 months and had a program of pumping and supplementing for my brief outings. With L.E. my borderline PPD meant that I really forced myself to go out more and also meant that she drank way more pumped booby juice and formula than D. Jr. did, resulting in bottle nipple preference and early weaning (and perhaps also resulting in my being drug and shrink free right now).


Why did I go to these “extremes?” Why did I carry on with breastfeeding when everyone around me was telling me to stop and saying it was driving me over the edge (true)? Why did I spend 10 out of 30 months feeling pretty much housebound? Because I firmly believe that breast is best and I wanted to give my children that advantage for as long as possible (which turned out to be not that long). I wanted them to have the benefits of boob, but I could not comprehend having to bf in a mall foodcourt, braless and drenched and frustrated, when I saw how breastfeeding pros were looked at when feeding their babes in public. I know a few breastfeeding mavens who seem to able to whip it out and latch children on in nanoseconds so discreetly that you hardly notice it’s happening. However, when I have been out and about with these gals I have noticed more than a few scornful glances pointed in their directions.

I want to stress that I do not think that breastfeeding should be forced on women. It should definitely be a choice and it is not for everyone for a wide variety of reasons. I feel like I can speak for both sides on this one, having been made to feel both good and bad about breastfeeding and good and bad about stopping. For me, the only common denominator between boobyfeeding and formula feeding was guilt and shame, so I say stop the booby judgment already. However, for all of us that have made the choice to bf our kids, for however long, wouldn’t it be great to be in a society where one could just bf comfortably and not worry about the potential for stress and duress and scorn every time we do that most basic and fundamental of mommy things? (Similarly, I think the “breastfeeding Gestapo” out there needs to stop making women feel bad every time they pop open a can of formula.)

I understand that lots of folks may not like spotting a stranger’s nips for two seconds, may not want to see breastfeeding in action, or maybe even don’t want their kids or their men having the opportunity to look at strange women’s boobs. Yeah, I get that. But I have a very simple solution – avert your eyes. That’s right, if you don’t like it, simply look somewhere else. There are lots of things that we all see when we are out and about in public that we don’t like or don’t agree with or that make us uncomfortable. Generally, we don’t say mean things or run over with a blanket when we see couples in overt public displays of affection, women showing way too much cleavage, or very short hemlines on folks who would be better off in tasteful knee-length A-lines. I can think of many ugh-ly things that I have seen in my days at the public library – exposed colostomy bags, black bras under white shirts, sequins and gold lame as daywear (the horror!), foot fungus, hand warts, possible herpes outbreaks – that I have simply ignored. Yeah, I was TOTALLY grossed out, but it seemed inappropriate to tell the possibly homeless guy with a large number of hand warts to cover his bad self up. Couldn’t we give breastfeeding moms this same amount of leeway and respect?

At IGA the other day, a lovely average Albertan male was swearing loudly into his cellphone and smelled a bit of the drink (and it was 2:00 pm, yet). I wanted to say, “Please don’t swear like that around my 3 year old.” But then I remembered that the world doesn’t revolve around me and my kids (perhaps I’m making progress). If my 3 year old were to ask about it I would simply explain something to the effect that the man was angry and using bad words (like almost all of us do from time to time) and move on. The world doesn’t revolve around kids or moms or louts, right? So why not live and let live and short of fornication in public, defecting on the streets, IV drug use in public and so on, how about we all just avert our eyes and save how scandalized we are for water cooler chit chat or the martini hour. Come sit next to me, as I can’t wait to hear all about the hairy nipples you saw on the subway, bad body odour, the t-shirt that said “A best way to a woman’s heart is through her sternum” (really), and peep toe pumps and stockings (I know “they” say it’s ok now, but, come on, put heeled boots on already and call it a day).

Done now.


At 10:34 PM , Blogger MikeTotman said...

"Defecting" in public?! Damn commies!

At 10:40 PM , Blogger Momily said...

Indeed. It's a horrible sight to see especially when they are defacating defectors.

At 11:12 AM , Anonymous Sarah said...

I was shocked when I read the story of the WestJet woman being asked to cover up while nursing. I have been on several flights with Tristan (WestJet and others) where I have nursed him and I have never witnessed anything like that. I cover up because it makes me more comfortable, but I have witnessed many other nursing mothers on the flights not cover up and no one has said a thing. I am surprised someone said something to this woman. I have been lucky I guess as a breastfeeding mother to never have been approached while feeding my child in public. The closest I have come to strangers commenting on the act is when another mother stops to tell me how great it is to see someone nursing in public. I guess I was naive enough to think it wasn't as big a deal anymore. I guess sometimes it still is.

I agree that we need to try to curb the judgement on both sides of the fence. I was lucky enough to have a very easy time breastfeeding Tristan and it has been a wonderful experience that we have both enjoyed. If I ever have another baby, I will definitely do it again. I don't understand why this issue is still such a big deal. Whether you do it or not, and whether you do it in public or not should be between you and your baby, not the whole world...

At 11:46 AM , Blogger Laura said...

Was that me with the black bra??? O h shit! I had nothing else to wear that day! I knew I would be called out on it!!!:)


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