sense of self

breastfeeding challenge 2006 2006

breastfeeding challenge 2005 2005

Two weeks ago, Eva and I were again part of the breastfeeding challenge. It's an event to raise awareness of and to support breastfeeding; the idea is to get as many moms as possible assembled in a location and then feeding their little one(s) all at the same time. There are many sites around the US and Canada, and while Austin won again within the US, the Canadian sites have about quadruple the turnout. What can you expect with the outdated, puritanical, sexualized perceptions of breastfeeding we have in this country, coupled with a complete lack of social support? (My head is buzzing with fifteen more comments on that front, but I'll move along.)

So, we sat in the grass in a downtown park with fifty or so mothers and their babies and toddlers, and as they counted down from ten and we all latched on the kiddos, I couldn't help but look around and feel a bit emotional. It may seem a bit silly, but there was something powerful in that moment. There were so many moms joining together to do the thing they do every day, part of the routine of motherhood, and there were hundreds of moms in other cities gathered together doing the same thing at that moment. And yet, this very natural act of feeding our babies -- in public no less, and not even bothering to hide the fact -- would be considered inappropriate or even scandalous according to so many people.

I was reminded of how when I was in labor, I thought of all the thousands of women who were in labor at that same moment, and that knowledge gave me strength. There's something about the universality, and the timelessness, of motherhood that makes it so powerful. You're wiping your baby's nose, but thousands of other mothers are doing the same seemingly trivial task right then, all keeping their babies as healthy and happy as possible, just as their mothers did before them. You're reminding your kid that we don't hit our friends, perhaps frustrated with the seemingly fruitless repitition of this concept, but countless other moms are going through the same process, ensuring that these kids can all live in this world together, ideally without bombing each others' countries. This important work goes on everywhere, always.

So not to make too much of it, but there we sat, fifty or so moms just feeding our kids, sitting together in the grass.

On a different note, I also enjoyed the contrast from last year. Eva is huge by comparison, and I'm such a different person now than I was then, probably the biggest one-year difference I've seen in myself since my own infancy. Not the least of those changes was that I am really part of the community now -- I knew dozens of people there, compared to a handful last year. I love that sense of place, of belonging.

Eva had an interesting development today (or I should say, I discovered it today). As we looked in the mirror, I asked "where's Eva?", which I'd never thought to ask before (I generally just said "do you see the baby? that's Eva."). She pointed to her reflection, so I asked "where's Mama?", and she pointed to me (not my reflection). Again, "where's Eva?", and she thought, then pointed to herself, poking her self in the chest. Hmm, seems like something just clicked! So later, while eating lunch, Larry asked "where's Eva, Mama, Papa, Lemma?" and she pointed to each of us in turn, including herself. It's so fun to watch her figure these things out...

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