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The superpowers that come with being a mom 
01/27/2009

Oy42LJ

Karen, getting some Mom-practice in thanks to her friend — a REAL supermom juggling her career, two kids both under age 2, and her husband — a Rabbi

For years, my breasts had one great superpower: the ability to attract men faster than the speed of light in a singles bar. In a couple of weeks, my supersized breasts will have different superpowers: the ability to feed a crying infant faster than a speeding bullet, repelling men and women at the sight.

It’s a bit disturbing to realize that my breasts are on the verge of becoming human kryptonite, about to become objects of disdain rather than lust. And it’s something that I am grasping to understand.

It’s completely ironic that, while our society readily accepts visuals of women’s breasts on magazine covers and in movies, when it comes to breastfeeding, the opposite is true. We’ll stare at Pamela Anderson’s cleavage on Baywatch, but if she was breastfeeding, we’d probably look everywhere but — at her eyes, the ceiling — as she was nursing her child.

And there are people who are down-right outraged at the prospect of a woman breastfeeding in public. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that formula companies and doctors had “civilized society” convinced that breastfeeding was archaic. My own mother, who bottle fed both my sister and me, isn’t completely down with the idea of me breastfeeding.

Countless numbers of women have received spiteful remarks from strangers (men and women) while breastfeeding in public, some women even asked to leave malls, restaurants, and libraries. Women are often “encouraged” to breastfeed in ‘nursing lounge areas’ located in the women’s bathroom. Think about this: would you eat your lunch in the bathroom?

So, apparently, when feeding my child, my breasts should have the superpower of being invisible too.

With that said, I can understand why many people are uncomfortable when a woman breastfeeds in public view. Let’s face it: we’re not talking about legs or an elbow here. We’re talking about a nipple, which — except maybe for porn stars and Janet Jackson — is a private part of a woman’s body. Or, at least it was for me until it suddenly, upon achieving milk-bearing capacity, became “communal property”.

‘Caring individuals’ — who I like to refer to as Breast Nazis — believe that they have the right to publically denounce any woman who does not breastfeed because, in their minds, she is harming her child, and therefore society.

More than one of my friends has been reduced to tears by vicious comments made by Breast Nazis about how they are ‘bad mothers’ for choosing not to breast feed. Not that it is anyone’s business, but many women have problems with breastfeeding that cannot be resolved, leaving them to feel as if somehow they are inadequate mothers. These comments just rub salt into open wounds. The most outrageous example I can think of happened when my friend Jen adopted her son. A Breast Nazi insisted that, if Jen truly cared about her son, Jen would employ “certain techniques” to develop the capacity to breastfeed him.

I’d like to employ some techniques of my own on these so-called ‘concerned citizens.’

All I know is this: women’s breasts are both functional and sexual, and until recently, society has only emphasized the latter role, and even then, preferring to inundate the public with unrealistic, plastic versions of what women’s breasts should be. So can we really expect total acceptance of a natural act, when society accepts nothing natural about our bodies?

And, while I’m sure I will catch hell for this remark (I already have from some friends), there are — in my opinion — some instances where breastfeeding perhaps isn’t appropriate. For example:

During a friend’s wedding, as she and her Beshert exchanged vows underneath the chuppah, I heard a loud slurping noise, like someone polishing off a Big Gulp. Curious, I — along with many others — turned my head to the left to see one of the guests nursing her one-year-old son (no privacy shield or blanket either). I found this completely disrespectful: to my friend whose wedding should have been the center of attention, to the sanctity of the ceremony, and to my own eyes which I thought I would have to gouge out at the sight. (I should mention, this woman — who I knew well — was very “militant” about her right to breastfeed, thus I suspect her motivations went beyond mere necessity.)

When I relayed this story to another friend, she rose in defense of the woman, asking me “So, she should have missed the ceremony?”

Without hesitation, I replied “Yes, she should have.” And then I started to think about it. I don’t know how I would answer her question now.

I expect that, as I begin breastfeeding, I will encounter disapproving glances and remarks. And, despite my belief it’s a women’s right to breastfeed however she chooses, I will most likely be very private about it, keeping my breasts out of public view. Maybe I’ll eat these words later, but I still need to relate to my breasts as a sexual — if also purposeful — part of my body. I might be a mom, married, and in my 30s, but I that doesn’t mean I want to surrender the super-power of feeling attractive.

Of course, I’m looking forward to acquiring other superpowers that come with being a mom. Like the power of being able to fold fitted bed sheets into a neat square. I’ve always wondered how my mom did that.

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