Looking back, I have to wonder where I got my desire and my determination to breastfeed my children. I did not get it from my family.
Don’t get me wrong, my family is wonderful! But they were misinformed. My mother was told by her doctor that formula was better and she wanted to do what was better. I never saw a baby breastfed until I was a teenager and a lady a few rows in front of me at church nursed her baby during the sermon. I remember being slightly horrified that she was half undressed in church of all places. At the same time, fascinated. I am so glad that I saw that and saw that no one blinked an eye at it, that it was an acceptable thing to do. The first I time I breastfed in public, I thought of her. But that was not my first introduction to breastfeeding.
I remember clearly being six years old and having a new baby brother. My grandfather took me daily to the hospital to visit my mother and new brother. Then one day, after visiting the hospital, he took me shopping with him. We had to get ready for my mom and the baby to come home. As we were buying bottles I thought I’d amaze him with my intelligence by reciting the fact that mommies didn’t need bottles to feed babies, they can make their own milk! I was proud of my knowledge. I was confused by his reaction, which was to tell me not to worry, I would never have to do that as long as he was alive!
I loved my grandfather and I could tell that he felt strongly about this and that he thought he was protecting and taking care of me, reassuring me with that statement. He obviously thought it was something that no woman would want to do, should have to do. I’m sure he was in the majority of his generation with that thinking. So the question remains: where did I get that knowledge? Where did I learn that breastfeeding was possible and desirable? I honestly can’t remember. For years this was a mystery to me. I remember silently knowing that he was wrong, but I didn’t want to say so. Someone somewhere obviously gave me a different perspective. But who? And when?
Then one day I remember my kindergarten teacher. No, I don’t remember her talking about breastfeeding, but I remember that she was pregnant and I vaguely remember that she talked to us frankly about it and answered all our questions. I remember the substitute coming by to meet us prior to her maternity leave. We liked her, she made us popcorn. I remember our teacher stopping by with the new baby, I remember gathering around and looking at the baby.
While I can’t say for sure it was her, I suspect it was. I can’t imagine where else, who else it could have been. I was so very young that the specifics of any given conversation have long been forgotten. I can’t even remember her name. And yet, that seed was planted and for that, I am eternally grateful. Someday, when my children are old enough to understand the incredible gift that breastfeeding is, they too will be grateful.
I have often wondered if I would have even thought to breastfeed my children without having had the idea introduced to me, in a positive way, somewhere. Had I had only examples of people who viewed it in a negative light, would I have even thought to question it? That is why it is so incredibly important to me to be open about it, to be an advocate for it and to be visible with it. Just in case there is a little girl somewhere watching or listening who needs that introduction.