I’m religious. I was raised to be modest. I would get angry when my friends would jokingly pull up my sleeve to show off my shoulders. So you’d think I would be adamant about covering up when I nurse my babies. And I guess I used to be.
When I first started nursing, I had the fancy bras and about three blankets to make sure every angle of my body was covered. My husband would be on one side and the baby’s feet sticking out the other, if she kicked enough. This would mostly happen in church since I was a homemaker. So you can imagine me trying to listen to the service while worrying that I was exposing a sacred part of myself to the entire congregation. Those days are long passed.
Now, the people around me would be lucky if I covered up. Not because I believe that women should be allowed to be free. Not because it’s just a body part and people should get over it. It’s because I’m done. I’m done worrying over whether or not I can feed my kid. I’m done carrying three blankets, making sure I packed my wrap, causing a scene whenever I try to cover up. I’m tired of sweaty, red baby face and struggling to keep a cover on when they’re kicking and pulling at it because they’re uncomfortable. I quickly found that if I just slipped my shirt up or down and let the baby latch, no one would ever know. Whereas, if I put in all the effort to get the modesty brigade out, the baby wouldn’t get fed soon enough and would start freaking out and all eyes would be on me. And stay on me through my attempts to keep them under.
I’ve actually surprised many people who thought I was just holding a sleeping baby, only to realize that I was doing a little more than that. I’ve been complimented on my discretion, saying they never know when I’m nursing because it’s so natural looking. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be? It doesn’t have to be a traumatic, in-your-face activity. It doesn’t have to be a secret, three blankets deep, two rooms away activity. It really can be a right under your nose and you would never know activity. And I like that. It’s almost a challenge!
Do I want people to see me? No. Do I care if they do? Not anymore. Somewhere down the road, I lost my sense of “modesty” when it comes to my babies. Maybe it’s the way women have to get completely naked for any doctor. Maybe it’s because we have hands and fingers shoved into uncomfortable and frankly painful places. Maybe it’s being strapped to a bed and told I can’t make a decision about how I want to birth my baby because some doctor wants to go home. Maybe I just got tired of the judging eyes when I tried so hard to be modest. But somewhere along the way, I changed my mind. Do I think my feeding this way will hurt anyone? No. I’m not jumping up and down and shouting to the world that my boob is out if you happen to watch long enough to catch it. Do I think kids will be affected negatively? No. Most kids don’t even register what’s going on and it’s only “bad” if someone tells them it is.
I am all about being modest, but nursing isn’t about modesty. I’m not saying take off your whole shirt in a public meeting. But I am saying if my baby needs to eat, I am going to lift that shirt enough for them to latch. And I’m going to be discreet about it. And if you happen to get an eyeful because you turned your head at the wrong moment and it made you uncomfortable – oops. That was not my intent. But as my husband can attest, we’ve seen many a boob just sitting in church because we happened to be near someone who, frankly, was a lot more open than me. And we laugh because they didn’t mean for that to happen, but at least that baby is happy. Our marriage isn’t ruined, our lives aren’t turned upside down, we are not offended. That’s just a part of life – a beautiful part.