I love that I’ve found passion in life. It’s an amazing thing to be passionate about things, and to be able to delve wholeheartedly into ideas and topics that mean so much to me.
But where I find passion challenging lies in the sharing of said passion. I sometimes get, well, overly passionate about it all. And even more so after Finleigh’s birth. I know that my zeal for natural childbirth and breastfeeding turns people off. And part of me really wants to say eff it. It’s the way it’s meant to be done, and dammit anyway, you have to try. If you don’t want to have a go at childbirth, then don’t get pregnant. If you don’t want to have a go at breastfeeding, then don’t have a baby. I don’t say these things though, because I risk losing people in my zeal. This comes off a discussion in a group, where I, as a mommy, said something about breastfeeding that set someone else, a mom who had chosen not to breastfeed her child, off. She was bothered by the “digs” that formula feeding moms endure. And while yes, I respect people’s right to choose, and telling women that they HAVE to breastfeed or go through a natural childbirth, to me, is akin to telling a woman that she cannot have an abortion, or telling gay people that they cannot marry, I just wish (and hope that someday) it’s all considered normal enough that breastfeeding or natural birth aren’t considered just another option.
So, I try to tone it down. And really, as an educator, a bigger part of me does believe that women and families have to go through birth in ways that make them comfortable (not talking about physical comfort, but personal, mental comfort). Birth is such a personal journey and I can’t even begin to pretend that I understand all of the implications for each individual. I suppose that I would just beg people to do real research. And by that, I mean REAL, DEEP, INVESTIGATIVE research into childbirth. The methods, the politics AND the practice. A family’s choices go so much deeper than “epidural or natural” which is so often the debate I hear.
And then there’s breastfeeding. Yes, I’ve heard it before: “but I couldn’t”, “I didn’t produce enough milk”, “my baby was allergic to milk”. I don’t entirely buy it. And while I applaud a mother’s effort (because they’re all valiant), I still don’t entirely buy it. Breast isn’t just “best”, it’s normal. If we didn’t breastfeed our babies, civilization as we know it would not exist (hell, if we do, civilization might exist in an entirely different way as well). So it doesn’t jive with me to hear as many women as I do that “can’t do it” for x, y or z reasons.
What I do know is happening is that we don’t support women. We (as an institution) want women to breastfeed, but we don’t help them do it. We want our babies breastfed, but again, don’t support it. We hear of women being kicked off planes, out of restaurants, and being asked to cover up while breastfeeding their babies. I see women all the time covering up with those awful “Hooter Hiders” (kudos for a cute name, but it’s still a lame product), more obvious than the women who can nurse discreetly without one. I even see women covering up in a mommy and me class. What? Seriously? That’s the safest place to learn to nurse your baby in public. A place no one cares if you flash your boobs! And of course, part of me thinks that if those are what it takes to get more women to nurse, then great. Use ’em. But a bigger piece of me, again, believes that we have to walk our walk, and if we’re going to promote breastfeeding, we need to promote it for real. Without coverups or caveats.
And beyond support the breastfeeding mother, how can we support the women who do need to formula feed without making that the norm? Yes, absolutely, women who need to use formula, for whatever reason, deserve to be supported. But how can we support those women, without allowing formula feeding to become “normal”. Because while, yes, it’s ok to use if necessary, it’s far from normal. And it shouldn’t be considered such. It shouldn’t be considered the immediate alternative. And it certainly shouldn’t be marketed as such (but there’s another topic that’s already been blogged about beautifully in so many other places).
I had this post in my head when I stumbled on this post from “Blacktating“. The author describes her experience learning to nurse in public, yearning to nurse in public:
I saw how a baby might start to wiggle a bit and like Houdini the mom had unhooked her bra, lifted her shirt and latched the baby in seconds flat. It looked effortless and it also looked like there was a baby in her arms – no breasts hanging out, no cover ups – simply a babe in arms. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to feel that assured. I wanted to look that smooth and at ease.
And she felt comfortable enough, with her community, to learn and try. Most women today don’t, and I guess I don’t understand that. They feel pressure from all angles to breastfeed, or to have a natural childbirth, but aren’t offered ways to learn to do that. They see the research that shows that epidurals and inductions are dangerous, but hear from friends that labor hurts and the epidural is a godsend. They know that breastmilk is the perfect first food for infants, but don’t know how to get started, or are made to feel awkward about nursing. Where are our communities?
And as usual, women do other women a disservice. We are our own worst enemies. This hasn’t changed since elementary school. We cut each other down to make ourselves feel better. Heck, I may even be doing it right now. Telling pregnant women horror stories of 40 hour labors and tears from here to there, and nipples trashed by babies doesn’t help. No one needs to hear your train wreck story. There’s a time and a place for it, and your pregnant friend is not the right audience.
What she does need to hear is that birth is normal. That feeding your baby, from your body, is normal; and while challenging, possible. And that being a mama, if it’s something you really want, is the best job in the whole world. Becoming a mama will transform you. It will give you passion for something new.
(A huge part of me feels like I might want to offer an apology for this post. But I’m not going to. Because I’m not really sorry. What I will say is that this post IS NOT at all directed at women who’ve had to, for TRUE MEDICAL REASONS had to have a cesarean, or not been able to breastfeed. Lord knows y’all don’t need to feel any more guilty for choices that you didn’t really get to make.)