Keeping Abreast of the Situation

15 Aug

The last 24 hours have really brought home society’s fascination with all things mammary. I can’t turn around at the moment but I’m confronted with the same issue, and then, when I do turnaround again, there’s yet another (rather stretched and saggy) pair staring right back at me. 🙂

It started  innocently  enough.  I generally don’t go out fully clad for war on my high horse looking for an agenda to push, but it so happened that the agenda was thrust upon me regardless.

Yesterday, I was standing with the other mums, braving the icy blasts of wind on the sidelines of a soccer pitch as our collective sons were trained by a kindly, soccer-savvy dad. One of the mums has a gorgeous three month old baby who sat in her stroller, protected from the wind by a mountain of pink fluffyblankets. My clucky goo-goo ga-ga baby love still burns brightly, and I was cooing over this adorable chubby-cheeked baby who was a picture of health. Cue reactionary comment.

“You gorgeous little bubba. Look at your cheeks! Your Mummy has such good milk” said I.

Now, the last time we met on the windy sidelines of a soccer pitch, said Mummy had been breastfeeding said baby so my comment was not totally without basis.

Her quick comment back to me was “Oh no, I’m done with all that. I’m a bad mother, but she’s on the bottle now. We’re done.”

This sparked a dicussion amongst the other mothers about the old breast versus bottle debate, how people always tried to make you feel guilty when you stopped breastfeeding and the Nazi-like reactions of baby health clinic sisters to the possibility of early weaning.

I am learning to only give my opinion when it is asked for, so I said nothing, prferring to be enthralled by the cute pink bundle swaddled in her blankets.

Later on, somehow it got out that I wrote for parenting magazines and I was quickly labelled. “Oh, you’d be the one who wrote the ‘Breast is Best’ article, wouldn’t you.” My comment that I didn’t actually write that article or any like it was lost in the once-again heated discussion that included words like ‘guilty’ and ‘versus’ and ‘bottles’.

It all became clear that the whole ‘breast-feeding thing’ is used as an indicator by women and society of our ability as mothers. My friend herself told me she was a ‘bad mother’ as she’d stopped feeding her young baby, yet felt angry that the baby clinic sister would try to encourage her to continue nursing and dissuade her from her choice to formula-feed.

Breastfeeding raises a whole lot of issues. Whether or not we choose to feed our babies our own milk depends on so many factors. Sexuality, self-image, attachment, bonding, cracked nipples, mastitis, night feeds, health, culture, allergies all play a role in successful feeding. Despite earning the name of ‘fun-bags’, breasts are designed for feeding our young, whether or not we choose to do so.

That was yesterday. Today I saw breasts, quite literally, in a whole other context.

This morning, after dropping the eldest two at school I had to take my youngest son to the doctors. Our GP bulk-bills for every consultation, apart from the first visit of the year. Due to my son’s ruddy good health, he hasn’t seen the doctor so far this year, so today we needed to pay.

Like most doctors surgeries, our good GP is stuck somewhere in the last century, as indicated by the age of the magazines in the waiting room and the lack of EFTPOS facilities. Yep. I needed the hard stuff. Good old fashioned cash.

We headed next door to the rugby club. Seeing it was only 9:30am they were, understandably, closed. The only other ATM in walking distance was at the purple pub on the corner. I’ve got cash from a pub ATM before, no big deal, I thought.

I should have twigged something was up when I saw the hordes of men in hi-vis shirts swilling beer on the back deck. At 9:30am.

I found my way in, with my four year old holding my hand. As I peeked into the bar, I asked a guy where the ATM was. He pointed to his right, and there was a woman standing not too far away.  I thought her shirt was that funny flesh colour when it looks like you’re not really wearing anything, and then I realised that she really wasn’t wearing anything.

My belly jolted with the realisation of what I had just stumbled in to. I felt like I had just entered some parallel universe. Call me prudish, but I really wasn’t ready to see a naked breast in a pub at half past nine in the morning. At anytime actually, but especially in the middle of surburbia on a week day. Here I was, a mum with a pre-schooler in toe, just dashed in to grab some cash and here I am confronted by this woman’s bits.

What a different kind of conversation was happening at the bar compared to the one where breasts were being discussed on the sidelines yesterday. The tone here was different, the playing field a whole new ball game. This was a place of objectification. Symbols. Innuendo. Voyeurism.

As I stood stiffly at the ATM, giving out ‘married, clothed and maternal’ vibes, I felt degraded. I was embarassed and my palms were sweaty and I couldn’t remember my PIN number. I felt sad for the girl. I wondered if those mens’ wives knew where they were. And I hoped and prayed like crazy that my son’s attention would be held by the fascinating multicoloured texta I shoved in his line of sight . Thankfully, it was.

So that’s the boob story. Twice in 24 hours the significance and connotations of breasts have hit home. Be they objects of nutrition, beauty, sexuality or fertility, it seems society has a never-ending vested interest in the female body and what it can do for others.

All this serves to make me evaluate the way that I feel about my own body. What are my hang-ups? What do I allow? What do I believe is best for me and my family? How am I treated and am I valued?

I realise that I’m at ease with the decisions I’ve made. I don’t feel guilty or regretful. Society might have lots of ideas about the way I should feel about my body, but I’m glad I get the final say.

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4 Responses to “Keeping Abreast of the Situation”

  1. lawandshoes August 16, 2010 at 1:43 am #

    It is fair to say that the midwives pretty much bullied me into breastfeeding. Just as well really because I would probably not have done otherwise. The one thing that I have learned from having babies is that female bodies are designed this way for a reason. Hips are wider to squeeze babies heads out through our pelvises (pelvii?) in childbirth & to balance them on as they get bigger. Breasts are there for food & comfort – a place for children of all ages to rest their heads & listen to their mothers hearts. There is no such comfort to be had in looking at the naked parts of a female anatomy.

    • redonpurpose August 16, 2010 at 1:56 am #

      Boobs also help to make Mums feel better that at least some parts of their anatomy stick our further than their still wobbly and rather stretched baby-belly.

      • lawandshoes August 18, 2010 at 7:38 am #

        I went all the way up to a whole C cup. It was the first time I’d ever felt busty 🙂

      • redonpurpose August 18, 2010 at 8:31 am #

        When my milk came in with my first baby I looked in the mirror and my first thought was “I’m a page three girl!”

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