As I wrote up my National Breastfeeding Month events post, I decided to include some goals I've had in mind for awhile - plus one that just popped in my head. I thought it would be cool, in the interest of normalizing nursing in public, to post a breastfeeding photo each day in a public forum - my Facebook page. I figured the only thing challenging about what I for some reason called a Photo "Challenge" would just be remembering post a breastfeeding photo every day sometime before falling asleep. It turned out to be a very emotional thing for me, though, as some of the photos and thoughts that I shared were ones that made me feel intensely vulnerable.
Happy World Breastfeeding Week!!
Happy National Breastfeeding Month!!!
The week started out vanilla enough. My only concern posting this photo of Bellybean and myself in our Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies attire was that somebody out there might think I was too modest, the way my shirt fell over my little guy's nose.
Bellybean and I stopped at a couple of big box baby stores to drop off flyers for National Breastfeeding Month events. Between stores, getting into his car seat, he let me know in no uncertain terms that he needed to nurse. It seems like it's getting to be a habit, needing to be topped off to survive a car ride...
This next photo truly was a challenge to post. Seriously. You may think I'm bat-crap crazy, but I ugly-cried before I hit "Post."
Over the past almost year, the more I have advocated for breastfeeding, the more I have felt in myself a growing dissonance. The incongruity of saying that breastfeeding is not sexual but being compelled to be utterly discreet while nursing leaves me feeling ill at ease either way.
I've posted lots of nursing photos on Facebook in an effort to normalize breastfeeding. And though I could just have been holding a sleeping baby for all the skin that was showing, it was still important. I've shown moms who are uncomfortable with NIP that with some practice, you can be discreet.
I guess I want to show with my actions, not just say with my words, that you don't have to be discreet if that's not important to you.
I don't want it to be important to me.
I want to rebel against the dissonance, the decades of socialization, my seven years of ninja nursing. I want to be the change I want to see in the world - to shake off the social norm expectations that are in direct conflict with public health goals. If I can't do it, how can I expect change from those who would discriminate against nursing mothers?
So there I am, being counted among the mothers who nursed in solidarity at The Big Latch On in Austin. It's just a bit of flesh. But I want that to count for something.
Gloria Sanchez of GA-Images offered ten mamas who follow my Facebook page free mini nursing photo sessions to celebrate National Breastfeeding Month. I am grateful for these beautiful images of my sweet Bellybean as he begins to transform from baby to toddler!
At Mayfield Park
Image Credit: GA-Images by Gloria Sanchez
Part of our thirteen-year wedding anniversary celebration included brunch at Tacodeli. I was so excited to see a mama nursing in public (the second time at Tacodeli!) and I ran to the car for a "Thank you for Breastfeeding" card. Usually I say a quick (almost embarrassed, in my shyness) thank you, hand off the card, and bolt. But the woman I talked to, Chelsea, recognized me from Facebook, and I got to chat with her for a bit, which was so nice! This was a highlight of my special day!
With Chelsea and her husband and two-month-old baby at Tacodeli!
I hadn't taken any NIP photos on the 6th, so I decided to share Paa.la's collage. As much as it is important to me to support mothers when they need it and to respond to negative attitudes toward NIP, I just couldn't bring myself to get wrapped up in the negativity that happened over the weekend. I wanted to stay positive, to enjoy World Breastfeeding Week!
I've been putting a lot of time into working on our coalition's National Breastfeeding Month events, which suits me fine because I prefer to put my energy into things that are proactive rather than reactive. But that's left me with almost no reactive energy for the sudden crazy onslaught of negative NIP incidents. Thankfully, there is vast support to be found online, and the mothers involved have not lacked support from our wonderful breastfeeding community. And Paala, as always, is totally on top of all things related to NIP incidents.
Paa.la's collage includes links to a ridiculous number (what is wrong with people lately?!!!) of NIP incidents
and information about actions taken on the part of advocates and businesses alike.
When I chose this graphic from The Leaky Boob as my Day 7 photo, I'd had two extremely awkward conversations over the preceding few days about breastfeeding. One was regarding expectations of "respect" (on the nursing mom's part) when nursing in public, and the other was about being taken aback by seeing breastfeeding photos like this one (with an uncovered breast) on social media. My support of nursing moms is absolute, so I would not back down from that. And for me, having a diplomatic conversation in person is so much more challenging than doing so in writing. I both felt that I said too much, and that I left too much out. But it kind of boils down to this, though: it's just a baby eating.
Graphic from The Leaky Boob
I mock myself a little about calling this a photo challenge. But to be completely honest, posting a photo of breastfeeding that is not covered (by a shirt, I don't just mean a cover), is a bit of a challenge for me.
You see, for so many months I've been entrenched in this issue with my school district, and at least sometimes, I've assumed that they've surely been tuned in to my page and blog. So other than Wonder Woman in the profile pic, I've only posted breastfeeding photos that are as discreet as I am.
Now, as I evolve in how I run my page, I worry - will anyone who has supported me feel betrayed (strong word, maybe, but I can't think of a weaker one that means about the same thing) that after all my months of modesty I'm posting an uncovered photo? Will there be a mass exodus from my page? Worse, will friends who have seen me nurse modestly for years be bothered, and if so, what will that mean for our friendship?
And on the other side of that coin, will there be someone who reads this and is insulted by me saying this is new territory for me? That I was ruled by fear of Facebook deleting my page and personal profile, and of losing support when I needed help when I started this page, and of someone in the school district, and then in the House or Senate, not supporting our cause because I was not more... mainstream, for lack of a better word?
It's so crazy, because for one thing, I don't even have language that I feel okay about to talk about this. I get that modesty and discretion are subjective, but is that supposed to mean that I'm not supposed to use those words, even as a breastfeeding advocate?
And what about the word covered? For me it's never meant just a big nursing cover. So do I nurse uncovered? No, but what's the opposite? Exposed? Does that have a negative connotation? What about breastfeeding openly? That just sounds weird.
I feel concerned over the language in part because I have this notion that the spectrum of breastfeeding support might have on one end women who think I'm not hard core enough if I say I'm discreet, or if I post pictures of nursing modestly. I guess that's probably/maybe just in my head. But maybe not. I maintain that most judgment is self-judgment, but I've seen a lot of ugly online, and not just from NIP naysayers. It's enough to make one second guess every move, in a damned if you do, damned if you don't kinda way. The possibility of failing other mothers or being failed by other mothers leaves me feeling very vulnerable.
Nonetheless, including this photo is entirely for me. It's about stilling the dissonance that I've come to feel.
I am trying not to be ruled by fear. Because this, is just a baby eating.
If you want to join my little "challenge" and would like to share any breastfeeding photos on KANIP, you can post or PM them there or email them to me. Please include a note saying that I can file them away for use one day on this blog or on social media.