It was World Breastfeeding Week last week and August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month. Woohoo! Now I get to get up on my high horse and preach! Well not really, ‘cause my hubby does give me the “remember not everyone agrees with you” look whenever I get going on my roll. But this is my blog! And I think I have something valuable to add to the discussion. (Of course if you don’t want to read all about it you can just scroll down to all the awesome photos!)
I think, as an American mom I am lucky. Not just for my freedom of speech, freedom from hunger and cold (I’m going to stop here with the basics because I could go on and on) but because growing up with a hippy, lay midwife for a mom, I was surrounded by a community of women who gave birth at home, breastfed wherever, whenever and were perfectly happy (as only a bra burning woman from the 70’s can be) to get all up in your face about it. Breastfeeding can be an insurmountable challenge in this country/culture. From the taboo we are taught from childhood, to the basic fact that many women who are trying to breastfeed their children, have literally never seen it happen. I am lucky, in that it was so much a natural part of my life, I had a huge head start when it came time to feed my boys. I knew what it looked like, I knew it worked, and how a baby should look and their position. Not because I took a class or had read a book on theory, but because, I had seen it pretty much every day my entire childhood. (Mom had her pre-natal sessions at the house.) Not to mention, besides my own 3 siblings I had been at the births of dozens of babies. I was totally not freaked out. I didn’t know, that as an American woman I was supposed to be freaked out, minimalized, managed, made to feel ashamed. That is why I say, in this way, I am lucky.
Also, I personally am of the, what ever is right for you is the right choice camp. And I fully support whatever choice a woman wants/needs to make concerning how/where she has her child, how/where she feeds her child and how/when/where she goes to “work” if at all. It is absurd to me, these mommy wars, about how other women should or shouldn’t take care of their families. (Of course I am saying all this with the understanding that we are not talking about cases of abuse or neglect).
I mean does it really have to be like religions, in that one is so terrified that if everyone else doesn’t do what we do, and doesn’t agree with what we think then they have to be evil. Because if they are not evil, then we would have to think about our choices and take responsibility for them? I just so don’t get it.
I even got pressure from my mom (the free loving, boundary pushing, ground breaking, feminist, environmentalist, woman’s health advocate) to have my baby at home when I didn’t want to. Yep, I know it was a great disappointment for her (the midwife) to have her eldest daughter choose a birth center, but for me it was the right choice. Personally I didn’t want to be in my house. I am hyper educated about giving birth, options, interventions and choices, but for me, the culturally Jewish woman in me could not relax with all those people in my house. I would need to be taking care of everyone else and not concentrating on me. Because it was my house. I would be wondering if everyone had a drink, if the dishwasher was being loaded incorrectly, if all the gear was making a mess. It would just distract me and cause stress which is exactly the opposite of what a birthing woman needs. My mom tried to convince me that she and my sisters would take care of everything, that I wouldn’t have to worry about any of it. But she wasn’t hearing me. It would bother me, and I wanted to go to the birth center, have my baby and bring him home to my nice clean, everything the way I like it house. Yes even my free loving, boundary pushing, ground breaking, feminist, environmentalist, woman’s health advocate mom was trying to push her idea of what a good birth experience is on me. Ironic, I thought. But as in all things, I held my ground.
What does this have to do with breastfeeding you ask? Well, possibly not a lot, but it does speak to the issue raised by Catherine of Her Bad Mother in her recent post about breastfeeding. Here is an excerpt:It’s World Breastfeeding Week this week. It should be a week for celebrating our freedom of choice in how we nurture and nourish our children. Instead, all the stories about nursing that I’ve seen have provided more evidence that we don’t really have that freedom. A woman who was nursing in an H&M store in Vancouver was sent to a change room to nurse her infant. A woman on a WestJet flight was asked to cover up with a blanket. A woman nursing her baby in a library in Bowmanville, Ontario, got the stink-eye from some random stranger. We were - we are - all of us, at some point, made to feel ashamed for mothering.
Also, Jaelithe, over at The State of Discontent, has an awesome post Images of Breastfeeding Before the Taboo and don’t forget the awesome women over at League of Maternal Justice with their “Facebook Sucks” campaign (see link at top right). And all the other women too numerous to name who are blogging, standing up and spreading the word. These fabulous ladies got me inspired.
I was an aspiring photographer once upon a time and have always been fascinated by photographs of women. It started with a book my mom had when I was little called The Family of Women. It is, of course, out of print, unlike it’s prequel The Family of Men, but it is the most amazing photographic essay of women I have ever seen. It absolutely inspired my photographic style and fascination with images of women in general.
So I have spent the last 4 hours searching the albums and photos in my house (I am the family history keeper, so I have all photographic evidence of us) to find breastfeeding images from my childhood. I also found my e-bay find copy of Family of Women, found my breastfeeding photos from when my boys were small, and I took one of my framed photographs down off the wall to scan. All this to honor World Breastfeeding Week, and to add my own little photographic essay of breastfeeding to the ether.
This is my favorite photograph from The Family of Women. It is from Nepal and it was taken by Elaine Brière. Look at her face. So beautiful, so tired. There isn’t a mom seeing this who doesn’t feel a connection to the look on her face. It is so eloquent, I recognized it as a 7 year old. So compelling!
Another one from Family of Women. This one is from Czechoslovakia and it was taken by Jan Sandek. It is from the Jacques Baruch Gallery.
This is one of mine. Taken in 1995.
This is Quinn and me. Taken by my sister Maria in 2003.
This is also Quinn and me. I think also taken by my sister Maria, but this was for an awareness exibition for our then local Birth Center. Sadly, it is no longer a birth center it is “a center dedicated to all aspects of women’s health and associated with Newton-Wellesley Hospital”
This is Max and me 2005, on a Thomas the Tank Engine Train Ride in CT. 98°/ 100% humidity and pouring down rain. I was totally engorged, Max was miserable and we were smashed in there with Quinn, Judd, Judd’s Mom and Brother. Quinn had a blast! Choo Choo!
This is Max and me in 2006. This one was on the ferris wheel at Storyland in NH. Why did Max get all the out and about photos and Quinn got all the “artsy” ones?
This is another one of mine, taken in 2004.
This is my mom and brother. He was 1 day old so I am going to guess June 1976.
Another one of my mom and brother. Taken in 1977.
My mom, brother (19 months) and tiger kitty. Taken 1978.
This was taken on Venice Beach in CA, 1976. The woman is one of my mom’s good friends Amy & her daughter Rachel. That’s me in the center and my brother on the right.
Wow, this one was a blast from the past. I took this in 1979, at a birth my mom was attending. That’s my mom on the left, the woman on the right waving is Margie, a co-midwife. Margie’s daughter Tina is next to my mom and holding my sister Alia. The other people are part of the family. Angie and Tim Mieklr, I believe.
This one was taken by Sára Saudková in 2003. I found her when researching the photo from Czechoslovakia above. Such amazing stark strength!
These remind me that am also lucky in that I have always been able to get my mama bear on. The one time I was ever hassled (not just dirty looked, which I ignore and try to pretend it doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable) it was in a Barnes & Nobel in Framingham, MA. The employee told me I had to stop what I was doing or leave. I totally laughed at him, and told him he should call the police. I did, in all fairness, warn him, however, that they might ask me if I wanted to press charges.