How dare you ‘dis’ this
I read some of the remarks bandied about in the recent debate about breastfeeding. It’s mind boggling to imagine anyone – especially women who have breastfed their own babies – “dissing” the practice. But that’s just what has happened, and it makes me shake my head.
Breastfeeding is one of the best, most nurturing things you can do for your child. Granted, not everyone can breastfeed. Sometimes the mother and child just can’t get the hang of it, and there’s no shame in that – although breast milk is a unique miracle. Your own body makes this perfect nourishment for your own child, and it is always available in the right quantity and at the right temperature, with all the right “stuff” in it for your particular child. Cow’s milk is for baby cows, but breast milk is perfect for baby humans.
There was an uproar a few years ago about a mom who wanted to breastfeed her child at a restaurant. I admired her bravery in reclaiming her breasts as not objects, but functional and useful parts of her body. She was using her breasts in the way they were intended to be used. For too long breasts have been objectified as sexual and nothing more, when it’s obvious their intent was to provide food for a baby – to be more than stimulants. I am so proud of the women who are fighting those “standards,” facing up to people who want to relegate breasts to one role that means they should be hidden and not admired for their utility.
And while we’re at it, we need to reclaim childbirth back from the realm of illness. I’ve been reading a book called Laying-In, which examines the evolution of birth as something that occurred with little interference from the (mostly male) medical cartel to something that requires, absolutely requires, hospitalization and almost over-the-top intervention. Childbirth is not an illness. It’s a natural and wonderful process that more often than not goes very smoothly. I’m not saying that women with at-risk pregnancies should not place themselves in the hands of a capable obstetrician – they certainly should – but I would encourage more women to seek less-invasive means of giving birth, such as using midwives and natural childbirth at home. I know if I was ever going to have another child – and believe me, I’m not – I would definitely opt for a home birth and less of a dependence on conventional medicine.
And there’s one more thing we women need to do. There’s no reason to be ashamed of any of the functions of our bodies. We menstruate. We have periods. We have menopause. And we have hysterectomies. Even now, in the 21st century, I have come across friends who talk about having “women problems” and act as though having a period, going through menopause or having a hysterectomy is something that should be kept a deep dark secret or whispered about. My sisters, let us claim our bodies and all their beautiful functions: breastfeeding, preparing our bodies for pregnancy, accommodating our bodies for pregnancy, carrying and nurturing a baby in our wombs and bringing that baby to life and light at the right time in the right way – and even acknowledging without embarrassment the time when our bodies come to a point when that very functionality we celebrate has ceased. It is part of the marvelous circle of life. Let us rejoice at each and every point, for we are fearfully and wonderfully made.