When it comes to my body, mothering and babies, I feel that I'm fairly assertive and confident. In the final throes of my first labour I ordered all my clothes off, then flailed gloriously on the bed hollering ‘GET IN THERE’ to the most handsome doctor I’d ever seen, all the while pointing at my hoo-hah!
True story! And I think it’s because even then I had decided that as a Mum, ‘embarrassed’ was something I just wasn’t going to be.
That resolve has been no more tested however, then by the very thing I was expected to do as a mother: breastfeed my babies.
When I was a brand new mum, things were not going well for me in the boob department. A few weeks into parenthood (and thoroughly devastated by my inability to breastfeed) I found myself in Chadstone shopping centre, tearing off a breastfeeding cover that I’d been struggling under. I was sweating and panicking, and baby Fynn was screaming and hungry, and the added struggle to latch him on my boob while under a stupid cover was about to tip me over the edge! So right there in the middle of Melbourne’s fashion capital, I took off the cover and tried again. When I looked up, I was sure everyone was looking at and judging me, and to be honest, I felt vulnerable and exposed. But I was also much cooler and the experience of breastfeeding now had one less complication for me to overcome; I could actually see my baby. I decided right there and then that I wasn’t going to hide, or be embarrassed when it came to breastfeeding anymore.
A few years later, Tate, the third of my delightful trio of boys, was born. He can order his own baby-chino, and says “I told you so” a lot. Did I mention he’ll be four years old in a few months? Yeah, he’s almost four, and he lurvvves boobie! So from being almost completely unable to feed, this time breastfeeding just worked (for reasons I still can’t explain); Tate took to the breast and I took to breastfeeding and so it’s been ever since.
And I love it!
This extended breastfeeding thing however, is kind of new territory for me. Being brave and unashamed when it comes to breastfeeding a baby in public is one thing, but breastfeeding a grown child is quite another, and it’s definitely testing my resolve not to be embarrassed.
That was until a little while ago, when I was at yet another big shopping centre. Tate, who had been happily playing in the kids area, came bounding up to me, crawled into my lap and announced loudly that he wanted some boobie. It felt like I’d come full circle. Here I was again, in public with a child who wanted to feed and I needed to make a decision. I chose to feed him, but I did feel exposed and surprisingly awkward. I looked directly at people, searching for expressions of disgust or curiosity, but I saw none. No one was even looking at me really. Tate eventually climbed down from my lap and ran back to the play area, while I adjusted my clothes.
And that’s when it happened.
A tap on the shoulder from a woman who had been sitting near me. My heart sank. "How old is your son?’"she asked in a tone I couldn’t decipher, "Three and a half" I said, ready for whatever patronising or rude thing I thought she would say next. But she didn’t. Instead, her face cracked into a beaming smile and she gushed "That’s so wonderful! We need more mums like you, feeding longer and in public so others can see how normal it is." That lady could not have said a kinder, more encouraging thing to me if she tried.
‘Normal’ is exactly right and breastfeeding Tate, even though he was no longer a baby, is totally right and totally normal. So here I am, reaffirming my decision of years ago. I choose not to be embarrassed.
What I choose is to continue breastfeeding because it's normal and good and if you see anyone else doing it – tell them they’re awesome. It will probably make their day!