My Mother- from Awkward to my Advocate
My mother was staring aggressively at the closet door directly across from the couch. She spoke in single syllables and she refused to make eye contact with me. You see, I was nursing my week old daughter. This made my mother uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable.
I was a baby in a time when mothers were storming down our street in ill-fitting power suits and sensible sneakers on their way to the city. Formula was a convenience that many of these career women turned to so they could quickly resume their lives. I was a formula child. I don’t think I suffered for it either. So the “they’re smarter, better, more attached” argument falls flat on my ears. However, I now live in Seattle. Breastfeeding seems to be the norm here. So when I got pregnant I too learned of and believed in the benefits of breastfeeding and decided to do it. “For as long as it works,” I thought. I had heard of many mothers’ challenges and figured “if I couldn’t, I couldn’t.” I still had this thing that while I thought it was just peachy if you wanted to breastfeed in public, I still would be stopped in my tracks when I saw a breast. Fortunately I grew to realize this was my own weird hang-up. I knew it was a fine thing to nurse in public, but was wary of doing it myself. In anticipation, I purchased a nursing cover. I told my mother I would breastfeed. She thought this was going to be “interesting,” as I had also told her I was using a midwife. According to her, I was now in hippie-territory.
I had the baby. A few hours later, my mother in the hospital room with me, the lactation consultant stopped by. I could see the glaze in my mother’s eyes. “You might want to leave,” I suggested. She did. Fast. Luckily, nursing came quickly and fairly easily for me and my daughter. It was about a week later that my mother had a staring contest with the aforementioned closet door. She won. I even had a thin muslin blanket over my breast and my baby. My mother was so uncomfortable that, after a twenty minute or so visit with little to no eye-contact, she said “well, I should go then,” and she did.
As the days, weeks, and months dragged on (because those first few months are so long and yet, go so quickly) I nursed. I nursed on the couch, in the bed, on the floor. I nursed at my mommy group, my first public (ish) nursing outing. And then, I ditched the nursing cover, because I spent so much time with my own head tucked underneath it that the blood rushing to my head made me hot and woozy. I “graduated” to the ever-useful and ubiquitous muslin blanket to cover myself and I became a bit more brazen: covered nursing in my car! Eventually, I nursed in the car sans blanket. It was too hot. Now, when I am out and about I barely cover with the blanket. Sure, I bring it out, but my six month old wants nothing to do with it. And, it’s hot. Really, really hot. Also, I’ve read more on breastfeeding and more mothers’ negative shaming experiences. It’s fortunate I haven’t had anyone say anything insulting to me about it. I’m a new mom, and really, I am not actually out in public much anyway. However, I am ready. “You eat your lunch under a blanket!” “You eat your dinner in the bathroom!” I am ready for a fight. I wish I didn’t have to be.
It truly is the most natural thing. I happen to be relatively conservative in my style. I’ve always found those teeny tiny shorts worn these days to be too much. . . or rather . . . too little. But, in general, that is a-ok and breastfeeding is offensive? How? What the what?!
I love how nursing my daughter brings her a peace (and nutrition, of course) that no one else can give her.
I love her cold feet brushing my legs in the early morning hours. I love that she gets so excited when she’s about to nurse that she huffs and puffs and opens her mouth so wide that her eyes scrunch up. I love how her sweet hands explore my face while she is nursing. When I say “I love you,” she tickles my lips, as if she is trying to catch my love in her tiny tight fists.
And when I was at a family get-together recently, I had to nurse. I told my Aunt Phyllis this, who was in the room with me. As was my mother. And as soon as I unclipped my bra, my mother looked at her sister and said:
“Phyllis, it’s normal. It’s natural. It’s fine. It’s good. It’s great. Okay?” This, from my mother. Frankly, my aunt didn’t seem to take issue with it anyway. But, this was huge! This was my mother. She had become my supporter. She was now my advocate.
I no longer needed a blanket to nurse my daughter in front of my mother. I no longer wanted to. I hope that someday soon, those nursing covers become obsolete. I hope that no one wants the blanket anymore. I know people will still want to cover up. That’s your choice Mommas. That is YOUR choice. No one else’s.
Jennifer, 35, is a freelance writer, designer and stay at home mom. She and her husband live in Seattle with their daughter, Gillian.
Photo credits: Jennifer Fliss
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