More on Breastfeeding

I got a few comments on yesterdays post on how tired I am of the breastfeeding zealots, and I realized there are a few things I wanted to clarify.

#1–I happen to live in one of those states I named without any legal protections for breastfeeding moms.  In protest I had/do plan to breastfeed publicly and am willing to be arrested, if needed.  This isn’t because I want to be the star of the pro-breastfeeding movement, but rather because I know my state is wrong about this and I’m willing to stand up and be heard.  I routinely have bugged my state level elected officials about it and have offered my time on this matter as well.  It is legally possible, if not plausible, that if I were arrested for breastfeeding, I could be convincted of indecent exposure.  If I were convincted of indencent exposure, I would be labeled a level-one sex offender.  If I were labeled a level-one sex offender, I would never be able to teach again, regardless of my own ambivalence on the topic of whether or no I actually DO want to teach again.  However, I also believe a little civil disobediance over laws that are wrong is good for the soul.  Should there be nurse-ins near me, I would have little trouble with showing up with Emby and doing my part, especially since I know a lot of moms support breasfeeding but would never feel comfortable doing so without their nursing blanket or cover in place, and I, on the other hand have close to zero modesty.

#2-I want to clarify who I consider a breast feeding nazi.  The breast feeding nazi is the woman who will not accept that there are other legitimate choices that can be made in terms of feeding the baby.  The woman who tells me, literally, that it is “child abuse” to give a child formula.  Who twists Science and Medicine to make her argument.  Who will not concede that there are situations where breastfeeding just isn’t a good idea for a mom, her baby, and her family.  These women are nazis–and I’m pretty comfortable using that term in this case (I have a degree in History and was even a PhD program dropout before getting certified to teach it in grades 1-12, so spare me the history lesson)–because they trumpet a superior race of moms and believe all other types of mothering should be exterminated.

#3-I do not believe that practicing civil disobedience or standing up for your legal rights makes you a Nazi, although others certainly are dismissive of it, which pisses me off.  I think there’s a lot of paralells between a nurse-in and the sit-ins of the 60’s.  At least no one is spraying us with fire hoses.  Although I will say we brought a certain amount of mockery on ourselves for coining the term “lactivist” which just makes me cringe.

#4-I think the worst thing we do to each other as new moms is try to assert our views so strongly.  We’re all so fucking insecure that when others make a different choice, it makes us worry that maybe we made the wrong one, too.  I have a good friend who is also pregnant, and we often find ourselves at opposite viewpoints on almost every issue.  The reason we’ve stayed friends is that both of us are consciously practicing the “she’s doing what’s right for her family, which doesn’t make it right for mine” approach to parenting and because we are comfortable with each other we’re able to learn more about the opposing viewpoint because neither of us is trying to sell the other on it.

#5-I whole heartedly agree with the mom who said that we would all be better off if we stood up for each other’s choices.  I just wish that we did, and stopped beating up those who choose differently because it makes us defensive and insecure.

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I walk a funny line as a future breastfeeder.

I’m already defending my choice to do it at all to my mom, who doesn’t see why I’d want to, and also doesn’t understand why I will flat out refuse to use a “nursing room” that’s in a public restroom.  I also get very vocal when someone says that it’s gross, and I’m sure that many would view me as a “lactivist” or a “breastfeeding nazi” myself.

However, I feel like an imposter when I hang out on breastfeeding boards.  I see a lot of language that’s really flowery about breastfeeding and how mystical and wonderful it is.  I’m not romantic about this.  I do think it will be one of the most unique experiences of my life to breastfeed my child and I’m hopeful that my breasts will be able to sustain her.  However, I won’t feel like a failure if this turns out not to be the case.  I also, as I said yesterday, support moms who have chosen the bottle route.  I feel passionately that we should have the choice between the two and that no one should get judged for it, so I usually end up not being receptive to the support the board is offering because I’m too busy getting upset at them for slamming moms who made a different choice.

I’m pretty lucky in terms of financial support.  My family is upper middle class, and this means that not only do I have the luxury of between one and two years at home (depending on how quickly we spend through our “maternity leave” savings for Emby…there’s an equal amount saved for “Siblet” as we’re calling the mythical second child we want to plan for, but we’re not touching it until there is a siblet or a decision to not have a siblet) but we also have the money for me to get the support I need to give this a real try.  We live near a major city, so there is no shortage of lactation consultants, breastfeeding support groups, and of course LLL if I have to (I say “have to” because I feel about as comfortable with LLL as I do the Catholic Church-a whole other story for another day-why we’re raising Emby as an atheist).

While I believe in my heart that breastfeeding is the best thing I can do for Emby’s health right off the bat, I’m also scared of the cracked nipples, the learning curve (even with the support of a lactation consultant), the pain of a clogged duct, and the other things I read about just as I am fearful of labor and delivery.  I wish that I could find a group that was supportive, but not judgy towards moms who made another choice.  I’m praying that I get through what I hear is the roughest part–the first 6-10 weeks and get to the part where it feels great as quickly as possible.  I’m also really intrigued by the whole squirting milk when you orgasm thing I’ve heard about (as is the husband).

There are things I feel strongly about, and where I do get judgmental.  No one is safe from the inner “Sanctimommy” (the link is to the best post I’ve ever read on the topic and I bow before Mom-101) that lurks in all of us.  I turn into one when the topic of vaccinations comes up, and I’m strong believer in restricting tv and computer time…and these views are based on my years in the classroom.  While I might say to a parent who isn’t vaccinating that they might want to reconsider if they ever have reason to take their child to a third world country (Emby will be going to India at some point in her first few years of life) I wouldn’t go so far as to accuse them of child abuse for choosing not to do so.  I also understand that in order to restrict tv, you either have to be home to enforce it or remove the tv completely and that it isn’t a practical consideration for some families.  Yes, I raise eyebrows at parents who are ignoring their kids who are running rampant over the restraurant/store/mall but I also know that I can’t judge the mom with the screaming kid at the register–s/he might have Autism or another medical reason for the meltdown…or maybe it’s just a bad day.  I try to check myself when I get sanctimonious, and I don’t always succeed, but I do at least try.  I wish that more people would learn to tell their inner santimonious person to shut up.

I started the blog as a place to explore the emotional pain of my miscarriage, and then changed it’s name when the focus began to switch to Emby and my weekly letters to her.  But the closer I get to birth, the more I realize that I need to start parenting, and that this blog will change again with Emby’s birth.  Some of what I’ll end up posting here is straight up my opinions, and there are going to be times when I’m going to say something controversial.  I know I’m probably not done on the topic of breastfeeding, especially once I get to doing it for real.  I’m happy to have a dialogue, and I want to hear opposing views, but in the end, I’m not here to referee all choices of motherhood…only to talk about the ones I’ve made and why I’m making them.  And occasionally to vent when I’m annoyed about a parenting topic, like yesterday’s post.

I expect that some people may think I’m complete asshole and never want to read me again, or who will think I’m an asshole and want to flame me-I watch it happen all the time.  By putting myself out here, I am opening myself up for critiques, and I accept that.

So why open my mouth and dive in?  Because I’m a writer and I have to.  Because if I don’t, I’ll end up trapped in my head with my thoughts replaying over and over until my head implodes.  Because I hope that if I’m honest, I might be able to help or be a voice that someone can relate to, even if it’s just me six months later.  I read mom blogs to learn the truth about the day to day shit (sometimes literally) of different moms because I’ve realized how individual the experience can be and I want to hear as many voices as I can.  I don’t think I am the next Amalah (I’m nowhere near as funny) but I do have something to say and I want to get it out there.

And because it’s useful to hear about things I may have missed in my research or to get a new view point on something I thought I had an opinion on.  Currently I’m reconsidering something about vaccinations (a friend told me you can vaccinate on schedule, as I wish to, but pay just a bit more to get vaccines without preservatives, which I think is interesting).

So let’s talk…I won’t promise to agree with you, but I’ll read what you have to say, and think about your comments.

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2 Responses to More on Breastfeeding

  1. shllywlly says:

    Congratulations on choosing to breastfeed and while I can hope that the judgements will stop, I’ve learned that they never do. Moms are always judging moms for something. Whether or not it’s breastfeeding or TV time or just the food you feed your kids, someone always “can do it better.” I sense that you will stand up for your natural right to feed your child and if you ever encounter any problems please contact http://www.firstright.org. They are there to support breastfeeding moms and help promote breastfeeding as the cultural norm. Hopefully your state will soon develop breastfeeding legislation so some of your tensions can be relieved.

    If you are interested in learning more about vaccines, I highly recommend Dr. Sears Vaccine Book. It is very thorough and no biased. I recently wrote a blog myself about this topic. Check it out: http://shllywlly.wordpress.com/

    Good luck on the wonderful endeavor in front of you.

  2. amayala says:

    I personally have to continue working full-time as a teacher 2 months after I give birth, and it seems that formula is going to have to be my only option since I am unable to afford nanny-service at my private school. Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of finding a new job that is more accomodating or higher-paying and I also don’t have the luxury of quitting my job to work full-time.

    For the record, my first pregnancy was last year and I experienced a miscarriage after 7 weeks. I am currently pregnant again and have 11 weeks in the pregnancy, which means we are almost over the first trimester! I found your blog interesting because you are chronicling your experience as well. Very cool.

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