So I just read a NY Times article about how much unhappier American parents are compared to parents in other countries... pretty sad, right? Oh, "Land of the Free", why do you have to be so restricting sometimes? August is National Breastfeeding Month, and I've been thinking a lot about the vast differences between all the mothers in the world and in our country. What we do have in common is the lack of paid maternity leave, restrictive hospital practices during birth, and the idea that all women must be and do all things.
But isn't it insane that a common life experience sometimes couldn't be ANY more different if you compared two different kids or parents?
...those couples that struggle to get pregnant vs. those who have a surprise pregnancy, stressful breastfeeding journeys vs. those who find it easy, families with relational conflicts vs. those with financial troubles... It's a wonder anyone can relate to each other in adulthood with how differentiated our lives can become.
Remember how clueless you were before experiencing college, or marriage, or your own pregnancy? Well guess what? Your experience in those topics have only gained you knowledge about your own life and a GENERAL knowledge to relate to others in similar life stages. But the fact of the matter is that we are still mostly clueless to each other's lives, and we have no idea what it's like to be married to their spouse, have their job, or parent their children... and etc. and etc. and etc... AAAAAND soap box over! Isn't it mind-blowing though? Well, it is to me anyway.
And it truly explains why so many mothers have a hard time understanding their friends... and how you feel so much loneliness and isolation when your experience isn't matching up with others in a group. It's all common sense that everyone's life is different, but for some reason in parenthood we feel like we are all in this thing now, and we are all supposed to "get" each other. Again, maybe it's just me.
This month marks 22 months of my "extended" breastfeeding journey, and let me just say that I don't have a whole lot of people in that club with me. haha!
I'm sure that nearly every mother -- no matter what their journey of feeding their baby may be -- feels shame in one form or another. So I thought I'd share some of my moments of shame heaped on (unintentionally and intentionally) by others and our American society. Maybe they will help someone...
1 - Not joining the Normalize Breastfeeding movement
I have seriously been loving all the boobies and breastfeeding babies in my social media feeds this month (haha!),.. and I feel like a BF mom in hiding because I just can't take a "normalize breastfeeding" picture of my side boob to say "hey, I'm with y'all!" (just can't!). Maybe when we've moved PAST our chests being sexualized in our culture, the next generation will have more and more freedom in that. Also, let's be real... a picture on a screen is way more invasive and permanent than breastfeeding in public, but you just don't have to endure any stupid comments or awkward looks. Ha! Also if a creeper is nearby in real life, they can't get a good look or see anything for long... but a picture is forever. Just being real!
But enough about my reasoning for why I don't feel comfortable with the milk-selfies... I actually feel more shame in not joining in and being free. I think to myself, "If I was in a different country, I probably wouldn't feel like this!" And then I shake my fist at our sexualized culture and envy rural-African mothers.
So removing all of the views from others... how do I really feel about it as a breastfeeding mom? As long as I'm in a culture that wears shirts, I feel the need to be somewhat discreet about breastfeeding. Am I going to wear a cover on a stuffy airplane or a 100 degree day? NOPE. Do I think other moms need to cover-up if they don't want to? NO WAY.
2 - Being okay nursing my baby to sleep + a little co-sleeping
This one I've had no battle about. However, I don't broadcast it because I feel a touch crazy compared to other moms with strict and predictable schedules. It has never been a problem to get Rowan to sleep by letting him nurse. Sometimes it's like 30 seconds, seriously. Is it annoying that he won't let anyone else put him to sleep at night? YES. Do I hope that my next baby likes a bottle? YES, PLEASE. But does it actually stress me out -- other than people thinking it's weird? No, it doesn't. It's not a stressful situation to me, and I think Rowan has always been a pretty good sleeper because of it. And I'm still for the most part a supporter of the No-Cry Sleep Solution and other Gentle Parenting choices.
Aren't easy schedules and sleep always the goal? We all just have to do what works for our own baby or our own peace of mind! Snugglin' my toddler in his crib as he falls asleep or putting him in my bed so I can have 2 more hours of sleep in the morning from 4:30-6:30am is GREAT. WONDERFUL. I LOVE IT.
3 - Breastfeeding past the golden 1-year mark
So now we are here... at the place where American culture actually does make me feel like a freak. ha! But first let's see what the ol' google has to say about it... HEY SIRI, What's the average age of weaning worldwide?
"The average age of weaning in the U.S. is three months. However, the average age for
weaning worldwide is 4.2 years. The World Health Organization states that babies should be breastfed for at least two years, which is the average age for the immune system's maturation."
See!? Two years old for a mature immune system, but a FOUR YEAR OLD AVERAGE for weaning? No. Go home, Siri, you're drunk. That would mean that somewhere in the world are millions of nursing 5-7 year olds. It is really probably closer to 2.8 (and you can read this long explanation as to why.)
So regardless of those technicalities, it's just plain odd to have cheerleaders and parades to make it to the full-year mark (recommended by American pediatrics) , and then at 1 year + a day everyone is throwing their weaning tips at you and making jokes. I just want Rowan to wean on his own, but I had a moment when I was legitimately worried and ashamed about it. Then when I realized that only the American mainstream perception was making me feel weird about it, I got over it.
So for anyone still reading... Have you had any parenthood or breastfeeding experiences that made you feel like the odd-ball even when you were completely fine in your decision?
I'm going to guess that vaccine arguments cause bigger rifts than breastfeeding. ;-)