Sunday, December 24, 2006

I'm a mammal

Mammal: (n) any vertebrate of the class Mammalia, having the body more or less covered with hair, nourishing the young with milk from the mammary glands, and, with the exception of the egg-laying monotremes, giving birth to live young.

So, recently I had a conversation with some family members about nursing in public (NIP). The family members said that women should cover up with a blanket to avoid damaging any onlookers’ tender sensibilities. This, of course, did not sit well with me. And the more I ruminated upon the subject, the more upset I became. I think there is a major problem in society today. We view breasts as entirely sexual, when in fact, they are not. God designed them for nourishing our young. A nursing child is a child who is eating. Nothing more, nothing less. Breastfeeding is not a sexual act and it is not a bodily function akin to defecating or urinating. It does not need to be done in seclusion and it does not require a baby to be covered with a blanket unless the mother chooses to do so for her own comfort or the baby’s needs (some babies need a blanket to keep them from becoming distracted). We do not eat with blankets on our heads as adults. If it is inoffensive for adults to eat in public, why is it so terrible for infants? Flashes of mommy flesh? I would submit that you see more breast displayed on the covers of mainstream magazines at any supermarket checkout counter. Heck, you see more flesh exposed on teenage girls at the mall. Do most moms go about breastfeeding in order to become exhibitionists? Of course not, we are simply feeding our children in the way God intended. The indecency argument is flawed and hypocritical. Our schizophrenic society declares that breastfeeding moms are indecent but celebrates half naked lingerie models prancing on TV as freedom of expression.

Why is this, you may ask? Because at the core of our Western society, we hate children. What? You protest, of course. We love kids. We love babies. Really? When we were pregnant with our fourth child we began to hear the whisperings. "When are you getting fixed?" we were asked, ( as if something were broken.) "You do know how that happens, don’t you?" strangers would inquire in the grocery store (as if it were their business.) Even Christian friends began to counsel us about birth control - all in the name of "prudence" and "stewardship" of course. We happen to believe the Bible is true. That children are a blessing (Psalm 127:3). That we should eagerly desire and embrace new life. But our society does not see it this way. Children are a hinderance, a necessary evil that should be planned and only allowed when convenient. Strange, but while many Christians were up in arms over the Plan B emergency contraceptive pill they use the regular birth control pill without a second thought. It is estimated that 5-15% of the time the birth control pill does not prevent ovulation, allowing the egg to be fertilized, but preventing implantation. The exact way the Plan B pill works. Even Christians who eschew hormonal methods have embraced barrier methods of contraception and limit their family size to 1 or 2 kids. Why do we do this? Has God changed? Are children no longer a blessing? No, we have simply swallowed the devil’s line. We have decided that it is prudent to limit our family size so that our kids may have all the advantages and so we won’t be stressed out. Is is possible that God has a grander design for the family? Is it possible that having many siblings teaches children things that all the music lessons and summer camps in the world never could? Is it possible that when Paul said women would be saved in childbearing (I Timothy 2:15) he meant that we would be sanctified and grow in holiness by mothering our little flock of blessings?

The devil is a crafty fellow. He delights in twisting what God has made. He convinces Christians that it is God’s will to decline the blessings of the womb by calling it stewardship. He convinces Christians that breastfeeding is something to be hidden away. That the breasts He gave women to nurture and suckle their babies are completely sexual and perverse. Funny, in the Middle Ages it was common for religious art to show Mary breastfeeding the infant Jesus with a fully exposed breast. I believe it is not a godly thing to say that breastfeeding must be fully hidden, but rather a "religious" thing.

With our first two children (and to some extent with our third) we embraced the Ezzo method of babycare (known as Babywise or Growing Kids God’s Way). I found it extremely difficult to keep my milk supply up with the strictly scheduled feedings it prescribed. And it made my heart ache to hear my babies cry in their cribs when they needed me. It seemed like the advice I received went directly against the instincts God had put in my heart. I was advised to only offer the breast for nourishment, never for comfort. Later I found this is not even a Biblical approach. The Bible says that God comforts us just like a mother comforts her child at her breast (Isaiah 66:12-13). In Old Testament times children nursed for at least 3 years before weaning. Hannah took Samuel to the temple to serve when he was weaned. Ishmael teased Isaac at his weaning celebration (would you tease an infant?) With Luke, our littlest. I have nursed on demand. He is a happy, healthy, easy baby. I feel more confident and less stressed in my mothering. I feel like instead of making him a bother to be fit into my schedule I am embracing and enjoying him. There are some great things about the GKGW teachings and we still use many of them with our older children, but for feeding little Luke, I'm letting him call the shots.