Archive for the 'Health and Fitness' Category

Seasons of safety

NS September 14th, 2009

I took up running a couple months ago and was doing really well with it up until two weeks ago. The first week I didn’t go at all was due to a combination of TNB’s illness (tonsilitis) and previously scheduled nights out. Last week’s inertia was mainly due to TNH’s work schedule and the sudden change in sunset. It seems like just yesterday it was light until 10pm; now it’s pitch black by eight.

As a woman who has had nighttime safety drilled into her head from a young age, I didn’t think twice about automatically assuming this meant I couldn’t go running past that hour. But today, as I ran in the park with TNC and felt my feet pounding the ground, a strong desire to get back on track overcame me. But when would I run? TNH usually doesn’t get home until close to 7.30. By the time I change into my running clothes and do a couple things relating to the kids’ bedtimes (7.30 is the absoloute worst time to try to get out of the house) it’s already nearing complete dark.

And as much as I know that my area of London is pretty safe and that, in theory, I should be okay for a half hour on suburban streets when there are still people out and about, a knife of apprehension still twists itself in my stomach. What should I wear, do, or take with me to prevent an attack? Which route would be the least dangerous and in the most well-lit and high-traffic areas? Should I not listen to my iPod so that I can be more aware of strange noises behind me? What should I do if I suspect someone is following me or shouts at me from a passing car? Am I crazy for even considering running at night?

This is what a woman’s thoughts turn to as summer turns to autumn and the night closes in nearer on both sides of wakefullness. These are the questions we ask ourselves  as we assess how safely we can access our communities now that the daylight hours are receding.

This is what we have to think about every single year, every single month, every single day. And it’s bloody exhausting.

I have to wonder if men, even feminist men, can ever really grasp what it’s like to constantly assess our actions and routes and words to prevent violent crime being perpetrated against us. It’s something that is hard not to be worn down by, and to become more cynical and bitter about. We may have the right to work and vote and do a lot of other things that used to be the exclusive privilege of men, but we still don’t have the privilege of walking freely and without fear of assault, or comment. Because it’s not just about the restrictions that nightfall bring, but the constant barrage of sexism and exertion of power over us, year round.

In the summer, we fear wearing a dress or a top that is too revealing, even if the weather is unbearably hot, lest we are catcalled and groped by leering passerby whose aggressions seem to rise in conjunction with the temperature.

In the winter, as the elements make car breakdowns and accidents more likely, we freeze in fear at the thought of accepting help from a stranger and would rather sit in our icy, broken cars while we wait hours for the orange flashing lights of the accredited and vetted roadside cavalry, doors locked and fingers on the panic button of our mobile phones.

In the spring, as everyone comes pouring back onto sidealk cafes and parks  and out of the stupor of hibernation, smiles and comments about the lovely weather between strangers have to be monitored and reined in for fear that exhanging passing pleasantries will give a man the ‘wrong impression’ and invite him to pester us for a date or a number or a smile.

As women, our seasons are not ones of calendars and turns of weather, but of shadow and light, cold and hot, open and enclosed spaces. As women, we are still denied the liberty of safe, free range motion without fear of bodily harm and social repurcussions.

So I can’t help but feel a bit like a caged hen, a battery chicken, as I look out my window at the autumnal city streets and then forlornly at the running shoes gathering dust at the front door.

Post-feminist world, indeed.

Yes, you do need to talk about “the parts”

NS August 31st, 2009

Via Feministe

The following is a PSA released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about how parents should be talking to their children about sex.

In the video,  a father is nervously approaching his daughter for The Talk. He’s obviously dreading it and scared shitless; embarrassed and hesitant. The little girl looks up and her voicover intones: ”Just tell us how you feel. Tell us what you want us to do. Tell us to wait to have sex.”

Ah, yes, good. Wait, WHAT? That’s it? The government’s big, brilliant suggestion for what parents should say to their kids about sex is something as stunningly meaningless and vague like “Tell us [them] to wait?”

I mean, what, exactly, should they be waiting for? Their friends to do it first? Marriage? Junior high to be over?  A half-off sale on Durex featherlite condoms?

To add Stupider to Stupid, the voiceover goes on to say: “We know it’s hard to talk to your kids about sex. It’s embarrassing. You don’t have to be explicit about it. You don’t have to talk about ‘the parts.’”

Oh sweet Jesus, NOT THE PARTS!! Do you mean disgusting things like PENISES and VAGINAS? For all that is good and holy, surely these are not the parts of which you speak! I thought we were telling kids these days that babies were made by rubbing strawberry slushies over Labrador puppies frolicking in sunshine-filled meadows, not this disgusting “Part A (the filthy, out-of-control man-shaft) goes in Box B (the dark and dirty lady cave) to make Human C. Next thing you know, kids will think it’s okay to have sex FOR PLEASURE and Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy will all be sucked into the black vortex of liberal ideology where childhood, religion and family values go to die.

Needless to say, I am not embarrassed about “the parts.” I mean, I don’t go around the house just randomly saying “Penis! Vagina! They’re all beautiful, man! Ebrace your inner goddess!” but I have a real problem with the euphemisms people give genitals to avoid “embarrassment.” Have you actually heard some of the things people call their kids’ bits? For boys the standard seems to be Willy or Pee-Pee or Tackle but there are a multitude of code names for lady caves (see, there’s one right there!) and they include such ridiculousness as Flower (it’s waiting to be pollenated, get it?), Yoni (Sanskrit for ‘the divinity of the womb’ or something), Front Bum/Butt (just plain offensive), Fanny/Fanjo (WTF?), Va-jay-jay (vomit-inducing), Lady Garden (ditto) and the mother of all euphemisms,  Honey Pot (I kid you not).

In the Noble household, we just say ‘bits’ or ‘privates’ until the children are old enough to grasp more complex terminology and then it’s the proper names all the way. I mean, I might not say “Okay, TNC, wash your labia minora now!” but I certainly won’t be all coy and shame-inducing by just waving in her bottom half’s general direction with a wrinkled nose and toss her a washcloth and some Lysol to clean her “flower.” It’s vulva and vagina (and used appropriately — I hate when people refer to the whole female  genital area as ‘vagina’ which is incorrect) and when TNB is around the same age he will learn that his dangly bit is called a penis, not named after a man who wears a top hat and puts children through rigorous moral testing as he leads them through a chocolate factory.

Sure, I will probably be a bit red-faced on at least one occasion by a child calling out “Mummy, that man has a penis!” at the bank or grocery store, but I’d rather take on that brief moment of embarrassment than have my children think that their genitals are something to be afraid or ashamed of. And saying vague things like “Just wait to have sex” won’t be part of our Talk either. Things like the mechanics of sex, birth control options, STDs and the feelings and expectations surrounding sex will be.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to work on my Master Plan of Innocence-Robbing. Next on the agenda: telling the kids that the bird the cat drug in is dead as a door nail and isn’t able to fly away, not “asleep” or in “birdie heaven.” Their tears are useful for oiling my Heartless Realist/Atheist machine.

Mad Men, sick baby = busy woman

NS August 27th, 2009

The sore throat that TNC woke up with the other night was mild and short-lived but it was enough to pass onto her brother. The Noble Baby now has quite a bad case of tonsilitis and has been absolutely miserable for the past two days. His temperature spiked up to 39.7C (103.4F) yesterday, truly alarming me and causing us to rush to the doctor and TNH to leave work and come home. He’s just had his first dose of antibiotics and is sleeping for the time being but I know I’m in for another night of soothing and cuddling and tending to my poorly little boy.

TNH is going out of town on Saturday so let’s hope the baby has improved by then. At least TNC will be gone for the day as well, with her grandparents. If TNB is still miserable, I can sit with him slumped on my chest and watch season two of Mad Men, which has been a favourite pasttime as of late. I’m supposed to be watching them with TNH but I can’t help myself and keep watching them when he’s working late or out.

Between my new Mad Men obsession and sick children and an out-of-town husband, I have a feeling posting may be light over the long weekend. If I don’t get slightly tipsy one night and decide to drunk-blog, I will catch y’all next week.

Socialism fever: America is dying

NS August 10th, 2009

I got this email from a family member yesterday, who was passing it on from a friend of a friend. As I sat there reading the forwarded message, which was written by an American woman who’d received health care while visiting Scotland last month, I found myself growing very angry and depressingly sad. This woman used her story to “prove” that socialized medicine doesn’t work, is inhumane and utterly inferior to the system in the USA. I almost couldn’t make it to the end of the email and had to stop myself from Replying All and letting loose with a detailed response. Instead, I’m posting it here.

This is what was contained in the email:

I, Karen Sparks, found myself in need of hospitalization and surgery while I was visiting Scotland in July 2009.  I had a critical health issue and had emergency surgery  within 7 hours of admittance to the UK National Health Care system at the Royal Aberdeen Infirmary for a septic knee.
My first stop was a dingy ward room to speak to a doctor to evaluate me.  There were people there waiting to get a bed in the hospital for treatment, but no beds were available to them until someone else left.  I had some tests done and then i was sent to my bed upstairs. I was fortunate to get one. It was a shock to me to be put in a ward room with 6 other women.  I had not saw that since I was a child.  I was being told I would soon have my surgery by a doctor who was not going to be my surgeon.  I never ever saw the person who operated on me.  I only saw doctors and interns who had been in a general meeting about the surgerys of that night. That is not any way to get any clear answers to your questions or fears.  You really don't know anything when you are there.
My husband was beside himself and followed the gurney to wait to talk to the surgeon.  As we got to the elevator the nurse told my husband he could not come down to surgery and there are no provisions for waiting during surgery. He could see me the next day at 2pm visiting hours! It was now 10:30PM. You do not get public relations in government health care systems.
Now he had to call home and tell my mother ,who was worried sick, he did not know a thing about how I made it through surgery and wouldn't until the next afternoon. He did hide out in the hospital during my surgery but did not know anything about how I did, all he saw was me going back to my ward. Actually you never see any doctors as a family member unless you get lucky and they come speak to them at visiting hours, but you have to ask.  It makes you feel totally at their mercy without much say in your own life or treatment.
I was assigned to a womens orthopedic ward with 6 beds, all full, three whose ages were 93, 87,and 85, all of which had broken hips.  Those elderly women laid in their beds NO LESS than five, yes I said 5 days, before they took them to surgery to fix those hips.  The doctors would come in most every day and tell them that they were not an emergency situation and maybe tomorrow we will have time.
I had an IV port in my arm from surgery and it was used to main line my antibiotics by syringes.  You took oral pain pills, no drip Iv's to sustain you. If you couldn't eat and drink on your own to sustain yourself you got weaker which I saw the elderly do. I don't know if my 93 year old roommate made it through her surgery. I never saw her again after they took her to "theater".
The pain of those aged women lying with badly broken bones, in  bed getting joustled about all week in the name of cleanliness was cruel and depressing.  I am sure they did not care to get a bath or clean sheets by the sounds of their protests and crys. They wanted medical help!  As sick as I was I knew I was the lucky one.
Remember we are are closer to the United Kingdom than any other country in the world by the way we live and have compassion. They are living with this horrible health system and we could be next if the powers in Washington force it  upon us.
I don't believe any of us are going to want a national socialized health care.  Everyone will suffer except those in control who set it up for the masses.Do you want your family member lying in a bed suffering for days because they aren't precieved as an emergency?  Yes it is expensive to have health insurance in the United States but we do have health care that far outweighs what I saw in the United Kingdom.
God bless and help us to keep our leading doctors, specialists  and  research doctors.  We will loose all of that with the new reform and the rest of the world depends on us to be leaders in health care and prevention.  They come here to our doctors and hospitals when they
can not get a life saving procedure in a timely fashion in their socialized country of health care.We are the United States of America and we need to start protecting our valuable human resourses, the citizens of The United States of America.  Wake up before it is too late America!

Karen T Sparks
Bartlesville Oklahoma

Well, Karen, let me tell  you something: you are a propaganda pusher. You are ignorant, arrogant beyond belief and your “concern” for the “citizens of the United States of America” is a facade. What you *really* care about is covering your own ass. You, as a fully insured person with enough material wealth to be traveling abroad, don’t want things to change FOR YOU. You don’t give a rat’s ass about the 40 million Americans without any health insurance, or the millions more who are underinsured. You speak only to those fortunate enough to have jobs or pensions with good health benefits attached; those middle class and educated enough to have access to the state-of-the-art facilities your pampered ass is used to being in. You consider health care a business and you are a customer whose needs and demands must be met and satisfied at all times. And as long as that happens, you’re happy.

How DARE you take your one isolated experience of socialised health care  and use it to make direct comparisons and predictions for what health care reform would mean for America? How DARE you tell me, an American citizen who went uninsured for several years because I couldn’t afford it and now, as a UK resident with instant and unlimited access to health care based on my status as a HUMAN BEING instead of as PAYING CUSTOMER, that I’m the one missing out? How DARE you tell the people who arent insured, or who don’t have adequate insurance, that they don’t matter, so long as you get your clean, private room and your husband gets his own personal PR agent to hold his hand while he waits for news of your progress?

You say you were confused, your questions unanswered. Do you think that perhaps it had more to do with the fact that you were already in an unfamiliar environment, in an unfamiliar system in a foreign country, than with the system itself? That perhaps because of that, you were too scared and unsure of yourselves to ask the proper questions? That perhaps you were too arrogant to bother asking them at all, too shocked that someone wasn’t spoon feeding it to you through an IV drip so you didn’t have to do any work at all? Because that’s what you want, right? To lie back and let the doctors do their work on your behalf, sure that they have your best interests at heart since you’re a goddamn American citizen and therefore the best, most worthy patient in the world?

Karen T. Sparks, socialised medicine isn’t sick…you are. And I’ll tell you why.

I have two children and don’t work outside the home. I take care of them while my husband works to pay our mortgage and bills. We are very fortunate to be able to do this, and we know it. Many people need two incomes to even make their basic payments. We are blessed, and lucky. My husband likes his job but if he didn’t, he would be free to go out and look for another where he’d be happier. He can change jobs without endangering his family’s ability to access health care. He could even lose his job and we’d be okay. If worse came to worst and we had to sell our house and move in with family, at least we’d know that our health wasn’t compromised or that we’d be bankrupted in the process of making sure it wasn’t. We wouldn’t have to sit up at night with a sick and feverish child, agonising over whether to see how it goes a little longer or rush her into the hospital, thinking about what it’s going to cost us instead of focusing on getting our daughter well again.

When I went into the hospital to have my first baby, I didn’t have to fill out a bunch of insurance forms while I was in labour or sign a consent form allowing the doctors to perform a zillion procedures and interventions so that they could guarantee a perfect outcome and reduce the chance that I’d sue them. Because that’s what Americans do, right? If something goes wrong, they sue. If their hospital “experience” wasnt’ what they feel they paid for, they get a lawyer and they sue the shit out of the doctor, the nurse, the hospital, the janitor…whoever they can cut down with their merciless need to blame someone for all of life’s ills. You pride yourselves on your work ethic and bootstraps mentality, don’t you? You think you’re the greatest nation in the world and that you can do anything if you set your minds to it or are paying top dollar for it. You, and others like you, have gotten so above yourselves and stuck your heads so far up our own self-congratulatory asses that you have no time for things like Nature, or Death or Human Fallibility. You want only Service, Results and Accountability. Having a health care system based on ability to pay has turned you into clients, not patients, and your health care practitioners into business owners concerned only with the bottom line.

When I had my second child, I had a choice in where and how I gave birth. I wasn’t treated as a pod carrying a precious “pre-born person” who had more rights than me. Since I was healthy and having a baby is a natural process, I was given the option to give birth at home. I had two midwives in attendance and no drugs. No IV drip, no scalpel, no monitors or wires strapped to me, no paperwork to fill out. I birthed a baby and they were there in case anything went wrong. It didn’t.

I got one-to-one care and they even came back every couple day for the next few weeks to check on me and the baby so I didn’t have to get myself together and take a newborn baby into a doctor’s office full of sick people. Not once was I asked how I was paying or for proof that I had a right to receive their care. I was treated as a person, not a “customer.” Me and my baby were the bottom line, not what procedures and length of stay my insurance would cover.

Don’t get me wrong, the national health service here is not perfect. There are longer waiting times for non-life-threatening procedures and cleanliness and understaffing can be a problem. These problems are transparent because they are government run and therefore constantly in the public eye, up for scrutiny, as they should be. Though an imperfect system, the NHS is always striving to improve. The American system is not perfect either, though. There are mistakes and long waits and dirty hospitals and not enough staff to go around and aged women are left in pain on gurneys and alone on hospital beds. You just don’t know about it because you don’t have to frequent the facilities where these problems are more prevalent. You don’t see this because you have insurance, and good coverage at that. You are blind to the inadequate care that millions and millions of Americans receive (or don’t receive at all) because they aren’t  valued top-paying customers. You are in the VIP room of health care;  you are so blind to your privilege that you don’t know any other room even exists.

You may have noticed that I keep using the pronoun ‘they’ when talking about Americans, and that I must not identify as one. Well, I was born and raised in America. I will always be American. I love my country. But I hate the mentalities of many of its citizens and how it is run. This resistance to change is a resistance to criticise yourselves. And a society that cannot criticise itself and work to change for the better — to evolve and grow as a nation — is not a healthy one, nor one that I want to be a part of. Callous disregard for such as basic human right as the right to health care is not something I want to be a part of anymore. As much as I miss my family and the land of my childhood, and as many good qualities as America has, I can never go back. I can never go back because it is not the country I thought it was. It is so sick that it doesn’t even KNOW it’s sick and refuses to take any medicine. All the pleading and cajoling in the world won’t make that bitter pill go down, as sad as that is. So like any sane person who can’t take anymore, I proclaim to wash my hands of it. Let them get sick and die in their millions then! I won’t be witness to it anymore. I’m finished.

Except, I can’t turn away. My family and my friends still live there, and my children are American citizens, too. One day we’d like to move back and allow them to experience that part of their heritage — MY heritage — but I refuse to take them to a place that doesn’t value their health as a right, but a privilege. It would be like taking a step backwards in time after having seen the future. I won’t make them feel like second-class citizens if they are not fortunate enough to have good jobs with good insurance, or force them to stay in jobs they hate so they can go to the doctor when they need to. I’d rather never see my homeland again then expose them to a system that disregards its most vulnerable citizens in such a callous way. I’d want them to know the beauty and the aching kindnesses that I know are somewhere underneath all the layers of fear and hate, but I don’t think Iv’e got the strength, or enough shovels, to dig them out.

So, Karen T. Sparks, I will take my socialised health care over the American system any day of the week. I am saddened and angered that people such as yourself , who I’m sure are caring and kind, can be taken in by the propaganda and be blind to the changes that are needed. It takes courage and humanity to move from a hierarchical system to a more equitable one and I guess in that department, America is sorely lacking. The land of the free and the home of the brave, indeed. You’re so shackled by the IDEA of freedom that you don’t even know what it is anymore. Those of us living under socialised health care don’t need or want your pity. It is us who pity you.

God bless America? God save America.

Not ‘best,’ just normal

NS July 21st, 2009

In the last 24 hours, two major UK newspapers (The Times and the Daily Mail) have run articles questioning, decrying and even outright criticising breastfeeding as the ‘best’ method for feeding an infant. The tagline on the Times article reads: “Mothers are constantly urged to breastfeed yet there is little evidence to suggest that it is better than formula milk.”

How odd that sounds, I thought. Why is the onus on breastmilk to prove itself better than the artificial alternative? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Where are the studies holding breastfeeding up as the norm and challenging formula to prove itself just as nutritious, safe and healthy for babies and mothers? I imagine they don’t exist because they can’t prove these things. Besides which, who is going to sponsor and undertake a study on whether or not an artificial means of feeding ourselves is better than just ingesting readily available food meant for our digestive systems? And if artificial food did become a necessity, wouldn’t we want to make it as close as possible to real food while finding ways to make real food more easily accessible? Doing it the other way round just doesn’t make sense to me.

Still, culture is a powerful thing and scientists (and the companies funding them) are not immune to its lures and demands. So they see the public voicing concerns on subjects relating to health and they look for news ways in which they can refute or justify certain claims. The problem is, they often disregard whether the claim is actually a scientifically worthy one. Should studies be done on how we can make formula safer and more like breastmilk? Absolutely. But in controlling for the experiments involved in that research, breastfeeding must be held as the norm, the control group, the standard, not the other way around. Breastmilk is the yardstick against which other infant feeding methods should be measured, not forced to prove itself against its artificial alternatives or denigrated as some kind of ‘special bonus’ thing you can do if you want to be extra healthy, like taking a flaxseed oil supplement. Breastfeeding isn’t an extra special health benefit and it isn’t best, it just…is.

It seems to me that these studies are done not because they make scientific sense, or because there really is any doubt over whether artificial milk is better than the stuff we make ourselves, but because many women want justification for why breastfeeding is considered better than the choice they made: better than their mother’s choice, and their friends. They are angry at the “breastfeeding lobby” (often called “boob Nazis”) for making them feel guilty; telling them (by promoting breastfeeding as normal) that what they’ve done is selfish, or unnatural, or even harmful. Even if those words are never spoken, the inference is there to these women. But why is it there? Why is all this anger directed at those who uphold breastfeeding as the normal way to feed a baby, and fight for their right to do so while out in public and holding down jobs? Why are their suggestions on better positioning or latch, or firsthand knowledge of how to treat mastitis, or an explanation of the supply-and-demand process of milk production automatically treated as judgmental and pushy?

I know that some breastfeeding advocates are indeed judgmental and pushy in their approach, but did it never occur to anyone that perhaps breastfeeding women can be just as insecure and defensive as those who use formula? That maybe someone’s dismissal of breastfeeding is as hurtful as the dismissal of those who use bottles, for whatever reason? I’m not trying to get into the Opression Olympics here but put yourself in their (my) shoes: try hearing one of your most treasured relationships called “showing off,” or your breasts called “udders” in a derogatory way, or have your modesty, decency and even mental health challenged by those who think it’s “disgusting” and “weird.” Try listening to your baby cry in hunger as you desperately search for somewhere inoffensive to feed her, out of the way of disapproving or uncomfortable stares. Try hearing the very same health care providers, lactation consultants and friends (both ‘real’ and online) who helped you in one of your most difficult times, as a new mother struggling to learn how to relate to and care for your baby, compared to a murderous, fascist regime. Try being thrown out of a shop or ordered off an airplane for feeding your child. Then tell me you can’t understand why some breastfeeding advocates can get a bit testy when we’re told to shut up and stop making everyone ELSE feel bad.

Regardless of who suffers what wrongs, that doesn’t stop there being bad feelings and a deep mistrust on both sides. Women who breastfed with ease can be ignorant of and insensitive to the struggles other mothers face in their efforts to nurse their babies in the early days and weeks. They could do with some tact and understanding. Similarly, some of those who tried and “failed” at breastfeeding direct their feelings of anger, sadness and doubt at the ones who succeeded, taking that ‘victory’ as an insult to their loss. The thing is, that anger is often misplaced. Where is the anger at the culture that sets us up to fail, telling us our bodies are broken or not under our control and instead are more useful as men’s playthings and advertisers’ moneymakers? Where is the anger at a maternity care system that forces interventions on birthing women that later interfere with or impede breastfeeding initiation? Where is the outrage that most nurses, midwives and even pediatricians are not required to learn about breastfeeding in their medical training, or keep up-to-date with it once certified? Where is the disbelief that so many myths and misinformation are floating around out there that one has to actively and independently seek out help from specially trained consultants to get proper, evidence-based advice? It’s not just having the right health care provider and support network, but knowing that these services exist and where to find them.

Many women who were able to overcome problems simply lucked out in stumbling across an acquaintance or website that held the answers they needed. I know that if it hadn’t been for a member of an online forum I belonged to (not related to parenting) at the time of my daughter’s birth who suggested the kellymom and La Leche League sites and an NCT peer support network, I would’ve believed the midwife who squeezed my breast and said I didn’t have any milk and ordered me to supplement or risk hospitalizing my baby. I wouldn’t have seen the connection between my low supply problems and the formula top-ups I was giving TNC and been able to stop mixed feeding and get her onto breastmilk exclusively. I wouldn’t have ever figured out that I was nursing too infrequently and in the wrong position and that that was causing my many bouts of mastitis and sore nipples, not my body’s lack of ability or my baby’s over-active hunger.

It’s just such a damn shame that we can’t help each other out anymore without being deemed up in other people’s business for totally selfish and horrible reasons. Since when did sharing information with our female brethren on an experience we share (motherhood — and more specifically, newborn care) become a hostile act of aggression instead of helpful advice?

I’ll tell you when. It was when motherhood went public, got itself a PR agent and started doing two shows each day: the daytime show, performed for the audience watching intently with critics’ pens poised, and one at night, put on only for ourselves and our familes. The daytime show that feels like a yoke, a drain, a straighjacket of expectations that restricts our true potential. The late show, though — what a joy! Standing alone with only the adoring faces of our hearts’ loves shining up at us, we shed our masks, our stage makeup and our wigs. We leave our designated marks and ignore the director’s calls. We move freely and lightly, saying and doing what comes naturally instead of what’s printed on the script. We embrace motherhood as the art it should be, not the duty-bound chore it’s become.

Each night, when the curtain closes, we prepare ourselves for a new day and the critics’ reviews. We doubt ourselves and start listening to what the “experts” think instead of what makes sense to us, what comes instinctually. We see the other actors on stage, each honing her craft individually, and start to question whether our way is the best way or if we’re doing it all wrong. Instead of recognizing that each person will have a different way of going about putting on their play, we start to withdraw into ourselves and put distance between our spots on the stage. We get paranoid, thinking everyone else is watching and mocking and taking note of every mistake, every flubbed line or missed cue. We grow weary of this and get defensive whenever another actor sees us struggling and offers a hand or shares what method works for her. We insist that our method is best and that no other could possibly compare, and look for studies and research to prove it. We stop smiling at the other actors and retreat further backstage, deciding to go it alone lest any more criticism breaks our spirit completely.

This is the nature of mothering in public — always on display, always on a script, always up for review. And so breastfeeding, because it has such a strong association with what it means to be a mother (providing for and nurturing our babies), is a very emotionally charged subject. Sometimes I stop and think “How can something so supposedly simple be so darn complicated?” Because in this day and age, it really isn’t easy to breastfeed. The demands of work, partnership, romance, family, keeping home, looking good, being fit, accumulating wealth and success…they are the demands that we have grown up with and that we have to deal with constantly, in direct conflict with many of our biological, emotional and psychological desires.

Breastfeeding has been going on for centuries upon centuries but it’s never been as difficult as it is today. There is a lot of work to be done to normalize it again, to make it accessible and achievable for nearly all women again. But touting it as ‘best’ isn’t doing women any favours. We’re all trying our best just to be good enough. Holding up breastfeeding as something so special and perfect makes it seem unattainable to most women. In our efforts to reach and encourage these women, we’ve put breastfeeding on a pedestal that makes it an easy target for stone-throwing. The British public loves nothing more than taking someone or something down a peg or two when it gets too big for its britches. They don’t like any trace of smugness or being told that something they’ve done isn’t good enough or even not ‘best.’

So my response to these articles claiming that breast really isn’t best? No, of course it’s not. It’s just normal.

[h/t to The Brinkster]

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