“Are you still nursing?”
I get that question more frequently now. The gentle emphasis on still. The awkward pause while I remind myself to answer without a dozen defensive explanations.
My son turned 18-months-old yesterday. He’s getting lanky. His baby rolls are evening out into strange little boy limbs. He talks. He yanks on my shirt and carefully says, “Boo-bahs.”
So I’m nursing a toddler.
I’m extended breastfeeding.
To me, it’s just a simple part of my routine. I feed him in bed in the morning, and he nurses before he goes to sleep in the evenings. We don’t have to worry about nursing out of the house only because he’s dropped the middle feedings. (Though I would nurse him to soothe him or if we were out somewhere very hot and I didn’t have something else to hydrate him with.)
Built-in hydration! My anatomy is kind of awesome.
Oh, but I sigh. Because the local news came on during Glee last night and the blonde anchorwoman said, “In the lobby of a local elementary school, a mom is asked to nurse in a private room but refuses. WHO IS RIGHT AND WHO IS WRONG?”
I don’t want to know what the general public has to say. I don’t want to see my lifestyle turned into a controversy on the nightly news. I don’t want to know what the angry teachers at that school had to say about breastfeeding being inappropriate for school-aged children to be exposed to.
I don’t want to hear that the school felt that this woman was pushing her agenda on others.
I really, really don’t want to hear that nursing a toddler is unnatural. That extended breastfeeding must be for the mom to get off. That you should pump if you’re nursing past a year. That it’s gross, that it’s just crazy!!!! That it’s wrong.
I don’t want to know that those could be my neighbors saying that.
Those could be my friends saying that.
What I’m doing is biological and natural. I’ve never nursed in public to show off, to convince someone to try nursing, or because I think it’s beautiful.
I want to say that I don’t give a shit when a man says that seeing a woman nursing offends him or ruins the sexuality of breasts to him. I want to say that I don’t give a shit when another mother says that nursing is fine and great as long as it’s done in private or somewhere discrete like a car or bathroom. I want to say that I don’t care when I read that talking about breasteeding or being proud of it is a slap in the face to mothers who could not breastfeed or chose not to breastfeed.
But all these things hurt. It sucks to read them. It makes me angry and sad and prickly. Especially when I feel a sense of guilt rising up. Did I gross someone out? Did I offend someone? Should I have gone to my car, should I have stayed at home?
So you’ll have to excuse me when I speak up about all this. I need my anger. I need my pride and my sense of accomplishment. I need my seriously if you weren’t trying really, really hard to get a glimpse of my nipple you’d have no idea that I was nursing a baby at all.
I’ve busted my ass for 18 months. I don’t breastfeed because it’s a big party in my bra. I don’t breastfeed to make a political statement. I simply made a parenting choice, one of many I’ve made and will make in my life. It just happens to be one that the general public feels overly entitled to judge or set limitations on.
I never expected to nurse this long, but here I am. Maybe we’ll stop tomorrow. Maybe we’ll stop in two weeks. Maybe we’ll stop in two months.
I’m in no rush.
I’m not ashamed.