It happened the other day.
I was at a get together with a bunch of other families. Kids running everywhere, people chatting, you know the drill. Anyway, Lucy, my almost 5-month-old baby, got hungry and I went to make her a bottle.
A dad was in the kitchen as I was making the bottle and he quipped, “Did you hear about what they’re doing in New York with the formula?” and a whole breastfeeding/formula feeding conversation ensued. He wasn’t criticizing me for giving her formula, nothing like that, but I still found myself getting defensive. “Well, I’m still breastfeeding,” I said. “I just supplement with formula. You see, I started feeding her rice cereal a couple of weeks ago and my milk supply has been dropping ever since. This happened with my other kids, too. I mean, I still pump all the time and I nurse her as much as I can to try and build my supply back up again, I’ve even tried Brewer’s Yeast, but…” And on and on I went. It’s like I was reciting Chapter 10 of “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding”.
The poor guy didn’t know what had hit him.
As the mother of an infant during The Great Formula Feeding Debate of 2012, every mother’s every feeding decision has become some kind of political stance. Worse, our culture can’t seem to decide what to think about breastfeeding. If you don’t breastfeed, you’re a bad mom. But if you do it in public, you’re an exhibitionist. (Which, I guess, means that society has decided what to think: Mothers shouldn’t leave the house until their babies are at least one year old.) Just weeks earlier I had felt obliged to hide out in bathrooms and cars to nurse Lucy while out in public. It was either that or subject the poor kid to having a blanket over her face on a 100 degree day. I’ve probably wasted gallons of gas sitting in a running car while Lucy took her sweet time suckling. Fortunately, there’s a DVD player for the two older kids, who also often had to hide out with me.
(I suppose I’m part of the problem. I’m no prude, but I don’t like the idea of just letting it all hang out, and I definitely don’t like the looks I get when I do nurse in public. I mean, I went to Mardi Gras — twice — in my early 20′s and managed to never show my tits, so I’m certainly not going to do it now… in Walmart … after nursing three babies … when no one is offering beads.)
And then this week the whole” legitimate” rape/abortion thing hit the news. All of a sudden people — ahem, men — were everywhere talking about what women should do with our uteruses. (uterii?) First the boobs, now the uteruses. It all makes me long for Victorian times. I can’t imagine a politician back then getting up on a stump to discuss women’s private parts.
I get it — as mothers it’s not just about us. We are blessed to carry these precious lives inside of us and we have the beautiful opportunity to feed them nature’s most perfect food. We are tasked with providing for another life, a truly remarkable privilege. In fact, it’s all a misty, watercolor, Hallmark card … until you’re bedridden with preeclampsia, or in your 30th hour of labor, or the doc forgets to give you something for the pain before he stitches up your hoo-ha, or your nipples are so sore, cracked and bleeding that every time the baby eats she looks like Dracula after a kill. (All things I have personal experience with, btw.)
My point? Motherhood is intensely personal and often intensely painful. So people — ahem, men — need to shut the eff up.
Let’s try this, ladies: The next time some guy wants to talk pregnancy, abortion or breastfeeding with us, let’s turn the tables on him. “How’s your scrotum?” we should ask. “Are you wearing boxers or briefs? You know, tighty whities aren’t good for the boys — too constricting. And do you masturbate? Daily? Doing so helps prevent prostate cancer, you know…” Or perhaps the even more personal, “How much time do you spend with the children you’ve made?”