Friday, August 5, 2011

breastfeeding part 2: shame and magic

disclaimer: this is a the second in a series of posts about breastfeeding, specifically, my own story of breastfeeding.  I believe that men need to be informed and supportive of this subject . . . however if you happen to be my dad, or one of my brothers . . . look- there is something really funny on YouTube.

disclaimer #2: there is a deeper story here, one that tells the story of all women . . . I happened to discover it through breastfeeding, something that has been significant and meaningful for me, but it doesn't make me a better mother or more of a woman than any woman who has never breastfed or never had children.

Breastfeeding did not come easily.  I know for sure that after Sami's six week check-up I was still experiencing gasp-for-air, toe-curling pain every time she latched on- which she did about 700 times a day.  I had never imagined that it would be this kind of commitment, that simply feeding my baby would demand everything from me, body and soul.  But it was during these sleepless nights and *WOW* moments that my mothering instincts were honed, my desperate love for my child was forged, and in some joyful, quiet way I experienced the tender, mothering side of God.

It felt like love, the way milk could stream out of me.  It was physical- I was so full of this love that I literally swelled with it, I would wake soaked in it.  It was visceral - all of the things that I most wanted to be for my child- nourishment and comfort and pleasure- and it came straight from my own bones.  Just the sound of her cry caused my milk to let down- as much as she needed me, I needed her.  I would think about the fact that in some mysterious way, a child first begins to hope for God at her mother's breast!

Nursing was pain and exhaustion and amazement and contentment.  Mostly, it was magical.  I couldn't believe that my body was capable of producing something so pure and good.

But the magic was something kept secret only between baby and me.  Because outwardly, breastfeeding was still a little bit shameful.

Youth group girls don't know what to do with our breasts.  We're taught to feel a kind of shame of them, to keep them well under-cover, and so when it comes time for them to perform we are . . . flustered. Struck with a kind of guilt for our immodesty and embarrassment that now everyone knows we do indeed have them.  

At first I nursed almost solely in private, far away from people, until I finally got tired of hiding.  Because with every ounce of milk the shame was slowly fading, and growing in it's place right along with my baby's thighs was a newfound confidence and joy in being a woman and the way God made us.

And this is where the act of breastfeeding somehow merges into a deeper story and that is the way that breastfeeding brought me back to life.  It is, by it's nature, a contemplative time, one of the graces I am sure God gives to new moms- time throughout the day to sit and be quiet and hold your child- and it was during these archaic rituals of feeding a baby that I discovered the first twinkle of what I decided must be God's delight in women.

. . . Part 3 coming soon . . .

Until then,  I love this post by Megan at Sorta Crunchy, Breastfeeding as Worship
Entirely too many contemporary Christians see the body of a woman exactly the same way our culture does . . . "a breast is a breast -- it's a sexual thing."  Yet this sentiment stands in direct opposition to God's Truth as revealed through creation. 
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding was my saving grace during my first days as a new mom.  I am so thankful for the person who recommended I read it before I had the baby!  -It is now my stand-by gift for every baby shower-  I would never have been so committed to sticking with nursing even though it was mind-numbing painful and exhausting.  I consulted this book for everything.  It was the only book that made sense at the time, that gave me any kind of reassurance for my baby's never-sleeping/constant fussing/constant nursing.


Fijufic said...

My wife has done studies for breast feeding mothers and developed/authored the protocol for breastfeeding at the local children's hospital.

She has been published on the Doctoral level in the subject although her main field of practice is Family/Emergency/Occupational Health.

My sister is currently breastfeeding my niece and my niece is growing like a weed.

My sister is rather shy so when she is out, she generally has pumped her breasts and feeds her milk to the baby out of the bottle.

You are right, there is still some social taboo in certain places about this activity.

Looking back there is nothing more beneficial for the baby or mother than breastfeeding.

I'm a dude and I feel the twinge of "Yikes" when this goes down and I politely excuse myself till baby is fed no matter who is doing it or where we are.

I also recognize it is an awesome bond.

Great post as always Jess.


camilla said...

Am loving the series. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

As an expecting father with a low income, my wife and I made the trek into the WIC office a few days ago to speak with a nutritionist. As we were talking about breast feeding the nutritionist looked at me and asked what my thoughts and feelings were on breastfeeding. I told her that I thought it was only natural and that as long as my wife is capable of doing so and chooses to do so, there was no replacement. The nutritionist looked at me with shock and awe. I really had no idea as a male that this would be such an uncommon or shocking view on breastfeeding. I do not know if this has been a hot topic recently, but all of the sudden I am seeing spots on the news about people breastfeeding in public and reading reports on the studies of babies who are breastfed. Anyways, I am thankful for stories like yours that speak into the life of a soon to be father and mother who have no experience of our own to go on.

Also - I posted anonymous due to the internet world not knowing that my wife and I are expecting yet. Hopefully it does not seem cowardly.

Jessica said...

I love that two of these first three comments are from men! Thanks guys for your interest in and understanding of this subject!

Ruth said...

YES, Jess. This is SUCH a great post.

Ashley said...

Nursing was wonderfully fulfilling for me... although sooooo very painful at first. It's so true that it is hard to fight that twinge of embarrassment or shame whenever I have nursed the babes with any males around... or God forbid... in church! :P And then I have thought... why do I feel this way? And the answer is "I'm afraid of being judged or thought to be immodest." (sigh..) There have been times that I have succomed to the guilt and other times I have fought through it and nursed anyway, and I'm sure with #3 it will be the same. (No, not preggo yet!) Anyways, great post... excited for part 3!