Thanks, mamas, for all of your insightful and of course the humorous responses as well, they've helped me to process this highly stressful situation.
I'm leaning towards not going tomorrow. As a previous poster stated, when it comes down to it, I feel very uncomfortable and compromised as a person thinking about having to quash my motherly instincts and parenting principles in order to pacify other's strange and frankly inappropriate ideals.
I spent 3 long hours today (naking of course...dd is growth-spurting right now
) writing a huge response to FIL's email. I totally acknowledge that there are parts that are abrasive but it was so cathartic to write it all out. I am planning to ultimately speak to them in person about this, because I feel strongly in my own integrity and I want to be the one that puts an end to the behind the back conversations and exchanges that don't involve me personally. This is hard for me to do because I am a peacemaker by nature, however, I have been overwhelmed by the mama-bear instincts of wanting to do right by DD. Wow, mamas...we are so POWERFUL...I had no idea that I would feel so incredibly protective.
So here is the email that I wrote, please note that I am not planning to send this and it was enough for me to just write this all out and see it in black and white.
After reading your response, I have to admit that I couldn’t disagree with you more on several different points and quite frankly I am quite offended by some of the statements that have been made. Up until now I’ve bitten my tongue about a lot of the pervasive attitudes that you convey through email as well as conversation, but in this case I am feeling a bit backed up into a corner thus cannot be silent any longer. W, I’m surprised…from all of your hunting experience, didn’t you learn not to mess with a mother bear and her cub ?
I find your pseudo-scientific “attitudes about breastfeeding in public” survey quite amusing. This is a perfect example of two phenomena that skews statistics…experimenter bias (what and how exactly did you ask your colleagues?) and a small non-randomized sample size. Of course you got the results that you did, you only asked a few people that happen to be in a similar age-social-economic-religious-philosophical-political cohort as yourself, did you really expect the answers to be any different from what you received? Come now, did you actually expect us to take this little experiment as a statement of fact of the general public’s attitudes towards nursing mothers?
Also, I find it terribly ironic in a funny sort of way that you deem this anti-nursing-in-public sentiment as “traditionalism”, when human mothers have been nursing their babies outside of their dwellings since time immemorial. If ANYTHING is tradition, this is, if we take the time and care to look outside of our ethno-centric points of view. I
I would be remiss in not bringing up the point that according your so-called “traditionalist” attitudes, breastfeeding is the intimate and special bond that a nursing pair shares as an act that is to be relegated to the private setting. I ask you then, on a practical level…what is an active nursing mother and baby like K and I to do? Stay at home all day? You know that this is nearly impossible and it would be highly inappropriate for me to banish myself and my baby to the confines of my home purely to avoid nursing while out and about. Nurse in the toilet or other out of the way confined space? Do you or anyone else you know consume their food in a smelly public toilet or some dusty back room? No? Well, your sweet granddaughter has the right to the same courtesy and should be able to eat freely and in peace. Anything less than that would be infringing upon her civil rights. Use a bottle? Without getting too much into the nitty gritty health reasons why we don’t do this although I’d be more than happy to expound on this if you would like, our little epicurean prefers her mama’s milk from the tap, and believe me it’s not for lack of trying. Some babies like K just simply do not take expressed breastmilk from the bottle and really, there’s nothing we can do about it because a baby cannot be forced to drink from a bottle. It is very important for you to understand that even if she did take a bottle, we would not be choosing to feed her this way because of the aforementioned health reasons as well as for convenience and comfort (frankly, pumping milk is no picnic, and I have better things to do with my time than wash and sanitize bottles) but I wanted to get this out on the table just in case you were considering this as a solution to this problem that we’re debating. I also need to state that if bottle-feeding K is acceptable yet breastfeeding is not, then we are actually being discriminated against and that is a violation of our civil rights.
As for your allegations of breastfeeding not being a spectator sport, most nursing mothers in the United States today don’t just “whip it out” and expose themselves entirely, and I count myself in this group. I feel that I am a very discreet nurser when I am out and about, and have taken it upon myself (thanks in no small part to the very generous and much appreciated gift certificate that you and J gave me at the beginning of my pregnancy) to purchase comfortable nursing clothing that allows me to nurse K with the utmost of discretion. Furthermore, I do conscientiously utilize a light blanket to cover K’s head especially while she’s latching on, honestly this is easier said than done with a very vibrant, bright, active and alert 5 month old such as our little precious one but my intention is to do my best. I also do everything I can to anticipate K’s needs so that she is not hungry to the point of being fussy and frantic, because if I am not paying attention to her hunger cues it becomes very difficult to simultaneously soothe and feed a hungry, crying infant. It might surprise you to learn that I have practiced nursing in front of a mirror and also in front of close friends and family, so that I have become skilled in holding K without exposing myself to others, not only to preserve my own sense of modesty but also to maintain a level of comfort in the presence of others, both of which are very important standards for me to uphold. Feeding my baby is something that I have to do as a mother, multiple times a day, and I have done my best to prepare myself in order to do so in the most discreet, comfortable way possible. Can you honestly tell me that you’ve actually seen my or any other nursing mother’s nipple while nursing her baby? Well, I can tell you that if you did, you were probably so close to her as to have been infringing upon her personal space, and what were you doing staring at her chest? I actually highly doubt that you or your buddies and neighbors have ever really seen a breast completely exposed during nursing. Furthermore, I can guarantee you that you’ve walked past many a nursing mom and you didn’t even know that she was breastfeeding.
I find your remarks about women’s breasts as curious and contradictory and your rationalizations an accurate reflection of the strangely puritanical American ideals regarding women’s bodies. In once sentence you state that you don’t “equate [this activity] with shame or lewdness”, yet several sentences later you admit that you expect to only see women’s breasts in the “bedroom, doctors office, a strip joint or Playboy magazine”. For once and for all, please be clear on what it is that you believe. I am not sure if they taught this in science class back in the day when you were in school, but humans are mammals, and the biological norm for feeding our offspring is by breastfeeding. By the comments that you’ve made, it is clear to me that you equate breasts mostly with sexual functions. Now I find it bizarre that this is a widespread attitude, as this implies that American men would become sexually aroused by the sight of a woman feeding her child. To me, that’s perversion.
Now that I’ve commenced getting this all out on the table and ceased to continue walking on eggshells while discussing the subject of breastfeeding, I seem to be on a roll here so I’m going to continue. Am I the only one that finds it fantastically interesting that the three women who are apparently voicing their opinions regarding how I am feeding my child all have NOT ONE DAY of nursing experience between them? Hmmm…I don’t mean anything rude by pointing out this somewhat disturbing fact but what can I make of it other than some ladies who are attempting to insidiously tamper with my parenting philosophies and breastfeeding relationship with my daughter? Any thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated, because quite frankly I am at a loss as to why women will attempt to sabotage another woman’s rights and principles in this way and the only reasons that I can come up with that someone would do this are misogynistic and sinister and I think it’s understandable that I feel ganged up against by people who can’t relate to me at all on the matter.
I am glad that our efforts to accommodate other’s wishes and comfort level are appreciated, and likewise I do appreciate your statement of defending us in the event that someone makes an untoward remark to us. I sincerely hope that this does not come to fruition as all I wish for ALL of us is a happy, relaxing weekend holiday and celebration, but if it does, it feels nice to have your support. So being The Nursing Mother In Question, after much discussion with my dear, courageous husband I have decided to retire to a private area in peace in order to feed K while at your home. To be perfectly honest, I will be doing this first and foremost to preserve MY OWN (and K’s) comfort level as I don’t feel good about doing something in front of other people knowing that I am being scrutinized and judged, the fact that other people will be more comfortable is a fortunate consequence. As you can deduce from what I’ve written here, I am very passionate about my somewhat hard-won breastfeeding relationship with K. Nursing is not easy, and contrary to popular belief, it does not come naturally to all women, myself very much included. After our difficult, traumatic birth and my subsequent complications and surgery, my breastfeeding relationship with my incredible daughter has been my calm in the storm, and is one of the few things that have gone right for me in the first months of being a mother. I cherish each moment that I have the opportunity to nourish and nurture my little one, as breastfeeding, besides being the superior form of nutrition for her little growing body and brain, is so much more than about food. I know this closeness and love that we share will follow us for the rest of our lives and for this I feel blessed.
If you've gotten this far, THANK YOU so much for reading and for any pearls of wisdom!!