Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Respect for women?

So lets talk a little bit about that. One of the counter-protester's signs said "Pure Fitness: Respect for Women". To her that meant that PF was respecting a mother's right to choose when and how to explain to her son about breastfeeding. She felt that her parental rights were violated when her son saw someone breastfeeding before she was ready for him to, and without her there to explain what was going on.

I could talk about why it's so important for children to see breast feeding, and why it's actually a really good thing. But I'm going to save that for another post. Today I just want to talk about respect for women.

Would you ever dream of telling another woman what she should or shouldn't wear? Let's say you only feel comfortable wearing a one piece swimsuit to the beach. That's fine- it's your body, your choice. But would you walk up to a woman who was wearing a bikini and tell her that she needed to cover up? Of course not! It's her body- her choice what to wear. It would be disrespectful for you to walk up to another woman and assume that you had the right to tell her what to wear or not to wear, and which parts of her body needed to be covered.

Let's look at it from a bit of a different angle. Respect for women. In my mind, there is nothing more womanly than the acts of pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. These are things that only women can do. These acts are necessary for our species to survive. It doesn't get more basic, more instinctual, more womanly than this! In the past, women supported each other and taught each other about these things. They were a normal part of life. I wonder what has happened to our society when it's ok for a nursing mother to be shamed and put down by another mother! This should not be happening. When we're telling a mom that her most basic act of caring for her child is something to be ashamed of or hidden- that is disrespectful to women on the most basic level.

When a mom is told that she has to use a cover, or that she has to find a private location, or has to pump and feed her child with a bottle, it sends the message that her breasts are something to be hidden. She's told that her breasts are something to be ashamed of. And why? Because her breasts are sexual objects. If we only see breasts as something sexual, then we'll think that they need to be hidden. We might as well be saying, "Okay, I guess you can use your sex toys to feed your baby, but if you really must do that, you need to keep it under wraps. No one wants to see you using your breasts for a non-sexual purpose." See how degrading that is? See how limiting that is?

Some people argue- why can't the nursing mom just use a cover/pump and bring a bottle/sit in her car/stay at home? Well, why can't she? Besides the obvious answer, that it's her choice to do or not do any of those things, there are other truly legitimate reasons as well. Some babies won't nurse if they're covered up. Some people might like to eat with a blanket on their head, but others don't. That's pretty reasonable. You know what- maybe she just forgot her nursing cover at home, but baby is still hungry! As far as pumping- some women's bodies don't respond to a pump. Some babies(mine included) won't take a bottle. Pumping and bottle feeding was literally not an option for me, and it's not for a lot of women. Why couldn't she just sit in her car? Maybe she was dropped off wherever she was. Maybe she took the bus. Maybe it's 100 degrees outside, and her car doesn't have air conditioning. Staying at home is the most ridiculous option of all- would you want to be stuck inside your home for an entire year or even longer? I know I wouldn't. That's not a feasible option for any mother, and to even suggest that as an option is truly ignorant.

My point is that you can't paint all women with the same brush. You don't know my circumstances, and I don't know yours. Breast feeding is so important to the health and well-being of both mother and child, and it needs to be supported unequivocally, without reservation or exception. When you assume that a mother could or should have done things differently, you put her into a box- and that, my friend, is disrespectful.

I'm sure there are some people that have been reading, and have made it this far, and still disagree with me. But before you leave, and think that I'm wrong, I want you to take a look at one picture. I want you to really take a look at it- soak it in and really think about what it means.

There is a (presumably) Muslim woman, in a burqa, with her face covered. And yet she has her breast completely exposed to feed her child. Here in our "enlightened" culture, we see the burqa as oppressive. We argue that it objectifies women, that it places extreme limitations on women, and that it degrades them. And yet we don't realize that we're doing the exact same thing when we tell women that they must hide breastfeeding.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Celebrating 18 months of nursing!!!

Tristan will be 18 months old tomorrow, and we're celebrating. We've been nursing for 18 months now, and I'm so proud of us. I wasn't sure that we'd make it this far- Hayden stopped nursing at 15 months. I really, really wanted to make it further with Tristan, and we're doing it! He loves his num num so much that I don't see him weaning anytime soon. I think we'll make it to 2 with no problem.

Nursing a toddler has been such a learning experience for me. I didn't expect that. After over 2 years total of nursing, I didn't think there were any surprises left. I had no idea that nursing a toddler would be so different from nursing a baby. But it is. Nursing a baby is one thing- they're tiny, helpless, and completely dependent on you for their survival. Not so with a 20+ lb, 18 month old little boy. He's talking, climbing on everything, and eating like a horse. He doesn't need num num to survive anymore. He needs it for the attachment. He needs it to feel close to me, to feel secure and safe. To feel comfort. And giving that to someone, to someone who's turning into a little person in his own right, is much different than giving food to an infant.

Nursing into toddlerhood has transformed my outlook. In giving of myself to my son, my eyes have been opened. I'm learning what it is to truly connect with someone, to open your heart and let love in. I'm giving him more than just milk- he could do without the milk at this point. I'm giving him love- connection on a most basic human level. And it's one of the best things I've ever done for myself. After 25 years of life, 6 years of marriage, and 3 years of being a mother, I feel like I'm finally learning what it truly means to LOVE. And I'm so thankful for the sweet little boy who's teaching me.

Happy 18 months sweet boy. I'm so blessed to have spent them with you. I love you with all my heart.

* I do feel the need to remind everyone that breastmilk still does provide nutritional and immunological benefits after the first year. Don't want to be spreading misinformation!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Today's Mission- Breastfeeding Activism!

I went to my very first nurse in today. Can I call myself a true lactivist now? I hadn't met any of the people there before, but we were all united in one goal- to promote awareness of a mother's right to breastfeed whenever and wherever she chooses to.

We were protesting in front of Pure Fitness, where just a couple of weeks ago, a nursing mother was asked to move to a more private location to nurse her baby. She had just picked her baby up from the gym's childcare room and sat down to nurse. She was approached by the gym's owner and was told that she needed to move- that she wasn't allowed to nurse there!!! Apparently this gym owner was not aware of Texas law, which states that a nursing mom can nurse wherever she is legally allowed to be.

The kicker? Pure Fitness is a women's only gym. No men allowed.

So as usual, the breastfeeding community banded together, and a nurse-in was organized. This is my account.

I showed up about 5 minutes late, and just as I got Tristan and all our stuff loaded into the stroller, the cops approached the group. They told us the parking lot in front of the gym was private property, and that we had been asked to leave by the owner. She said that we were all being charged with trespassing, and that if we didn't leave we'd be arrested! Arrested over breastfeeding- that'd make quite a story.

Of course we wouldn't let a little thing like trespassing stop us. There was a grassy ditch/shoulder between the parking lot and the road, and the officer said that since it was private property, we could be on the grass. We all moved our vehicles and set up shop on the grass.

There were even some men that came out to show support. So awesome to see a guy holding a sign supporting breastfeeding.

Here's me and Tristan nursing at the nurse-in. He'll be 18 months old on Sunday, and I can't think of a better way to celebrate 18 months of nursing. I'm so proud that we've made it this far, and can't imagine it any other way.

Excuse my face- it was 105 degrees out there, and super sunny. We weren't exactly comfortable.

Interestingly enough, Pure Fitness sent out their own protesters with their own signs. It's funny though, some of their signs read, "Pure Fitness is for ALL Women" and "Pure Fitness: Respect For Women". Couldn't we have used those signs too? Or are breastfeeding mothers not included in "all women" anymore? Do breastfeeding mothers not deserve respect as well?
Here's me with a sign.

Why yes, yes I do. I do have the right to nurse any time, any place. And that right is fully protected by Texas state law.

I was so thrilled to get to protest alongside Jessica Martin-Weber. She's the founder of The Leaky B@@b- an incredible breastfeeding support group on Facebook. I've had tons of respect for her as a mother, woman, and lactivist for a while now, and it was a true honor to get to meet her.

I had such a blast- it felt good to actually get out there and DO something to stand up for injustices against breastfeeding moms. Nursing is NORMAL, and we won't stop until it's fully accepted as such.