Monday, November 28, 2011

Excuse Me Miss, Your Breast is Showing


Let’s talk breasts. And don’t make me do this again. This is getting SO old.

A local woman was recently reprimanded for breastfeeding her baby in the courtroom. I may have expressed disgust, to a group of friends, at the idea that breastfeeding ever be considered inappropriate. Ok, so I did express disgust. That disgust, in turn, was thrown right back at me. What was I thinking? Did I not know that the courtroom is no place to feed a baby? Did I not understand that there may have been special spots for the mother to hide out while she nourished her infant? Did I not take into consideration the fact that adults in the area may have been offended at the sight of a woman nursing her baby in a public place? Would I, personally, open up my Ziploc baggies and start munching on my peanut butter sandwich right on the bench in front of the judge?

Of course I wouldn’t do that. But, then, I’m a forty-eight-year-old woman, and my hunger needs are not as immediate as those of an infant. Very possibly, and I don’t have this information, the mother tried to avoid the entire situation by doing her best to stay out of the courtroom altogether. Very possibly she nursed right before she went in and was planning to nurse as soon as she left. Breastfed babies, babies in general for that matter, do not play to grown-up schedules. Neither do courtrooms. As for the suggestion of a babysitter, very possibly the mother was choosing to nurse her baby without the use of bottles. Shocking, I know, but some people actually do this. In this case, and being uncertain of the timing as far as the court schedule, she would want the baby with her in order to avoid, uh, let’s see, baby going without food. So, I expressed my opinion on all of this and was met with many raised eyebrows and much disbelief. I may even find myself a few friends short in the morning.

Before you all get your panties in a bunch, you should know that I am sort of on the same page here. Sort of. Personally, I would be uncomfortable nursing in the courtroom and would do everything possible to avoid it. Mostly, though, I would be uncomfortable with the idea due to the negative press it would draw, as is evidenced by this discussion. I would not be uncomfortable, however, because I felt it wrong to nurse in public. I’m just saying if it has to be, it has to be, and it should be no big issue at all. At all. Sometimes a nursing mom really can’t avoid nursing in (I’m going to use this term while totally disagreeing with it, hence the quotation marks.) “inappropriate” places.

I nursed one of my babies, for example, at a funeral. Multiple times. No, a babysitter was not an option. This was my father’s funeral. I kind of wanted to be there, and it was sort of an all day thing. And, yes, I chose to feed this baby without the use of bottles, ever, at all. Sure, through the showings and the funeral and the burial and the luncheon or whatever happened after this parent of mine was dead in the ground, it was a nice reprieve to step out of the crowd for a second, find a quiet spot to nurse, and hear the little slurping, sucking sounds of this tiny life my body was nourishing, being reminded in a gentle way that breathing and dying is a cycle, one that continues whether we like it or not, that death is just a side effect of birth, and that life after loss does go on. It was a nice reprieve. It was soul feeding and comforting. Sometimes, though, oh, I don’t know, say, when the casket was being lowered into the ground or when I had lost all sense of “appropriateness” and everything else for that matter associated with right and wrong and real and not once the dirt had been thrown over and my dad was gone forever, never to come back, sometimes it just was not convenient or even desired to go off and hide in order to feed my baby. And, no, the baby had no concept of appropriate, no concept of timing, and no concept of death. He only had hunger. I chose to honor that.

This is the thing. We, as a culture, have some serious issues with women’s breasts.

Say a woman is sitting in a coffee shop working on her wannabe novel, sipping her Carmel Macchiato and displaying an ample amount of cleavage, and I do mean ample. We might real quick think in our heads, Oh, geez, that’s a bit much. She really should cover up a little more, be a tad more appropriate. We might take all of two seconds to think that. Then we’re gonna look. And we’re gonna like it. We’re gonna like it a lot. And, yes, I mean we. Women look. And women like it, gay or not.

Now, Photoshop a baby into that picture. Attach it directly to the woman’s chest. Same coffee shop. Same woman. Same ample cleavage. Nothing extra exposed. AT all. Suddenly it’s OhmyGod!! WHAT is she thinking?! Why IS this? Are we jealous? Grossed out? Have we never imagined that we may, at one point, have BEEN that baby? Babies needs are immediate. Hunger is real. And, yes, breast is best. Human babies are not like animal babies. They can’t just walk off and get their own food shortly after birth. They totally rely on the big people in their lives to be, well, to be adults and to provide for their survival. Should nursing moms just stay home until baby decides to wean? Should they forgo a social life in order to avoid disgusting the random passerby? Or should they be allowed to enjoy a latte and a laugh with a good friend, a few minutes to de-stress and unwind? Should they be treated with respect and courtesy for doing the selfless deed that they truly are doing? Women don’t generally nurse for themselves. It’s sort of a I’m-doing-this-for-the-baby-and-humanity kind of thing.

So, yes, in MY perfect world, babies breastfeed when babies are hungry, babies nurse when babies need comforted, and anybody who has a problem with that can drape a bunch of blankets over their shoulders and go take a seat in some wretched public restroom somewhere or maybe just hang out at home for a year or two because, honestly, you’re disgusting me a smidge, and I think you could be a tad more appropriate.

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