I was in voice class last night. My baby needed nursing. I have a nursing cover. I grabbed the baby, hoisted her under my nursing tent, and began doing the thing that I am biologically inclined to do as a mother of an infant under age 1.
"How was singing this week, [NoSurfGirl]?," My voice teacher asked. "I don't mean to catch you at a delicate moment."
"No, not at all," replied, suddenly feeling all delicate and tense, and aware of the fact that I have breasts and some people think of them as more than baby-feeders. "No... uh... good. Singing was good."
Here's the thing.
Breasts ARE baby-feeders.
Babies get hungry.
And they need to eat.
Babies are not like adults-- they don't have much ability to control themselves when they are upset about something, and they have a very low self-denial threshold. So I feed mine, when she gets hungry.
I understand that people could have moments of discomfort, seeing me take out my nursing shield and slide my baby under it. I understand that our society has sexualized breasts and there is no escaping the fact that people might be uncomfortable/horrified/titillated at the thought of breastfeeding, and might feel vaguely assaulted (or just downright assaulted) to see it take place in front of them without warning.
Here's the problem I have with that: God created my breasts to feed my babies, not to grace the cover of a men's magazine. My breasts have ducts in them that create milk. They are functional organs. I don't give a crud if some people have decided that they are too sexy to mention, or acknowledge in polite company. I don't care if the world has relegated the act of breast-feeding to the same level as bathroom functions, and therefore unfit for public consumption.
One time I was participating in an online conversation about breast-feeding and church. Someone brought up that all-too-familiar dilemma-- the sacrament is being passed. Unruly toddler won't keep a blanket on. Mom just has to make do, and hope nobody looks her directly in the breast.
Someone complained, in response to this, that while passing the sacra ment, her 14-year-old son always struggled to feel "spiritual" and not titillated when this happened, and so it was wrong of women not to leave the room, even if it meant they would miss the sacrament. The spiritual need of her son trumped the spiritual need of the nursing mother.
The response I had, but did not write, was this: Then you've taught your son wrong.
You've taught your son that breasts are objects of sexuality, forbidden fruit. You've taught your son that the sight of a child receiving nourishment from his mother is a lewd act, one that ought to be kept firmly closeted.
How will your son handle the reality of having a living, breathing wife, with functional breasts and a baby to feed them with? Is he going to be as horrified then by breastfeeding, as he is now?
And one more question: do you go and hide from your kids when you breast-feed them? If so, you've done them a real disservice.
I can't help the fact that I am a woman. OK... I'll refine that statement. I LOVE the fact that I am a woman. Women come blessed with an extra set of functional pieces that provide for and cause motherhood, which is supposed to be our divine calling... our stewardship. Its our equivalent of priesthood bearing; it is how we fulfil our roles as queens and priestesses.
One of Satan's biggest lines of attack has been to objectify women's bodies... to make them sex objects alone. And to emphasize the sexual nature of women, to OVERsexualize women. Satan's done a good job with us when we make breasts a dirty thing, something to either laugh about or run away from when encountered in a non-sexual setting.
Is this how God would have it?
There are some cultures where breasts are not so sexualized.
I mean, I think Latin men probably find breasts beautiful, because they are womanly--they are a symbol of womanhood. I'm sure that, in India, breasts are an attractive feature on a woman, noticed and admired by men, like any stereotypical trait of womanhood--long hair, rounded faces, larger eyes. But they're not dirty.
It's not dirty, in Latin America, to feed your babies in public. And guess what? Babies are able to get a far larger amount of nourishment from their mothers in this way, in countries where breastfeeding is more accepted as normal, as something that is just mundane, a piece of living life. Toddlers and children on up to age 4 or even 5, sometimes, are able to receive the nourishment that God has designed so perfectly for young childhood.
I've been in situations many times, where someone tells a mission story of a four-year old boy running up to his mother, flipping up her shirt and nursing. The person telling the story always acts horrified about it, or like it's amusing for some reason. And I usually chuckle and nod, but behind it all I'm thinking... this is so wrong. To be laughing about this. To be treating it as dirty or ridiculous somehow.
I'm a mother. And I'm coming out of the closet and saying: I feed my babies with my breasts, and I'm not ashamed of that fact. I'm grateful to the Lord for blessing me with organs that produce an inexpensive source of perfect nourishment that cultivates immune health, brain function, bone and muscle development in my child. It's an amazing mercy of God, that he created women this way, and it's beautiful and a touching example of everything that motherhood physically symbolizes. It's also, as with so many things Heavenly Father has created, a powerful spiritual symbol: the umbilical nourishment in the form of the spirit, that runs between us and God. And our closeness to God: chest to chest. Face to breast.
As a woman and a potential queen and priestess, I say: let's take the breast back.
Labels: the plight of young motherhood