Monday, June 28, 2010

What a Boob

Should the editor of a parenting magazine have to apologize for saying she thought the idea of breastfeeding her baby was creepy? ("I formula fed. So what?", Kathryn Blundell)

Maybe. Maybe when her baby is 15 and reads it.

Could she have used better judgment, considering her position, and either toned it down or not written it? I suppose. But it's part of the mothering experience, isn't it? A bunch of ranting lactivists are not going to change her mind or the minds of countless women who feel as she does. In fact, ranting lactivists are part of the problem.

But she gets to have her opinion. She gets to express it. And then she gets to deal with the fall-out. She probably got fed up with another pro-breastfeeding study that tapped some well of guilt, or she was judged by one last mother, and she decided "Screw you bitches," and wrote up an editorial. Her opinion and reactions say a lot about her, and they say a lot about the socialization and sexualization of women. I can't find the original, so all I have are quotes in a newspaper article. It may appeal to other mothers who feel the same way, and they may well be cheering that someone has pulled a Jerry Maguire and put it all down on paper, but she really just sounds whiny and childish.

Opinions like this are part of the conversation, and they should be out there and be judged on their merits and on the evidence. I am certain that the dialogue that happens will not be reasonable, however. We're too emotional when it comes to mothering, so we probably won't get anywhere or make any progress.

It's not hard to guess where I stand on this issue. She's a big, selfish baby. Yup, breastfeeding can suck--it's the nature of the beast. Animated blue birds are not going to alight on your shoulders and cheep happy songs while you lovingly gaze into your infant's eyes wearing your best, crisply white floaty nightgown, one hand resting lightly on the downy head of a baby deer. Half the time, you are unwashed, at 3:00 in the morning, in a big tee shirt you got at an Olivia Newton-John concert in 1999 wearing old, most likely stained, cotton underwear, nodding off while sitting crosslegged on the extra bed in the baby's room, while he twitches and just won't let go.

Not that I would know anything about that.

Nothing is all good. There are elements of joy and ease when it comes to breastfeeding, and there are times of deep, dark woe. Having pumped exclusively for 71 days while the boy was in the hospital, I have little patience for someone whining about "wanting their body back" or anyone who complains that it's "just too hard." Give me a break. Are we really this pampered?

(If I were one of the mothers who desperately wanted to breastfeed and for some reason, was physically unable, I would want to punch this woman in the throat.)

The thing is, we can't have everything. Giving up some of the rights to your body is part of the bargain of having a kid. Deal with it. You are going to give up sleep, freedom, cleanliness, organization, reading in peace, gardening, excessive crafting, easy travel, financial security... the relationship you had with your partner will morph and change; you'll forget what you talked about before you had a baby, and eventually, you will wind up talking about the baby. Putting parenting and modern western society together can be difficult, but we are still wildly privileged people, which shows when we can get paid to be this childish.


jlw said...

Saw this article this afternoon and made me think of this and some of what you have said about judgment.

kittywhumpus said...

j, that article is definitely leading to another post.

jlw said...

since I don't have a child the stand out quote for me is: "I understand this might be confusing, but don't worry — it's not your fault — it's peanut butter's fault for being mind-alteringly scrumptious." But I am sure there are others equally as important.

Glad this is food for fodder for your blog.