Pregnant AND breastfeeding. Come at me.
I don’t know a lot of people, but all of the people I know have seen my boobs, up to and including my nipples. I’ve breastfed five babies, all told over ten years — that’s a lot of time to have your boobs out. But breastfeeding never seemed obscene to me. I’ve shared photos of myself on Instagram, Facebook, my (long abandoned, now defunct) blog, and Ravishly, in any number of states of undress — none of it, certainly not the breasts, ever seemed obscene.
Even so, it still surprises me when I find myself mired in the intense anger some folks harbor for women who breastfeed their children without offering an apology. I don’t often scan the “suggested for you” section of Instagram (I actually don’t even know if that’s what it’s called), but I did today, and this is how I know the universe is using me for good.
Here is the good:
The “suggested for you” section of Instagram is where I found click.mama, Daphne, an Australian photographer and mom to two little boys. I found her because she was laying semi-reclined at least partly nude, with a nude baby draped across her body, nursing. Her older son is nearby, pantless, as toddlers are wont to do should they be permitted.
From the small photo, I can see she is young. From the same small photo, I see so much of myself from 20 years ago — young mothers with young babies. There are things you remember about motherhood with such clarity that, when you spot them in another woman, you are instantly transported to that place where you stopped being just you and started being responsible for someone else. The gravity of that, the heaviness of it, the joy, the difficulty, the moments of mothering two small children, snips of time that are gone too quickly.
I clicked Daphne’s photo, not because she is nude and nursing an infant but because she is, at least in part, living the life I have lived.
I clicked Daphne’s photo because I wanted to say that she’s a good mother, doing a good job, because that’s a nice thing to hear, and also because I knew that there were probably people saying the opposite.
Folks feel so entitled to their anger and disgust, even (and especially) when something doesn’t impact them. They’ll lose their mind over a kid swimming without a shirt or a baby lying next to a cat or dog. They’ll flip out if they see a toddler holding an iPad. They’ll decide that someone is a terrible parent because they dye their 4-year-old’s hair pink.
People will stop you in the grocery store to tell you that your 2-year-old has no business with a sucker in their mouth and that you shouldn’t be nursing your newborn without a cover. They’ll do this because they’ve never shopped with a screaming 2-year-old and a newborn. Or maybe they have shopped with a 2-year-old and a newborn, and they did it without a sucker while pushing a cart full of groceries and not showing the rest of the store their nipple — which obviously makes them a better parent than you.
Unsolicited critique isn’t just for parents, either. Fat? Dressed in something other people don’t like? Hair too short? Too fit? Not fit? Gay? Dare to show affection to your partner?
You really can’t win.
We’ve told them they don’t have to waste energy being so offended by a breast or a butt, or hair or candy, or who we love, but these opinions are apparently very deeply held because the comments will always happen.
I’ve run out of patience. I’ve run out of polite ways to say sit down and shut up.
I can’t keep trying to convince people that breastfeeding is natural and baby butts aren't perverse and kids can pick their own hair color; it’s all about immersion therapy now. If you don't like what I post, that's just too bad. Because I'm going to keep posting what I want, when I want, how I want. I'm tired of tiptoeing around the sensibilities of randos in my comments and DMs instead of just sharing authentic pieces of my life with people I love, and celebrating the bits of life they share with me.
Boys can have long hair.
They can actually like long hair. Parents can actually honor their child's wishes to have long hair and not give a fig about what other people think.
This is actually just hair and says nothing about masculinity or femininity or sexuality.
Neither long hair nor salty gravy have ever killed a child.
Kids can have pink hair.
And purple hair.
You can wear any dress you want in any body you have.
A child doesn’t have to be a baby to nurse.
Breastmilk is beneficial, even for toddlers.
Even for 4-year-olds,
Even if you're pregnant with another baby!
Women don’t have to completely conceal their entire breast just because you don’t like it.
Sometimes people need to use a breast pump.
Women (and men) can fall in love and yes, they can (and do) still have (and show) affection for each other.
Kids CAN tell you their gender, AND they can be parented accordingly. They can also wear whatever they want.
PS Juice from a package won’t kill them.
Cats don’t kill babies.
You can nurse two children at one time (humans actually have TWO breasts).
AND kids can also pretend to feed their dolls with their bodies as humans beings do.
Little boys can do this too!
It’s ok if a toddler sees a baby eating.
It's ok if kids play outside naked.
In underwear? Nursing a 4-year old? IS THAT A C-SECTION SCAR I SEE?