Aug 11, 2018

Save the Tatas, Free the Nipple, and Shut Up About Breastfeeding!

How sad that breastfeeding is a controversial conversation in 2018 America. 

We live in a country where freedom of religion and freedom of speech are both woven into the fabric of our society. Recently peppered with the freedom to love anyone, with the legalization of gay marriage. We're so progressive in our thinking, but we are still so archaic in the mindset that women should cover up their bodies when feeding their babies.

We pride ourselves on being “the western world” we say. We claim to celebrate women and their bodies. We pride ourselves on not making women feel like they need to cover up, for religious reasons or any other reason. However, when it comes to nursing, we want to banish women to closets, bathrooms and the backseat of their car. Because when it’s convenient for society to say so, breasts are offensive? Because when it’s not benefiting adult aesthetics and instead it’s benefitting a babies nutrients, we can back-peddle, saying we’re offended, and shame women?

Funny though, no one's asking women to cover up on sexy advertisements. Even "bralettes" are a new fashion phenomenon, making the bra beautiful enough to hang out for everyone to see. No one shames women for getting tattoos on or around their breasts. No one shames women for wearing skimpy bikinis that accentuate their breasts, or wearing revealing dress’ or tops that focus on the ever popular “side boob” or “great cleavage.” Nope. These are all A-okay.

And do you know why? Because men and women benefit from the aesthetics of the female body or the sexual arousal associated with it. Because it's socially acceptable for women to be, sexualized, and being maternal isn't "sexy" so it's not supported.  

And that’s a shame.

What I have to say to that... grow up society.

You see, I'm a new mom. My daughter is 11 weeks old and I have kept her alive solely by breastfeeding. When I was pregnant, just a few months ago, people often asked me if I was going to breastfeed. "I'm going to try" I'd respond.

When she was born the hospital gave us the "miracle hour" where we were encouraged to do "skin-to-skin." During that hour, my little genius babe, scooted her way over to my breast and with little help, latched herself on and started eating. I always tell people, she knew what she was doing, I just cooperated.

Breastfeeding was something I always wanted to do, but also didn't want to pressure myself into. I knew people who had health issues and other  setbacks which prevented them from breastfeeding. So, I was just hoping for the best.

So many people felt comfortable talking about breastfeeding when I was pregnant, that I was mystified to see the adverse reaction when I performed the actual act of breastfeeding. It was totally different.

 I have encountered people, even my own family members, who leave the room when I nurse. Who feel compelled to look away, not just while she's latching, but during the entire feeding. Who pack up to go home when I have to pull my boob out to feed my daughter. Who straight-up avoid visiting, just because I'm breastfeeding.

And these are the obstacles I face before I take my baby and breastfeeding self out into public!  

It baffles me that in July of this year, we JUST made Breastfeeding in Public, legal in every state. While I am celebrating this milestone, I am also sadden, that in a country which has legalized guns (a deadly weapon), via the second amendment, since its inception, how pathetic that it’s taken all this time to legalize feeding our young in public?

In so many articles and posts about breastfeeding in public, the naysayers logic is often that  they, "don’t want to have to explain" to their children what’s going on.

Why? Don’t you explain to your child that they have to push their poppy out on the potty during potty training. Don’t you explain to them when they feel sick that sometimes their belly hurts and it’s okay, the pain won’t last forever? Don't you explain that when they’re tired they have to lay down to rest to feel better? These are all natural functions of our body. Yet we shame breasts because society has sexualized them.

Children are innocent. They are not influence by popular culture’s views on sexualizing women. They see adults and children. It’s black and white for them. Things are only “weird” for them, if we make them “weird” for them.

Since my own experience breastfeeding, my two nephews (9 and 5) and my niece (4) have been curious, asking questions about my nipple shield, why my daughter doesn’t have a baby bottle and what I’m doing under my Boppy nursing scarf in public. All of which I’ve met with one simple answer...

"This is how some Mommy’s feed their babies. It’s where the milk comes out.” And that’s it.

Children accept that for its face value. Because its honest and easy to understand. It’s cut and dry. It's logical. It's true.  

And after that answer;  feeding my 11 week old daughter is truly of no more interest to them. It’s back to the discussion of Minecaft, guitars, coloring, Disney and “watch me” as they tumble across the living room.

It’s the adults who overcomplicate things, and what’s infuriating is we’re using the kids as scapegoats... when truly, they don’t care.

They don’t turn their head in horror when they see a woman breastfeeding, ...the adults do.
They don’t “feel funny” or “feel compelled to look away”...adults do.

Adults make it weird. Adults create the shame. So stop blaming the kids for your own uncomfortable feelings about mixing sexualization and natural nurturing

Ironically, we live in a world that openly accepts breasts in the context of breast cancer awareness. "Save the Tatas” has been a popular bumper sticker, slogan, and movement; sparking a Mother’s Day walk that proudly paints my city of Philadelphia pink each May. In that context Tatas are something to be celebrated. No one's “offended” about explaining Tatas to their children when their waking for a cause. Yet when a Mommy is giving nutrients and life through those same Tatas, she is shamed.

In a society where neon lights advertising strip clubs is a norm and staple of every American city, why then are we so embarrassed of the nature purpose of these breasts?

Meanwhile, we openly accept feminine hygiene products, Viagara, lube, condoms, and Plan B all advertised on TV, magazines, pop up ads on social media and billboards across main stream America. But we’re shaming, “how Mommy’s feed their babies?”

We take our children to the Zoo or the Pet Store and marvel at the Mommy’s animals feeding the baby animals, but we scowl and shame women when we see them breastfeeding.

It all makes zero sense to me.

And while writing this blog and "calling out" the naysayers should feel vindicating, it's not.  Because the shaming of women breastfeeding, has life; and it’s bleed over onto how we women see ourselves.

While it’s true, many women can’t breastfeed, because of a health reasons, supply issues or because of their jobs or lifestyle (hell, it’s a full time job). Many women also don't do it because they themselves say, "it makes me feel weird" or "I don't like it."

And whenever I hear that, I feel like we’re letting society win. Letting them pollute our thoughts and how we view our own bodies. How we ourselves have viewed feeding our own children.

It’s not supposed to feel “weird.” Don’t let them win. Don’t let them change how you and your baby bond and how you give your baby nutrients.

In a world where awful things like terrorism and addiction, are epidemics that we will have to explain to our children, far sooner than we’d like...we need to stop acting like breastfeeding is something shameful we have to shield our children from too.

Get a Grip. It’s 2018. We live in a country where we can’t even agree on whether global warming is an issue or what do with the 2nd amendment. So, as far as I’m concerned, we’ve got bigger "fish to fry." Leave the Mammas and the little babies alone!

Judgment begets judgment. Negativity begets negativity. Shame begets shame. So change the way you think. Change the norm, and change the stigma. Save the Tatas, Free the Nipple, and shut up about breastfeeding.

Marie-Antoinette was rumored to have said, "let them eat cake." In this case, the “them” is the babies, and the "cake" is the breastmilk! So Let them drink  milk! Hey, it does a body good. ;)



Jun 22, 2015

Life is Short but Sweet for Certain

30 things you need to know when you turn 30... I can start a whole list of silly, quirky and applicable information.  Like, not to apply for a credit card at a concert.  I filled out an application for a Discover card once in my early 20’s; I think it got me a free t-shirt, and I still get Discover promotional mail almost 10 years later.  And never charge a trip to your credit card and think its fine to pay it off later. Why? Because the truth is, if you wait to pay for it after the trip, it never feels worth it and you have serious vacation-guilt.  Or not to take shots after midnight.  You can do this all through your 20’s, but, by the time you turn 30, you know that a shot after midnight guarantees spinning in your bed and a hangover that won’t quit.

I have a ton of these tips and I wanted to write them all down and make a “thirty and flirty” fun list. But two days before I turned 30, I got a phone call that my friend Chris had a brain aneurysm and he died. 

The hospital was keeping him on life support though, because he was an organ donor. “He’ll help a lot of people” they said.  Like that was somehow supposed to make his loved ones feel better.

He was in his 30’s. Not old by any standards.  In great health, just started a new job, happily married, and even more happily a new dad to his 18 month old baby boy.

The news shook me.  I couldn’t drive when I got the call.  I had to pull over. I kept thinking about his wife.  They were married for 5 years and only in the first few chapters of their story together.  I thought about his son and his family.  I thought about what a hard worker he was and what a good person he was.  I thought about how every time I saw him, he always had a smile on his face and a joke to tell.  I thought about how life got busy and we always hugged goodbye and promised we’d catch up soon… but we hadn’t made it happen yet.  I thought about how life seemed so unfair.

I have dealt with death.  I have no grandparents left and lost two uncles.  I’m 30 for God’s sake.  None of us have made it this far unscathed by death. But when it is the death of a peer, I have come to accept, and sometimes expect, the culprit to be a car accident or a drug overdose.  Those things that are God awful in their own right; but not unusual for my generation.  But a freak health incident?  A brain aneurysm? That’s’ not supposed to happen to us.  We’re still young.  If we work out and eat healthy, those things don’t apply to us.  We’re still in control.  We’re still invincible.

Or so we thought.

I went to his house the day I found out.  I wanted to do something for his wife—my friend too.  She hugged me when I came in the house and she congratulated me on my engagement.

Can you imagine?  A woman who in her own personal hell, minding her manners and giving proper salutations. Or maybe she was just trying to feel normal for a second?  Either way, I respected it and admired her.  There is no “right way” to deal with death.

She hugged me and told me how happy she was for me.  It made me feel awful, and yet I knew she really meant it.  Then she looked at me and her eyes welled up, “Even though I know…” then her voice trailed off, “It’s like, I’m just waiting for him to come home from work.”

I hugged her knowing that nothing I could do or say could ease her pain. Life was unfair.  This is how the cookie crumbled.  This was the hand she was dealt.  It is what it is.

We use lots clichés and old adages, but it doesn’t help.  It doesn’t ease our pain or make us accepting of his death.  There was nothing she could do. And yet rather than fall apart, she pulled it together, just in time for her perfect little son to toddle into the kitchen.

Then I saw strength.  The kind that only exists in the strongest of women and the toughest of mothers… she held her tears in and smiled at her son. “Do you want a drink buddy?”  It was as if she wasn’t crying.  She switched into “Mommy-Mode” and she was utterly selfless.

I watched her graciously navigate through the kitchen, past all the food trays people had brought over and around the flowers and fruit. Simple offerings that we as people give when we don’t know what to do or say, but want to help.

Selfishly I was happy the baby had come in.  I didn’t feel like I was even strong enough to think about what had happened to Chris, and he was only my friend.  This was her husband.

I thought about how Chris had made this woman a wife and a widow and a warrior.  

As the baby made his way out of the kitchen she looked back to me.  “If I have one piece of advice for you in marriage, it’s not to sweat the small stuff.  Because life is short and you never know…” she shrugged and began to well up again.

I’ve heard that cliché a ton of times.  I sang my heart out to the Dave Matthew’s line and posted it to my facebook profile and AIM away message all through my youth, “Life is short but sweet for certain.”  I had written it hundreds of times on notebooks, reading it over and over again; but this was the first time it struck me.  In the context of my friend’s kitchen, who was now a widow in her 30’s, I truly understood.

Her words hung in the air and they stuck to my heart.

I didn’t respond.  I just hugged her again, except this time it felt like she was comforting me. Death does that though, it makes everything feel backwards.

So screw the list of silly adages.  At least for today (maybe I’ll write that another time.)  For now, I think the most important thing we have to know by the time we turn 30 is, “not to sweat the small stuff, because life is short.”

Perspective on that one sentence can change how you respond to a cranky child, a barking pet, a traffic jam, and a problem at work.  It’s the difference between a quick hug, a bear hug and a good squeeze.  The difference between hanging up the phone and taking a moment to say “I love you.”  It’s what reminds us that life is truly a gift, death doesn’t discriminate or care about age, and we have to seize our happy moments.

So, I will start this decade, not only with a heavy heart for the loss of a friend (because my heart is heavy), but I will also start it with gratitude in my soul and perspective on my side… thanks to Chris.   

*And Chris is surely laughing that he finally made it into one of my blogs :)

Life is short but sweet for certain.”  Read it again.  “Life is short but sweet for certain.”  Take it in.  Breathe it in and out.  Hold onto it and live it.