Motherhood: The Big Boob, by Deb Eve

img_2568 One of my favorite photos from my time in Uganda is the one I can almost never show because apparently, it’s not wise for us author types to bare our breasts in public … or on the internet … or wherever. That seems to be a privilege reserved for Miss America contestants or Janet Jackson and the rest of us best keep our girls holstered.

But anyway, this picture is of me breastfeeding my infant daughter sitting right next to a Ugandan friend breastfeeding her infant daughter. It’s like a study in black and white – literally – of motherhood around the world. I mean I couldn’t have been more different from my Ugandan neighbors: their lives were consumed with the unending tasks required to simply keep themselves and their families alive. Mine was consumed by my quest to find something to do with myself. (Well, that and whining about feeling useless!)

During our first year in Uganda, our neighbors really didn’t know what to make of me. (I could practically hear them muttering: She has breasts, she has a uterus … good Lord why does she not use them?)

So then I decided to use them and – Aha! – I could see the light of recognition in their eyes. The mzungu woman finally made sense to them! And never did I make as much sense as when I was nursing my daughter. Lucky thing then, that I was nursing her nearly constantly. Or nursing full time, as another friend described the situation.

Now of course, the overwhelming sentiment among Americans is that raising my daughter in Uganda was some sort of hardship. I certainly don’t want to give away any of the brownie points I may have earned over the years from friends who believed this to be the case. But the truth is, it was a lot easier than you might think. One reason is the fact that nearly EVERY woman in Uganda is a mother. So being pregnant, having a baby tied to your back or attached to your boob is pretty much expected. Every day is Bring Your Baby To Work Day and every place is a nursing-friendly zone.

There were boobs and babies everywhere and no one – men included – would expect anything less. I remember breastfeeding when I was in the states right after our daughter was born. Keep in mind I’d been living in Uganda for a year already and so thought absolutely nothing of whipping out my boob in the park, in McDonalds, in my in-laws living room. And of course, well-meaning relatives would rush up to me and try to throw a blanket over my offending breast (and my offending baby).

But back in Uganda, I’d sit down to nurse, whip out the boob and friends – male and female – would think nothing of sitting down next to me and we’d carry on our conversation – breast and baby right out in the open – as if it were the most natural thing in the world. And come to think of it . . . it was!

10 Replies to “Motherhood: The Big Boob, by Deb Eve”

  1. The picture wouldn’t have bothered me! Reminds me of my own recent visit to the art museum in Chicago and I saw a woman breastfeeding her baby in a sling, pausing in front of a painting of an Egyptian woman breastfeeding her baby! I was so moved and was dying to take a picture, but I knew that would be a terrible invasion of her privacy (not that she was at all exposed, she wasn’t).

    I do not understand the controversy over public breastfeeding, myself. Geez people, that’s what those things are FOR! If it creeps you out, DON’T LOOK!

  2. I can’t even fathom why it’s such a taboo in our society. Apparently, silicon stripper breasts are fine, but nursing breasts–whoa! Also, I remember traveling through Ethiopia (I was still in my twenties), and no one could understand why I didn’t have children. They all looked at me with sympathy and also like I was crazy. Now that I have children, I totally understand that impulse. Wonderful post.

  3. When a breastfeeding mom in New York was asked to leave a public area by a security guard, a whole bunch of moms had a “nurse in.” The pix were great. It’s perfectly legal in NY, but for some reason it still makes Americans uncomfortable. I think the only answer is for moms to keep nursing in public so everyone just gets used to seeing it happen.

  4. I know that happens, but I can’t even wrap my head around it. Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world! As Kris said, that’s what those things were made for!!!! It really is our culture that’s got the whole thing screwed up and make mother’s even have to feel the slightest bit self-conscious about breastfeeding. But I did my part – at least whenever I was in the States while my kids were still nursing. I breastfed wherever we were and wasn’t the least bit self-conscious about it and I adamantly refused to cover up or take it into the Ladies’ Room (as someone once suggested). I’m sorry but I don’t like to eat with a blanket over my head. I don’t want to eat in a bathroom. Neither does my baby!

    And P.S. My mom hasn’t chimed in, but I know she did all of this with me and at least one of my brothers – and we’re talking 40+ years ago!

  5. Forty-six years ago I was a nursing mother and living in Boston where I’d shocked the hell out of the medical community by having a baby with no anesthesia. Medical students and nurses used to poke their heads around the door of my room, just to see the freaky Englishwoman who didn’t even want a saddle block or Novocain, much less what passed for childbirth anesthesia in those days, the truly horrible scopolamine (the truth drug).

    I also breastfed, another freaky activity back in the early 1960s, and caused a furor when I nursed my infant daughter in my car, in a quiet corner of the parking lot of the company I was temping for. My mother who was babysitting my daughter so I could work, would bring her over at midday for me to nurse and the only place was in the car, which worked out fine till another employee saw me with a receiving blanket over one shoulder and complained. I was severely reprimanded and told to do it in a stall in the ladies’ room, or I’d be let go. Since my husband was in college and we desperately needed my income, I had no choice but to comply.

  6. I guess my post got eaten last week…I am posting from my office computer…so if that is any excuse…anyway, I used to use “the fear of the exposed breast” to clear our tiny apartment of “in-laws” once I found out how it went…”Evie’s crying”, I would say, as I whipped out the boob, and lo and behold, out tiny little apartment would be emptied in seconds…I guess they all went next door to the non-breast feeding relatives. Ah, peace at last…except Eve too, was a 24 hour boob hog, I could clear out the front stoop in seconds too.

    If I hadn’t tried to nurse Josh, we would have not been able to figure out what was wrong with him…long story. Brother Barry, I had to leave in the hospital, but had I known better and had some advice (largely lacking in 1961) I would have taken him home and attached him to the boob.

    In the time I had my kids, no one encouraged either nursing or birth without medication…you were considered “nuts”…I guess I was nuts!

  7. I was always a whip it out anytime, anywhere kind of nursing mom too. I wish more folks were.

    And for your moms pioneering things back in the 60’s – on behalf of all of us raising our own kids now – THANK YOU!

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