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My brown eyed girl, I believe, has just ended my four and a half years of breastfeeding my babies.  It has been 2 whole days.  She fancies herself a big girl so soon.  So soon.

Now, this  makes all those breastfeeding videos I saw over my training even cuter.  There is nothing like little chubby newborn cheeks nursing from their mama.  Now, that’s cuteness! 🙂

It is one thing to learn from older, “wiser” women the ends and outs of womanhood, but it isn’t always the way we learn the most important lessons of self.  I spent many hours alongside my grandmothers and my aunt Sharon getting advice and stories of mistakes made and lessons learned.  They were hours where I laughed until I hiccuped or cried with guilt or regret.  However, there is one lesson that I have learned that is a big part of the woman I am today, and that lesson I learned from my sister who is only 9 months and 2 days older than I am and my very best girlfriend.  She taught me what it means to be independent – self reliant.  I have mentioned her several times over the last few weeks of posts, but with the July 4th holiday I’m thinking of her more.  We always got together on the fourth for the kids to play, cooking out, and fireworks.  Unfortunately, this year she is four hours away and we are both busy ladies.

Wedding Day

Wedding Day

Her anniversary is in July too, as this picture reminds me.  🙂  We were put on the same road when I was 8 and she was 9.  Our parents married each other, and made two average sized families a family of six.  A literal Brady bunch.  From the get-go, we loved each other.  I’ll never forget one of the first days we spent together.  We argued over some minor issues.  Sorting out the hows and whys of us ending up sisters.  We decided to have an organized fight.  We hit each other hard over and over again on the bicep, taking turns.  Afterward, we compared bruises and decided that we were both very tough girls therefore each worthy of the others friendship.  It was then, we became two peas in a pod.

We were both just at the right age to understand what had happened to the families we were born into, and the family that we had become.  Together we made sense of things, cried, laughed, and played like nobody’s business.  Another important moment was a night during the half-time of a ballgame when I was in the sixth grade.  My sister stood in the hallway with an audience of about twenty kids.  She was singing a Madonna song (as she loved to do) – “La Isla Bonita” I believe it was.  I was awestruck at that moment at her confidence.  She was beautiful and she knew it.  Not to the point where she was conceited with it, but in a way that made her shine.  Self confidence isn’t something that is inherent in my family, especially when it comes to physical appearance.  My sister worked that crowd, and while I didn’t want to join her in the spotlight, I was glad to watch her.  It was then, that I learned the significance of believing in ourselves.  Deciding to do something and then giving it our best effort.

My sister became a mother when we were still kids.  It was a time of unsureness and great excitement.  She had always dreamed of being a mother.  It was just coming a little sooner than it was supposed to.  Judgment and blame flew all around her, but she didn’t hang her head for a second in front of anyone.  I was in the waiting room when her baby girl was born.  She had given birth naturally.  I was an aunt, and we both fawned over that little bundle.  She did what was best for that baby, breastfeeding her even at that young age.  She took her role as mother seriously, and knew it was the most important job she would ever have.  I moved to live with my dad not long after my niece was born, and I didn’t see my sister as often.  But, we caught up when we could.  My sister graduated high school and moved on to college.  I wasn’t far behind her.  We ended up attending the same university.

It was inspiring to me that she moved through these huge stages of her life just as I did, and was a great mother all at the same time, not missing a beat.  She attended classes and mothered her daughter with her own familial support system hours of driving away.   Sure, there are things that we can look back on now and say it wasn’t the best, but it worked then, and it got her through with a college degree and a confident daughter.

While we were in college, her son was born.  I got to be the birth coach.  We went to Lamaze.  Everyone thought we were a couple.  😉  I witnessed her birth a second child naturally and it was a glorious event.  I watched once again as she put her wants and dreams second to her mothering, but didn’t give them up.  By that time, I was married and John and I had purchased a trailer and moved it into a trailer park close to the university.  My sister moved one in for herself across the street.  Those were the days…

After graduating college, I got a job teaching middle school outside of the east Kentucky mountains.  John and I ended up in Louisville.  My sister’s mother lives there, and my sister decided to join us.  Since moving there, she’s married, had another baby (whom I got to coach into the world too), become a professional in early childhood development and education, and is now a graduate of an LPN nursing program with the goal of getting an RN.  John and I moved back to the mountains after our attempts at city living never set right.  My sister stayed put with her family, and continues to inspire me with what she is able to accomplish simply because she knows she can – with a little help from God.

Holding my new nephew after an eventful night... I tell you what.

Holding my new nephew after an eventful night... I tell you what. Sept. 2007

See, it isn’t the simplest thing – life.  We are all born with gifts and weaknesses.  It is the consideration we give to ourselves and the choices we make that will see us through when we don’t think we can make it.  It is the knowing that within you is the ability to change – to move and adjust to what is introduced into the scheme.  To know that there is a purpose bigger than your human capabilities and that all you can do is try because if you fail, it’s not the end of the world.  It is time to readjust.  Thank you sister.

I love wearing a size 10 shoe.  I love being a large framed woman no matter how much weight I’m carrying.  I love my large hands and my strong, thick legs.  I enjoy being tall, being able to jump high, and run 3 miles through the woods.  I’m glad I can work in the garden all day without it being a strain.  I can have a day of hiking with Ivy on my back and enjoy the physicality of it.  I feel best when I am strong and fit.

I was part of a larger conversation on the topic of how far should a person, in this case – a woman, take physical fitness.  How thin should we be?  How muscular?  Should we restrict and/or enhance our diet to attain results?

I take a natural approach to life in general.  I believe that we were equipped by nature to live the healthiest possible life.  In so many ways, our culture equates a pencil thin body with beauty and often health.  As females, we are exposed to the images of very thin women from a very young age and told by the media and those around us that they are beautiful.  So many of us disregard health to attain this thin beauty.  Healthy is beautiful however, so, the question we should be asking is what is the natural, healthy state of a woman’s body.  A body that isn’t interfered with through processed, sugary foods,  fad diets, or plastic surgery.  A body that is physically capable of survival and has optimal nutrition.

These questions made me ask what were the bodies of our ancestors like?  Not the women of Renaissance paintings or the old photographs in family albums (though there is a lot to learn there too), but the women who had to struggle and work with their physical bodies for mere survival.  I did a little research into the life of Paleolithic women to find out about their general health and physical capabilities.  These women were living in a era of human history before farming and keeping livestock.  They lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.  There is even a current school of thought on eating based on this lifestyle.

Paleolithic Woman

Human population density was very low, around only one person per square mile.[6] This was most likely due to low body fat, infanticide, women regularly engaging in intense endurance exercise,[21] late weaning of infants and a nomadic lifestyle.

Overall, they experienced less famine and malnutrition than the Neolithic farming tribes that followed them.

It is also unlikely that Paleolithic hunter-gatherers were affected by modern diseases of affluence such as Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular disease, because they ate mostly lean meats and plants and frequently engaged in intense physical activity.

– info from Wikipedia

The Paleolithic woman lived to be about 30 years of age.

– info from Longevity/Health in Ancient Paleolithic vs. Neolithic Peoples

So, from this I can gather that life was extremely difficult for them.  The average lifespan was age thirty.  I am now thirty and I feel like I’m just getting started. 🙂   However, they weren’t malnourished often, nor did they go without food in a famine type situation.  They were capable of long periods of intense activity, but the info from Wikipedia is contradictory.  The intense exercise kept them from diseases that plague modern culture,  but it is also a reason they may have not lived as long.  Are we to assume great physical stress from exercise, or accidents because of the physical activity is what took their lives?

Their low body fat could also have been a contributing factor in the short lives of the women.  These women were carrying children and breastfeeding them.  Our bodies need stores of fat to do these things, otherwise it will pull nutrients from wherever it can find them – like our bones, muscles, and tissues.  In a sense our body will digest itself.  They were nursing children for extended periods of time, likely until the children could contribute to the hunting and gathering of food.  This was probably very taxing on a woman’s body that had little body fat and also experienced intense periods of needing physical stamina.  So, my conclusion is that low levels of body fat is not healthy for a woman’s body.  We can take long distance runners, gymnasts, and some dancers who train to the point of very low body fat and in turn experience an absence of menses as an example.  Though we may be elated by a missed period here and there, it is not a healthy thing for a prolonged time, and it is a sign of the body’s lack of what it needs to function properly.

The articles also mentioned that these women had more leisure time and were treated better by males than women in farming cultures.  They had less children (probably due to lack of menstruation).

My conclusion from all of this is that a woman’s perfect body lies somewhere between Paleolithic women and those voluptuous Renaissance beauties I mentioned before.  I will take pride in having curves.  I will strive to be strong and able bodied.  I will push my limitations of physical endurance (within reason).  I will enjoy my health not because the number on the scale reads as some BMI chart says it should, but because I know my diet and my physical body are in the best possible condition they can be in my current situation.  I will take pride that my body carried two beautiful babies and has allowed me to continually nurse them for going on 4 years.  It allowed me to nurse one daughter through the pregnancy of the other, and still grow an eleven pound infant.  I will be happy that I have been able to educate myself about what I am eating and what I am feeding my family.  I will maintain physical health as a means to mental and spiritual health.

I am raising two daughters.  I have a choice to pass on a heritage of looking in the mirror and being disappointed, or re-naming that heritage.  I can equip them with the ability to make educated choices about how they choose to treat their bodies.  Show them the beauty in the varied and unique forms that a healthy woman’s body can take.  I can show by example that it isn’t about striving to be magazine “perfect”, but happy and well taken care of.  It is my job to help them be secure in their bodies the best way I can.

Today’s post should have been about the beautiful Spring blooms all over the mountains around our house.  There are so many and they are unique.  I’ve really wanted to share them with others.  But, my camera is out of batteries, 2 out of 3 vehicles we have are not running, and John left for Merlefest in Wilkesboro, North Carolina in our only running vehicle yesterday.  No going out for batteries for me.  Instead, we are staying with my mother, and I am posting a blog of laments.

The Merriam Webster Online Dictionary says “lament” as a transitive verb means to regret strongly.  I regret strongly – very strongly – that all of my broccoli and tomato seedlings have perished.  They got too big for my little Jiffy greenhouse and peat pots and when I moved them to plastic egg cartons and free air, they wilted and died.  Apparently, vegetable seedlings are more dainty than flowers.  I’ve planted and grew flowers every year of my mature life with great success.  This is my first time vegetable gardening on my own.  With such a rainy Spring, the ground is too wet to direct seed.  The dirt clumps.  I am beginning to think that our first attempt at a large garden to feed our family might be more of a learning experience than an experience that ends in an abundance of food.

I also believe that my cloth diapering days have come to an end in great sadness.  Yes, I’m saying this the day after Earth Day.  I regret it strongly.  After moving off grid, I have been battling ammonia stinks in my diapers.  I have boiled, boiled, and boiled them.  I have stripped, stripped, and stripped them.  I have tried countless detergents.  I have used baking soda and vinegar together and separately.  I have done multiple rinses.  Multiple hot rinses.  Switched from a pail to a wet bag and back to a pail.  The culprit is our hot water heater combined with untreated well water.  Our hot water heater is old and doesn’t get very hot without shutting itself off.  It does fine for most things like dishwashing and bathing, so we can’t justify purchasing another one just yet.  Our water is tainted with sulfur and/or iron and comes from an untreated well.  I have come to the conclusion that it will be impossible for me to rid us of the stinkies.  I have decided to boil my diapers once more and send my stash of them to a friend due soon.  I suppose I’ll be ordering 7th Generation Diapers from www.diapers.com.  I’ll be doing this despite the fact that UPS doesn’t acknowledge that our address exists, and I’ll have to have them sent to my mother’s house.  It has come to the choice of using bacteria laden diapers on my Ivy, or disposables.  It breaks my heart.  I truly enjoy using cloth.

Ivy’s first birthday is in 5 days.  I will no longer and never again be the mother of an infant.  In a way, I too, regret that strongly.  I so loved being pregnant and anticipating birth.  I so wanted a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) and a homebirth.  I relished holding a newborn.  Nursing an infant is heavenly.  Watching a baby grow from inside your womb to the outside is like watching a miracle.  Now, my baby runs.  My first born sings her ABCs and plays outside all by herself.  Soon, they will have their own pursuits independent of needing me.

Next week will be joyful.  John will be home again.  We will celebrate Ivy’s birthday.  I will get to see my writing in print as I am being published in the upcoming issue of Kudzu Magazine.  I won the 2009 Gurney Norman Prize for Short Fiction to my ultimate delight.  Gurney Norman is a writing hero of mine, and I think his short story “Fat Monroe” is one of the best ever written.  I will get to attend Evening With Poets, and get to workshop with Gurney Norman the next day.  After a week of lamenting, I am looking forward to what is ahead.

From Wild Wild World: Gorillas by Liza Jacobs copyright 2003 Blackbirch Press –

“A female gorilla is pregnant for about 9 months.  When a baby gorilla is born, it weighs about 5 pounds.  Baby gorillas stay close to their mothers and are very well cared for.  They drink their mother’s milk for 3 or 4 years.  They also eat solid food starting at about 6 months old.

A baby gorilla sleeps with its mother.  The mother also carries her baby for the first year.”

Today during our little school time, I read this passage to Deladis.  It made me smile.  In this small segment is attachment parenting, breastfeeding, child lead weaning, cosleeping, and babywearing.  All these things are things I do too.  All these things are done by amazing mama gorillas.

In the natural world, there is an order to things.  A system that when left alone goes uncorrupted.  In this world of gorillas, they have a system of parenting.  One that insures their infant the best possible chance at survival, and a healthy full life.  Since Darwinism, many people are either claiming we are more evolved monkeys or they are trying to make sure that we in no way shape or form resemble our fellow primates.

When I read this passage, I felt like congratulating myself and other mothers who are making the attempt to learn and do what is natural when it comes to parenting.  Here we have an animal that is not bogged down with gaining wealth, industrializing, and gathering material things.  They are not uber intelligent beings set on a crash course for self destruction.  Their parenting skills are uneffected by these empty goals.  They are using the instincts given them by their Creator.  That is all I am trying to do.  Parent by instinct and the obvious choices of what is right for my girls.  I was amazed by the excellence in mothering these gorillas achieved by instinct, and intuition, and can only hope that I do as good a job as they do.  They are my new mothering heros.

In a local newspaper, The Mountain Eagle, they have a page they call Speak Your Piece.  Anyone can call or email and say anything on their mind and it is published within reason.  Recently, a 78 year old woman spoke about public breastfeeding and how she was offended by it.  In the next issue a local nurse practioner wrote a wonderful letter to the editor explaining why breastfeeding was the best and healthiest choice for a mother to make for her infant.  Now, in this Wednesday’s paper, a woman complains again about public breastfeeding, but this time equates it with sex in public.  Not only did she do this, but she also refers to breastfeeding women as being similar to a sow or mother hippo.  She spoke of how her husband couldn’t stop staring at a breastfeeding woman in a Hardees and her huge breasts.  The “gross milk” dripping down her child’s chin.  Oh, and God forbid, the child had to have been over two years old.

I’m sick of hearing these kinds of remarks!  If you want to equate me with a sow, that’s fine and dandy.  Her teets and mine serve the same purpose.  When you equate my breastfeeding my child with a sex act, then I get infruiated.  Are we that influenced by an over sexed media that we can’t let go of a brought on picture of what breasts are for long enough to realize they have a higher purpose than to sexually attract a potential mate?  For those who might believe in natural selection and the like, why do you think a man might be attracted to breasts?  Duh, it means the female is able to feed his offspring.  Then, to incinuate that breastfeeding is actually a sexual thing is beyond perverted.  My breasts aren’t much more to me than a functional appendage.  Yes, they are dag gone beautiful too, because they can feed my daughters.  But, what about feeding a baby is sexual?  Nasty people get your mind out of the gutter!  I will breastfeed rightfully whereever I like, and I am able to do so modestly.  If you can’t seem to stop staring at my feeding my child, because you feel it is sexual, I’d be very concerned about your perverted mind.

I have mentioned this statistic in another post on the topic of breastfeeding, but I have to say it again.  There is something horribly wrong when Kentucky ranks 49th in the US for mothers initiating breastfeeding.  Even more wrong is that in some eastern Kentucky counties only 1 in 5 newborns leave the hospital having been offered the breast.  Why is that horrible?  It tells me our healthcare system is failing to educate us on the appropriate nourishment for our babies.  It tells me mothers considering nursing are not offered the support they need to succeed.  That is a sad, sad thing.  We as a people deserve more than that.

I hope more mothers step out to defend their right to breastfeed and do so in public.  I have never seen a mother breastfeed in public here.  I’m glad someone else did.  It’s good to know I’m not the only one.  I hope more mothers breastfeed in public so the people like this woman will begin to realize that breastfeeding is eating, not sex.

Okay, off the soapbox and on to bed.

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.

my 1st public internet display of breastfeeding - told you I was modest

my 1st public internet display of breastfeeding - told you I was modest

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About Me

An Appalachian woman born and raised, mothering two little girls in a place that is non-existent to AT&T or UPS. Happily working toward a sustainable lifestyle and writing on the demand of a loud muse.

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