...oh, ok. Are we back? Didn't you think it was great!? Now let me tell you why I, as woman who isn't planning on having biological children, is blogging about a breast feeding article. You know, other than this quote which I might print out and frame somewhere:
“I’m not saying breast-feeding is not beneficial,” Colen told the media at the time of the study’s release. “But if we really want to improve maternal and child health in this country, let’s also focus on things that can really do that in the long term — like subsidized day care, better maternity-leave policies and more employment opportunities for low-income mothers that pay a living wage, for example.”
There are a lot of reasons why I don't plan on having biological children. One of them is that the societal pressure on women that come with being pregnant and having an infant seem like more than I can handle. I've watched friends go through pregnancy and suddenly no one trusts them to know what is best for themselves. Pregnant women's bodies become community property. The belong to the unborn fetus, they belong to doctors or husbands or overbearing parents or in-laws but they don't belong to the woman. Because, suddenly, she is no longer her own entity but an entity defined by her relationship to something else. No longer a woman but a mother.
So imagine my feelings when this conversation happened at a meeting last month.
Me to colleague whose wife just had a baby: "So...are you a dad?"
Guy 1: "Yeah, he was born 11 days ago."
Me: "Congratulations! How's it going? I can't believe you're even at this meeting!"
Guy 1: "Eh, it's actually not that bad. Well, my wife is breast feeding so she's doing all the work. It's a lot harder for her than it is for me."
Me: "Yeah, that's the complicated thing about breast feeding. I'm not planning to have a bio baby but if I did I don't think I'd breast feed. It makes it really hard to equally parent from the get go."
Guy 2 (not previously involved in the conversation): "That's terrible for the baby! Breast is best!"
Hold up home fry! Let me get this straight. I wasn't even talking to you and you feel entitle to yell (yell!) at me about my parenting of my probably-not-going-to-exist-hypothetical-baby? Ok, great, we'll continue.
Me, to guy 2: "Well actually the long term effects aren't all that well documented and for the toll it takes on some women, it may not always be the best choice. Have you read the research?"
Guy 2: "Well, not really."
So...you're entitled to tell me what to do with my body but you haven't even done any research on the subject? Awesome.
Nursing is probably the right decision for a lot of women. I have friends who relished in the unique kind of bond and gratification it provided them. But I also had friends for whom nursing was stressful, painful or traumatic. For whom it defined parenting in ways they didn't want. And for whom it made working outside the home really difficult.
Of course we're not going to improve maternal and child health in this country by creating (and funding) policies that actually support women and children. Because, frankly, it's easier and cheaper to just blame women. Look, I will wholeheartedly defend a woman's right to breast feed (and do it wherever and whenever and for as long as she wants. If you want to nurse your toddler in a liquor store in the middle of the day, good on ya.) I'm just not willing to get on the we-know-what's-best-for-you wagon.
I really long for the day when we trust women to know what is best for themselves and their families. That we don't feel entitled to tell someone that they should or should not be nursing. And that we operate on facts rather than pop culture. Until then I'm going to keep making whatever decisions I want with my totally non-existent baby.