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Here’s today’s riddle:
What’s the difference between these pants I bought at Target last week with the stretchy waistband and my regular old maternity jeans?
Nothing! They’re the same! The new pants are canvas and only cost $12 but a stretchy waistband is a stretchy waistband is a stretchy waistband. The real riddle is how come I feel so much better in my new Target pants than I do in any of my old maternity jeans? I think it’s just because I bought these pants in the regular women’s department and they don’t say “maternity” on the label. Which is totally insane. It’s not like anyone else can see the labels. And yet because I am wearing non-maternity pants today I feel about 20 lbs lighter than usual.
Actually, I’m only 3 lbs away from my “pre-pregnancy” weight. You may think those quotation marks are unnecessary, since pre-pregnancy is a medical term for “the time before a fertilized egg implanted in your uterine wall and then you ate the entire contents of the frozen food department at Costco” but it’s not as simple as that. Pre-pregnancy my hips still fit through most standard sized door frames. Pre-pregnancy I didn’t rub holes in my jeans with the power of my thighs. Pre-pregnancy my boobs were still closer to the arctic circle than the equator, but now they’re determined to have a tropical vacation even if I’m not going. The weird changes my body went through – and is still going through – are a lot bigger than just weight gain and loss. I’m starting to doubt my old jeans are ever going to fit again, even if I lose those last three pounds times ten. My days in the misses department are totally, completely, officially over. I am now a women’s section shopper.
I don’t care if my breastfeeding offends you. I don’t care if your child sees my nipple while I’m trying to get the baby latched on. I don’t care if you think I should use a cover. I don’t care if you think it’s “gross” or “nasty” or “immodest”. I don’t care if you complain. I don’t care if you glare at me. Simply put, your objections sound like a personal problem to me. We can talk about it if you want, but don’t expect me to stop nursing the baby while I school you.
With all the pro-breastfeeding talk and ad campaigns and information out there, you’d think breastfeeding was something people actually supported. It turns out it’s not breastfeeding. It’s just breastmilk. Sure babies should drink human milk – it’s just such a shame it comes from those dirty, disgusting boobs. The worst part is it’s often women, even other mothers, whose delicate sensibilities are so offended by the sight of nursing. Women who themselves have been driven to bottles, either intentionally or subversively, by the sexualization of the word “breast” or the formula industry. (A whole other topic – from shady marketing techniques all the way to influencing government agencies to tone down support for breastfeeding.) Women who are so ashamed of their own bodies that they can’t stand even a glimpse of a breast doing what breasts are supposed to do. You know who was breastfed? JESUS. And I bet Mary didn’t use a Hooter Hider.
“Well then, go ahead. Of course you can nurse in public,” most people will say, “Just be discrete. There’s no need to go flashing your boobs around everywhere.” HAVE YOU EVER ACTUALLY SEEN THAT HAPPEN? EVER? Before I had a baby, the only person I had ever seen breastfeed, anywhere, at any time in my life, was my own mother feeding my baby brother. And you know what? I DON’T EVEN REMEMBER IT. I was seven when he was born and her nursing affected me SO LITTLE that it doesn’t even exist as a memory in my brain. Now I attend a breastfeeding support group, where 8 to 12 women all nurse their babies at once and not a single one of them uses a cover…and I can still count the number of nipples I’ve seen on one hand. Next time you see someone feeding her baby in public, try looking at her face instead of her chest. It’s not that hard, and might keep you from seeing those nipples you’re so worried about.
Part of the stigma of breastfeeding is the straight-to-the-baby delivery system. Our culture is obsessed with food preparation. It’s just how eating is done. You buy food at the store, you bring it home, you mix it and you heat it. Formula is prepared the way we’re used to, the way we’re comfortable with, the way we’ve been raised to understand. Food preparation is so ingrained in our society we think things like unpasteurized milk and the raw foods diet are crazy. But why force a mother to add or subtract or mix or heat something when the perfect food at the perfect consistency and the perfect temperature is available on demand? IF SHE WANTS TO BREASTFEED, let her do it. (And you know what, if she wants to bottle-feed, just keep those opinions to yourself as well. I’m sick of that debate too.)
Believe it or not, my right to feed my child is an actual right. Your right to be offended is not. (Link to breastfeeding laws by state here.) EVEN IF the baby looks “too old” to be doing that. EVEN IF he’s old enough to ask for it. EVEN IF it makes you uncomfortable. EVEN IF you hate babies and never want to have any. EVEN IF ANYTHING.
The next time you see a mom nursing in public – and I challenge you to find one – tell her you admire that she’s doing the best she can for her baby and you support her. I guarantee you will make her day.