Head, Shoulders, Boobs and Milk

If you are going to go see "Bodies: The Exhibition" and you’re planning on taking

a. pictures
b. small children
c. your time,

there are some things I feel I should say to you.

1. Pictures are not allowed.
2. Strollers and large bags aren’t allowed either, so make sure you are able and willing to carry your child and keep him or her entertained as you walk through the exhibit.
3. Please do take your time, but be advised that this show attracts a high number of poseurs who go to it because it’s the thing to do and not so much to appreciate the beauty and mystery of the human body.  I don’t think that is necessarily bad–Lord knows that things stay afloat from word-of-mouth and coolness factor– but I do think that if seeing lots of cadavers in an impressive array that looks like a 3-D version of Gray’s Anatomy is not your thing, you shouldn’t pay a whole bunch of money just to be disappointed.

But if biology is your thing (it is mine) then it’s worth every penny because it’s simply amazing.  From the beautiful lattices of veins and arteries to the more graphic segments of pelvis and intestines and the diseased lungs and liver, the whole exhibit was a big thumping valentine to the wonder that is the human body. 

I find it amazing that dead bodies can teach us so much about living ones, and about the seeming fragility of our own bodies, as theirs lie flayed and dissected and still look strong and somehow imbued with a kind of life.

Incidentally,when we went to see the exhibit, some lucky people were treated to two displays of boobs (okay, well one big one and then just a boob sliver) at the same time because Herr Meow got very restless around the time we passed the female body exhibit.  To tell the truth, he was restless the whole time, but he was sent over the top in that area.  And do you know what?  I didn’t get one nasty or shocked stare from anyone!  Everyone seeing the corpses on display thought it was the most natural thing, to see a year-and-a-half-old baby going to town on his mommy’s chest. 

Then again, there were corpses on display.

_________

Nobody likes a zealot.
I guarantee some of you may not like me for what I’m about to write. 

I’ve done much reading, hand-wringing, dirty-staring and envying because I have been a very
staunch breastmilk supporter from the very start of my breast-feeding relationship (which had a pretty rocky start).  It has upset me that mothers who’ve chosen to formula feed seem to have it so much easier than us breastfeeders (as far as being socially accepted, knowing how much food the baby is eating, and ease of settling into a "routine" if you will), and how popular culture seems to underwrite the notion that it is not just that formula is pretty much the same as breastmilk, but that somehow sticking a breast in a baby’s mouth is somehow perverted or disgusting– not to mention unsanitary and downright weird.

In my own little one-woman player-hater routine, I would sometimes give dirty looks to random women rejoicing over formula on sale at Target.  I remember seeing a gaggle of besuited women at a grocery store, lovingly pointing to which formula they’d left for their children at daycare, and feeling a roiling mixture of exasperation and fire, and wishing I were a dragon so I could go spit at them.  Especially when Herr Meow started teething and sleep started becoming more checkered, I longed for being able to do what formula feeders can do: dropping off the child/children without so much as a second thought at grandmother’s house for a whole weekend and then turn around and go home and sleep an uninterrupted night’s sleep.  That thought ate at my insides: why, if I chose the path that is supposed to be the better one for my child, am I being punished for it?  Why can’t I sleep and why must I be glued to this baby all day and all night?

But then it hit me very simply, and not too long ago.

I made a choice: a choice that has emboldened me at times to be oh-so-very-much-holier-than-thou, even.

I made a choice that is my own and to which no one forced me or cajoled me or threatened me, unlike the way I secretly wish I could force or cajole or even threaten women who’d made a different choice from mine.

And it is a choice that, even if supported by medical research, is not necessarily the choice that fits best with everyone– and really, there are cases where I cannot imagine how breastfeeding could have ever been established, or kept up.

I chose to breastfeed my baby.  Other women didn’t, and theirs are not my children.  And that is all there is to it.

It’s a weird thing, to realize that you have no control over anyone’s life but your own. But it is an even weirder and more humbling thing to realize that you only have a tenuous amount of control –if any at all– over your own life, and that it only takes a slight change in circumstances to make things radically different.

And it only takes a well-positioned mirror for you to see things from the other side.

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This entry was published on April 24, 2007 at 1:47 pm and is filed under Breastfeeding, Herr Meow!, Pop Culture, Schoolmarmish. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

6 thoughts on “Head, Shoulders, Boobs and Milk

  1. Vixen on said:

    I tried breast feeding my daughter but it didn’t work. She was big to start with and I couldn’t produce enough milk for her. The doctor said that happens sometimes and there wasn’t anything I could have done to change it. It seems my body has some issues where babies are concerned. Hopefully my daughter doesn’t have them.
    I think it’s perfectly natural and fine for mothers to breastfeed. It really is healthier for the baby too.

  2. Your review of the body exhibit makes me want to go, though I think dissecting is always disrespectful. Are there ghosts in the exhibit?
    I wasn’t breast fed (born in the 50’s) and I’m one of the healthiest people I know. It’s not as simple as the chemistry of human milk. Stressed out, self-conscious or conflicted moms pass those emotions directly to their babies if they force themselves to breast feed. People need to do what’s right for them. Babies are hearty and will be fine as long as they are loved. That’s my two cents.

  3. Everyone seeing the corpses on display thought it was the most natural thing, to see a year-and-a-half-old baby going to town on his mommy’s chest.
    Then again, there were corpses on display.

    *grins*
    Probably a much-needed affirmation of life, IMHO. ^.^ Go you!

  4. Bodies: So beautiful. So gross. Extremely compelling exhibit. The capillaries, eh? Saw it in NYC and it was way crowded and fairly hot inside. Made my husband ill, but he couldn’t stop looking. Also we were hungry, which was definitely weird as much of what we saw looked like chicken jerky. We went to a pan-Asian noodle place after.
    Boobs: I think you know where I stand. The tenuousness of it all is really jarring, if you think about it. But at the same time I think a lot of mothers are just not supported, have ill-informed doctors, have unrealistic expectations. I agree that guilt is not a good thing for mamas to be feeling, and not everyone can/will nurse, but I think a huge number of women are actively discouraged by the people around them. And no matter what, that’s sad if a little informed support could have made the difference between milk and formula.
    I, too, nurse everywhere. It feels like a less and less big deal these days, but I suspect that’s because of my confidence. Third kid. Big difference. There also seem to be more and more nurses around me lately, just by coincidence. Every bit of support counts!

  5. Bottles… boobs… whatever.
    As long as the child is fed sufficiently, all will be well.
    My dad was a breast baby… so was my mom. None of my siblings were.
    I am one of the healthiest men alive (if this post ends abruptly, call it karma). I have an immune system that would shame men half my age (I’m 43).
    Having said that, despite being a bottle-boy. I still love the boobies!
    Shallow, I know… but there it is.

  6. Jenny on said:

    Two months later, just have to chime in…don’t forget that some women buying formula may have adopted & don’t have a choice! ๐Ÿ™‚ (Even if they choose to breastfeed like I have, they will almost always have to supplement with formula.) And formula, I might add, is DAMN EXPENSIVE, thus the celebrating when there’s a sale!
    That said, I know where you’re coming from — if I had had a choice, I’d have avoided the formula. Maybe. I have to say, the ease of a bottle is a seductive thing. ๐Ÿ™‚

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