Monday, August 1, 2011

Breastfeeding is a crazy (wonderful) thing.

You know, breastfeeding is a crazy thing.

Forget the fact that it is a hot-button issue these days. Forget that it is often disrespected and women are shamed for nursing publicly. Even forget the fact that people who don't understand it, often, for some INSANE reason, sexualize it.

Just think about how, for thousands and thousands of years, it was the only choice. It literally IS how our species has survived infancy since the beginning of our time. Wow. Not only that, but think about how truly complex and fantastic our human bodies - our mammal bodies - are for being able to not only create and store milk, but to transfer it to our babies in such a loving and comforting way.

Before I go any further, I want to make a disclaimer. I want everyone reading this to know how I feel about breastfeeding and mothers who do otherwise. There are no hard feelings here - and I want to stress that we all love our babies and we all share, cultivate, and bask in this love in meaningful ways no matter how we feed them. It is true that, unfortunately, some mothers have more success than others. But to all of you who have put a baby to breast, who have breastfed at all - think back to the calm quiet moments, even if those moments can be so few in those early weeks. Think to yourself - My body made colostrum, my body made milk and I gave it to my baby. I did that! 

Breastfeeding Then.
Maybe it is just that, in all my life, I had actually never considered my body's potential in this way. In the last decade of my life I have noticed a very profound appreciation for my body's potential in many different ways. I could jump, and climb trees, ride my bike pretty fast. I could swim fairly well. I rode horses and ran races and drank an obscene amount of alcohol in my early twenties. My body was great.

In the last four years of life, my appreciation grew deeper. I started sharing my poetry. And people other than me liked it! I met a handsome mandude who taught me how to view each experience as an opportunity to see art and creativity. I went to burning man and experienced a real community, a life lived without fear of judgement - FOR REAL - for the very first time. I realized that the most single important and incredible thing that we could do as humans was to create. We can create something from nothing at all - a painting, a poem, a novel, a dance, a warm moment, a hug, a crazy wild experience - from nothing but the pit of our minds and maybe a bit of legwork. My body was amazing.

And then I became pregnant and I realized that, though we both had a hand in it, I was completely on my own in growing and creating this tiny little life inside me. I couldn't help but ponder, as it squiggled around in there, how fantastic it was that I had a factory inside me for making more of me. I felt very connected to the women who came before me, who had carried the beginnings of humanity. I could sense the juxtaposition of how far we have come laid against what has not changed, will never change. But mostly I ate. And grew. And ate and grew, and the baby did, too, and my mind expanded along with us. This is crazy, I thought. I made a HUMAN BEING with thoughts and preferences and an idea about the world someday. And I'm going to push it outta me and then what!
Breastfeeding Now.
And then what? I started breastfeeding. And my baby emptied my colostrum. And my baby brought in my milk. And then, through those first days, that haze so thick with love, and soreness, and obsession, and sleep deprivation, and love - it struck me. Breastfeeding is so intricate; a mix of hormones, knowledge, support, instinct, circumstance, confidence, and science. Breastfeeding is at once complex and natural. It is so easy and perfect and yet at times it can be a struggle. And you know? It wasn't all easy for me, and I think it is okay to be honest about that, but I grew to love it. Ultimately, I was sustaining human life. An entire life, outside of mine. I was nourishing his every need with my body. This blew me away. Here he was, my son. And we could lay, stomach to stomach and doze. And he was being fed.

And then I realized. Our bodies are good and amazing. They are fantastic and spectacular! And breastfeeding is a crazy (wonderful) thing.

Happy World Breastfeeding Week.


  1. Perfect. That's one of the great things about being a mommy. You're finally forced to admit that your body is a pretty fucking spectacular thing.

  2. Love this. And the picture of Des with his hand over his face. A does that all the time. It slays me. Breastfeeding is awesome!

  3. @Amanda - I see my body in a whole new light. I want it to last FOREVER.

    @Sarah - I love the hand-over-face... it's how I know he is about to fall asleep for good!

  4. :) i might have leaked a litle bit of fluid from my eye sockets reading this as i nursed zao to sleep.

  5. Fantastic Post! Breastfeeding along with Life, Parenting, all of it can be a struggle but agreed; a wonderful wonderful thing.

  6. So beautifully put! Being a mother is a truly powerful experience :)

  7. Every time I looked down at my breast-fed son and watched as he grew, I am struck by these very same thoughts. I grew him, from the very beginning. My body is capable of miracles beyond anything I had imagined. What a mind blowing thought.
    Loved this post.

  8. This is an amazing post. Thank you so much for it. I, too, was one who kept looking at each of my babies as they grew, and thought "I GREW this!". It was a little sad as they started exploring the world of other food for me because I couldn't take COMPLETE credit any more ;)

    But it really is amazing that our bodies can create a whole-other being and then continue to sustain it.