Being pregnant and becoming a mother has been such an incredible blessing and eye opening experience; so much so, that it is hard to express with words. I feel like I understand so much more; and, eventually, when I go back to practice I feel like this experience will make me a much better doctor and caretaker. Even though I have worked with moms through these experiences for years, it's like they say- it is TOTALLY different when you experience it first and and walk in these shoes...
One thing that has surprised me and aggravated me more than expected is the experience of nursing around other people- whether in public or in my own home. Because of this, I am so appreciative of my friends- the O'Briens- for doing the NIN Project, something I look forward to participating in with Harper. You can watch it at http://www.mothering.com/interactive/mothering-media/mothering-media-archives.html (scroll down to the "NIN Project"). I know friends and patients who have either chosen to not breastfeed their children or have stopped nursing sooner than expected because of our cultural perception and what others think is normal or not. However, I did not expect our culture and people's opinions to affect me as much as they have when it comes to nursing.
It all started at my baby showers, actually. I received several versions of what is known as a "Hooter Hider". Most people who have children or are around women who do, know what this is. And, I can not tell you how many times I have heard, "That is the neatest invention, I wish I had had one of those!" I politely smile at every person who says this to me, but honestly, I hate them! However, I do use mine religiously because it is just one of those things that I do- like many others do too- to conform to society and be respectful of people's feelings around me. Babies are not too fond of them either- notice how they kick around and try to move them out of their way when old enough to do so? It blocks their view of trying to bond with their mom and take in the world around them. And, seriously, we come up with an invention that is a major seller to hide something that is totally normal that we should be unashamed of?! Not to mention we give it this hidious, trashy name... Such is our culture! Then, I can not tell you how many times I have heard different versions of this same story any time La Leche League meetings come up associated with nursing conversations: "I went to one of those groups because I was the first in my family to nurse. It was all I could do to compose myself because you have all these 5 yr. old kids walking up and lifting their mom's shirts to nurse- ugh!" And this one is classic, at one shower this lady that I had just met walked up to me and my mom. She was wearing poor fitting clothes that revealed a decent amount of herself. I only say this because I laughed about her attire after she shared her story. When Harper was acting hungry, she starts in, "Yeah, I was at the grocery store this one day, and this lady was walking around nursing her baby under a blanket and her stomach was totally showing. I just can't believe people do that in normal places like the grocery store- yuck!" To which I responded- well if your child nurses for half an hour about every hour, you are forced to nurse on the go sometimes otherwise you would never go anywhere or get anything done.
Truthfully, I did not expect breastfeeding to be such a sacrifice or as time consuming as it has been. For instance, when Harper was trying to bring in my milk, he nursed non-stop for 13 hours straight. I am not joking or exagerating, ask JB! I thought my life was over... However, even though it is hard at times (it has gotten easier and become a more normal part of my life), I am very grateful for the experience. Like the fact that sometimes I am the only one who can comfort my son. I have the perfect food for him at the perfect temperature, ready at all times. I am decreasing my chances of illness and his and increasing both of our chances of health and wellness by choosing to nurse exclusively! His diapers don't stink. It forces this A-type personality to slow down, sit down and make my son my number one priority, letting everything else go. And best of all, nursing is often the perfect excuse to leave any situation I want out of. Ha! Thank goodness for awesome, encouraging moms and friends who make it easier because it has been hard enough! I had one patient/friend/mentor email me something that JB and I still smile and laugh about. It was the perfect word and came at the perfect time. She reminded me of Psalms 22:9- "Yet You are He who brought me forth from the womb; You made me trust when upon my mother's breasts." Telling me to remember that Harper was learning to trust the Lord everytime I nursed him; I am a part of teaching him this! Then she joked about how she told her husband one day, "I am never going to be able to wear a shirt again!" I did not even realize I had felt that way, but boy had I ever! Despite all the encouragement, I have been met by plenty of opposing opinions. Even those who are in support of nursing often do not seem very happy that you are nursing around them. Like when I walked into the nursing room at church the other night. I laughed to myself at a room full of women all very diligently using their Hooter Hiders. Seriously?! Hooter Hiders in a room full of nursing women?! First of all, we all have them- boobs or hooters I mean- and second of all we were all using them to feed our children... Meaning you honestly think I have time to stare at you when I am trying to feed my child?! Pathetic culture of ours! Then there is my poor dad, who I told after he commented several times on how uncomfortable my nursing made him, that he was just going to have to get used to it if he was going to be around us. He quickly realized I was right, since it seems this is all we do these days; and now he sits around like it's just normal- because it is! But, I still have other family members who simply walk out of the house when I nurse. Oh well, we spend too much time doing it to have to go to another room everytime we have to eat! And, then there is my precious mom, haha! When we were out shopping at Southlake, she freaked out that I might get arrested because I had to nurse in the park and had forgotten my hider in the car. I informed her that it is the law that a woman can legally nurse anywhere she is allowed to be. At my sister's graduation the other day, she kept re-arranging my hider because she was nervous that the guys behind us were trying to gawk at my breasts. And, she is constantly telling her friends that everyone in the metroplex has seen my boobs because I just "don't care who sees them". I constantly remind her that it really doesn't matter because they don't look like mine and aren't really mine anymore anyway! She is extremely supportive of me nursing Harper, but all of the things she says and does just remind me of how abnormal and uncomfortable our culture has made this NORMAL process. UGH! Also, we recently played Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus at my dad's church in the Christmas Play. I can not tell you how many times I heard the joke of Mary "having to pull a Janet Jackson on stage if Jesus got hungry."
One of my favorite reminders of what an awesome Creator we serve is breastfeeding. Did you know that when a baby latches on to its mother's breast, the baby's saliva tells the mom's body exactly what milk to make for the baby? This fact just gives me chills! God did such an incredible job when He knit our bodies together! In other words, each feeding the milk is different because the baby's needs are different. Sometimes it may need more fat and other times more protein. This is why the same mom can nurse a newborn and a toddler and both will get exactly what he/she needs- NOT the same milk but the perfect recipe for that specific child at that time from the same breast! God created the saliva to tell the mom's breast what the baby is ready for and needs. Pumping, pacifiers and/or formula can NOT come close to doing that! Why do we try to run so far from what we have been created for?!
So this is my soap box to say I have now experienced it firsthand, and it drives me crazy and makes me so sad to live in this culture that shuns normalcy and health. I should not be made to feel so bad about something that I am created to do for the benefit of my family. I mean the fact that a girl can walk in a the room scantly clad, revealing more of her body than I would ever dream of revealing, and I will get more judgemental looks/comments from discreetly nursing my child than her outfit will generate is insane. We could be such a healthier, happier nation if we would spend more time and money on teaching and encouraging moms to nurse rather than freely offering formula. This is a reminder to encourage moms who choose to nurse because they are getting plenty of encouragement to pop the top of the formula can and heat, shake, and serve... More blogs to come later on the wonderful formula recipe and why it is quite possibly one of the nastiest things you can give your child!