Today is the Great Virtual Breast Fest over at the League of Maternal Justice. I didn't get things together quickly enough to submit a photo for the montage, and then Scooter has been weaned for 3 years now, so we couldn't participate in live nursing either. But I am a huge supporter of breastfeeding. There are a hundred different posts I could write about my thoughts on the issue and my personal experience. But tonight I'll write just the one.
The origin of the nickname 'Mouse' was a girl's attempts to make fun of me and some friends. (We were dishing back, so don't feel sorry for me.) 'Mouse' was one part of what she called me; it's the rest of it that made me mad. But when that dropped out, 'Mouse' stuck.
And it's pretty clear why. I am an introvert and usually go out of my way to avoid notice (performance aspect of dance, notwithstanding). Despite my size--always tall and now overweight--I try to take up as little space as possible. There is, obviously, a self-esteem component of this. There is also a deep desire not to offend or make trouble for anyone.
Becoming a mother, however, forced me to confront some of the mousier aspects of my personality. I quickly realized that it was one thing for me to relent and yield in situations because it was 'easier,' but there was no way I would, no way I could, just acquiesce when it came to my son. And breastfeeding was an important part of this.
In the first weeks after my son's birth, I was nervous about feeding my son anywhere other than the comforts of our own house. When I went to the obstetrician a few days after his birth (there was an issue with my tear--cringe), I asked if I could wait in a back room so that I could nurse him. I was still so new to the whole process that there was no way for me to get him to latch on without entirely exposing myself, and I felt so raw and vulnerable from the whole giving-birth-thing that I wasn't ready to take that on in public.
But after about 6 weeks, once feeding became more comfortable, more the experience I had been hoping for, I gained a new courage and assertiveness. I loved the fact that I could take my son anywhere without worrying about his feeding. We carried diapers, a couple changes of clothers for him, and an extra shirt for us (learned about that one the hard way--explosive diaper!), but I never had to fumble with multiple bottles and formula and water sources.
My absolute favorite purchase for the first year was our sling. My son was very comfortable in it and I carried him everywhere. I also discovered that it gave me the support I needed to nurse him, even while walking. And although he absolutely refused to nurse under a blanket (for which I couldn't blame him since I get claustrophobic under the covers), I could pull the far side of the sling up just a bit, affording a little extra privacy, but not physically covering his head.
Even without the sling, I never hesitated to feed him. I became quite skilled at unlatching my bra with one hand and bringing my son to my breast as I simultaneously moved my shirt out of the way. If someone watched very closely, they might get a tiny nipple-peek, but I think that would say more about their interest than anything else.
While I did usually pick a quieter place--the bench in the back of Target near the pharmacy, my office chair turned towards the wall, in a booth at a restaurant--this had more to do with wanting a peaceful moment than fearing others' reactions. There were times that I almost wished someone would challenge me, because I knew I was up to the fight and would have made them regret it.
Breastfeeding also made me more sure of myself as a mother. Co-sleeping was a natural result of the feeding schedule for us. Despite the horror stories other parents told us (mostly about kids in bed until age nine, though also some about squashed babies), I knew that it was right for us. Ditto with continuing to breastfeed past a year. We heard all sorts of things about needing to get him onto more solids, but given what he was like then and how picky and stubborn he is, I suspect he would have gained even less weight if I'd withheld the breast.
And so every time I hear about another mother who is asked to 'cover up' or go nurse in the bathroom or some equally inane thing, it makes me really mad. Because to me, such a request goes even deeper than the issue of what's 'decent' and the oversexualization of the breast, it goes so far as to question her very motherhood.