And that is the truth.
However, this post might not lead you where you think it might be going.
Let me explain.
I am a blogger that is known for having wider boundaries when it comes to information I share and things I write. And some of the posts that have been the most difficult for me to pen are those that shine a light on a part of my makeup or psyche or behavior that is shameful and embarrassing to me. However, these kinds of posts are also the ones I feel the most passionately about publishing because I think they can be the most helpful to other people who are also in the same(ish) situations.
Some of my best ‘light bulb moments’ have come from the words of another blogger.
One thing we parent bloggity types (known as “mommy bloggers” in many circles) are known for is being very vocal and passionate (and often times DOWN RIGHT MEAN AND NAAAASTY) about our opinions and about advocating for causes and things that we deeply believe in. And there are few things that this community of women are more passionate and vocal about than breastfeeding. It has been endlessly blogged about by women who are much more articulate than I and the community can get, well, rather heated about it. (See above MEAN AND NAAAASTY comment.) Even though I did write about my decision to bottle feed our youngest this is one of the topics I put in the “Oh, HELL no!” category when I think about writing about it.
But something happened yesterday that has upset me a great deal.
For many different reasons.
I’m writing about it.
My best friend, Kim, was trying to get her children out of the scorching Texas heat, so she took them to her local YMCA (Twin Lakes YMCA, to be exact) to swim. She was sitting on the steps of the baby pool watching her 2-year-old swim and was nursing her tiny baby while wearing a maternity tankini swimsuit that left a small bit of her side skin exposed on one side.
Not her breasts.
She was asked to leave the pool.
Because her breast milk might “contaminate” it.
While she was eventually allowed her right under Texas law to breastfeed wherever she and her baby are allowed to be, she is now asking that the YMCA have a written policy to better educate their staff and employees not just about state laws but about breastfeeding in general. (NOTE: If you would like to help, or learn more about what happened you can find out more about everything on her blog post. And I loved Kim’s statement “Please be kind and remember we are trying to educate not inflame. Together we can peacefully make a change for the better.” .)
When we were on the phone a few hours later we talked about what happened and I referred to a comment on I read on her 70+ comment Facebook status about it. It was a comment I understood all too well.
“ I’m so sorry this happened to you and I totally understand your points but you do have to realize that breast feeding does make some people feel uncomfortable.”
I told her, “I am totally glad that was not my comment to you!”. And Kim agreed and replied that she was “surprised by the amount of support I showed online’ because ”I know you and the reactions you’ve had to public breastfeeding”.
We’ve talked about it a great deal, see.
And while Kim knows that even though I FULLY AND TOTALLY SUPPORT THE RIGHTS OF MOTHERS TO NURSE WHENEVER, WHEREVER AND HOWEVER THEY WISH TO AND KNOW THAT ANY PROBLEMS I HAVE ABOUT IT ARE MY ISSUES AND MINE ALONE AND THOSE HANG UPS SHOULD NOT IMPACT A MOTHER AND HER RIGHT TO NURSE, she ALSO knows that inside I have struggled with my reactions to it in the past. And that I still have those reactions to some degree.
This is a comment I made almost 3-years ago on a blog post written by my very dear friend, Catherine, about how she had been shamed by a fellow mother while she was nursing her infant in a library.
Aug 9, 2008
…As for the nursing, I would never expect a nursing mom to go into another room to nurse. EVER. It is such a hard job, and the baby’s needs come first. However, I also appreciate it highly when discretion is used. Although I would never say anything, I get uncomfortable when I see women just whip it out with no effort to be at least a little discreet. I truly have tried my best to have it not, but there it is.
It’s kind of like…peeing??? It’s a very necessary function that is carried out by life-giving organs that are also sexually functional. I would never hold needing to urinate against someone as it is completely necessary and vital but if it has to happen in an area where there is no restroom (and all of us have been there at some point), try not to flash your groovy bits too much?
I was stupid.
Not only did I write one of the most cliched and disliked comparisons out there in regards to breastfeeding (read the Google search for it, y’all) but I literally cannot believe the lack of support I showed not just to my friend, but a fellow mother.
A reply that was very kind and understanding. A reply that by its very nature started a huge change in me from that moment on. When I read her words about how ashamed and weary she felt trying to nurse her baby at a conference, I myself attended and felt exhausted by, I wanted to curl into a ball of shame myself for my inward reaction of “YES, BUT I AGREE WITH THE WOMAN SHAMING YOU.”
What an ass.
I feel bad about it to this day.
…I still have this knee-jerk, ingrained reaction to the subject to a point.
I have NO IDEA WHY.
As y’all have sussed out, I am not exactly a prude.
For example, I have NO PROBLEM posting a photo of myself like this on my blog:
But somehow the thought of a woman out in public breastfeeding without covering up can still send me into a moment of “GAH!?”
I mean LOOK! LOOK AT KIM AND THIS PUBLIC DISPLAY OF INDECENCY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I am showing WAY more boob than she is.
I am showing WAY more boob than she did sitting on the steps of the pool when she nursed her baby.
In fact, most mothers who nurse without covering up nurse very modestly. Most mothers, even those who don’t cover up or don’t mind public nursing at all, are not out to flaunt their ta-tas to everyone. To scar children. To arouse teenagers and men who are innocently passing in the direction of her lactation.
They just want to feed their baby.
SO WHAT IS YOUR DAMAGE, LORALEE? WHY DO YOU EVEN HAVE A HINT OF REACTION LEFT IN YOUR BODY AT THIS POINT.
I have no freaking idea.
Dude, I seem to have both a lot of pride and shame tied up into my titties.
And it bothers me a lot.
WAY more than the thought of public nursing, in fact.
I could theorize until the cows came home why it still happens from time to time but I STILL don’t have a good answer for you than there are still times that I STILL think “Nursing in public=EEK!!!! Can’t you just…just…um…cover up a little??!”
The squeemish feeling doesn’t last long.
And logically I KNOW BETTER.
I don’t know if I will ever have a good answer for either you or myself.
Like my friend, Kim, writes in her blog post today, “I have stopped asking why people are so uncomfortable with breastfeeding. This is an answer I will never fully receive. I know people are uncomfortable, but that is their issue, not mine.”
And she is 100% correct, folks.
It’s hard to be this honest about this hang up I have, people.
But I think if people didn’t fess up to the things they struggle with, the world would be a lonely place full of people walking around thinking no one understands them.
And change would likely be harder and come at a much slower pace.
And I have changed on this topic.
And that change would have come much slower for me if the Kims and Annies and Catherines of the world had shown me self-righteous anger instead of compassion, patience and understanding.
So, if you feel that a mother should be the one to leave or that she should be required to cover up all burka-like or go to a toilet stall to nurse or if you have compared breastfeeding to public urination, (and I KNOW many, many are out there who have these feelings to different degrees) know that you have an empathetic ear here that will not judge you for those feelings.
Not at all.
I’ve been there, see.
I’m STILL there a little bit.
Nursing mothers should not ‘have’ to cover up.
Nursing mothers should not have to nurse in a toilet stall.
Nursing mothers should not be asked to leave an establishment.
Nursing mothers should not feel shame.
Nursing mothers are not the problem.
My issues about public breastfeeding are.
And all I can do is keep wading through them until they aren’t.
So, if you feel like I did, (and still do?)
I’d you to try something for me.
And then run down your list of objections.
And then really, REALLY think about it.
And see if you can look at even one TINY part of the argument inside your head differently.
Even if public breastfeeding makes you uncomfortable.