We met at the library, and as things were finishing up a news camera showed up. He set up the camera and started taping the group of ladies & babies I was sitting with. I'm sure he got some cute shots. And then he asked us to talk a little about why we came to the event today. I'm kind of ashamed to say that we retreated into nervous giggles. With the camera in my face I couldn't think straight, and nothing came out, and thankfully another mama stepped in and was able to be more articulate. But now that it's over, of course, I've figured out what I want to say. So, here's what I meant to say:
I’m here today because I knew some friends would be here. I’m here because I have to feed a baby anyway, and it’s a rather repetitive job. It’s much nicer to do it with friends.
I’m here today because we’re taught that showing skin is shameful, and at the same time as we’re told that we need to show our breasts so that men will find us attractive. I’m here because breastfeeding, especially in public, throws a wrench in that whole line of thinking. It turns out, boobs weren’t made for men at all.
I’m here because I feed my baby in public quite frequently. I’ve got a busy 4-year old to entertain and groceries to buy, and we aren’t just going to stay home all day, so baby gets fed whenever and wherever baby gets hungry. Usually it’s as simple as that, it’s not a part of any political statement. But as much as I hate to admit it, I feel a little bit uncomfortable every time. So I’m here to remind myself to be proud that I’m a milk-making mama.
I’m here because entering the world of special needs means that I’ve learned a whole new list of ways that breastfeeding is a marvelous thing. The nutrition is great, of course. But it also builds up those muscles in the mouth, the ones needed for eating and speech later. Even the act of flipping the baby to switch sides helps the baby develop symmetrically and learn about body awareness across the midline. It’s fascinating stuff. I’m here because Max has some struggles ahead of him, and all of these little benefits just might add up to make his road a little smoother.
I’m here because of the mamas who want to be here who aren’t here. I’m here for the babies in the NICU who couldn’t latch properly. I’m here for the kids with Down syndrome I’ve met in town who spent too much of their first months away from their homes in a hospital bed or who ate most of their early food through tubes. I’m here for the mamas who tried to nurse, and whose babies are growing and thriving on formula.
I’m here because this is one part of caring for Max that is going exactly to plan. I didn’t plan to read Down syndrome blogs after bedtime or to devour Down syndrome memoirs while nursing. I didn’t plan to clear a space off our rug once a week for PT or to go to support groups. I didn’t plan to organize trips to special clinics and I sure didn’t plan to even think about words like “leukemia,” or to worry as we waited for Max’s blood tests to come back (he’s fine by the way.)
I’m here because it’s nice to spend a morning focused on Max without saying the “D” word. It was good to complain about sore nipples and compare notes about crazy doctors and share tips about biting babies.
I’m here because no matter how crazy everything else gets, every few hours I get to cuddle up with my baby. I’m here because of that big, tongue-out, wide mouth smile that comes at me whenever my shirt goes up.