I was asked recently to answer a questionnaire on Facebook that was basically random questions. I was tired, wired, and needing to relax, so I started typing answers. One of the questions asked, if I had one wish what would it be. I had a hard time with that one. I don’t ever think about wishes because for me, my energy is better spent thinking of what I can do with reality. But, I thought the obvious. End the occupation of Iraq and bring the troops home with a great outcome. Feed those who are hungry. Travel the world with my little gals. End racism and sexism. You get the picture. My final answer was that I don’t make many wishes, and I don’t know.
However, Sunday morning at church I decided what my very selfish wish would be. I want breastfeeding mothers to be able to breastfeed anywhere in public without feeling like they are going to offend someone. Normally, I don’t concern myself with whether or not my public breastfeeding offends the average person. I’ll breastfeed in restaurants, stores, at parks, in some doctor’s offices. But, since moving back to the mountains, I have found myself feeling the need to go to a private place to nurse Plo.
The fact is that breastfeeding is not popular here. I am the first in at least three generations of women in my family to breastfeed. I have never seen a mother breastfeeding in public while living here. Kentucky as a state ranks 49th in the amount of mothers initiating breastfeeding. Eastern Kentucky is the lowest ranked area in the state. (http://www.kyyouth.org/documents/08pr_KyKidsCount_STATE.pdf) In 2006, only one in five newborns in Harlan, Knott, Owsley, Martin, and Perry Counties left the hospital being breastfed. I reside in Knott County. If I were to get my breast out in church and someone happened to notice that that was in fact what I was doing (I do a decent job of being discrete), I’m sure that someone would deem it inappropriate. I’m not saying in any way that my church is not supportive, nurturing, and an awesome place to be. I love everyone there very much. I would not attend there if it wasn’t the best place for our family. What I am saying is that breastfeeding is a misunderstood thing when people are not exposed to it as being the norm.
Why don’t I just do it anyway? It is not my place to blatantly offend someone in a place of worship and distract them from their time with God. That would be an offense to God. The only problem is that a distraction is often created by Plo and I. We attend a very small church. Attendance this Sunday was 38. There is no nursery, and only two infants. Plo is with me throughout Sunday school and church services. Most of the time she will need to nurse during one of those services. It begins with whining, turns to crying, and then I have to ease out of the pew, go to an empty room, and breastfeed. After nursing, I ease back into the sanctuary, into the pew, and try to immerse myself back into the lesson or sermon.
Every time this happens numerous people are distracted by Plo’s cries, my movements, and the bustle we create. People don’t seem to mind, and have never commented on it. The reason that I would make this wish is that in those types of situations it would be much less of a distraction for everyone if I just nursed Plo in the pew. I’m very modest, and she nurses very quickly. We wouldn’t disturb anyone, unless we would be offending them because they see nursing in public as not being modest.
I’m writing this without talking to anyone at church about it. So, I may find that I’m so wrong about my assumptions. There is that thing though about culture, that makes certain unspoken truths instinctual to us. It is not just breastfeeding that would get these types of reactions. It is the principle. I’m not the only breastfeeding mother at church, but the other mother feeds on a schedule and I feed on demand. She is mostly able to avoid nursing during services. She also separates herself when nursing. I get only bits and pieces of scripture and discussion and sometimes find myself discouraged about it. Maybe that’s my fault.
I wish that at some point in the near future that it will again become the norm for a woman to chose breastfeeding, and to not feel like she must isolate herself to do it. I wish back to the principles of a time where to see a bottle, it would be odd. In order for that to happen, people must witness more women breastfeeding in open public areas. This would open them up to how modest and natural breastfeeding is. God gave woman the ability to provide the perfect food for her child. That is the reason we have breasts. God is not offended by our nursing our babies.