Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Who Needs the Lesson Here?

Rarely have I read an editorial piece pertaining to breastfeeding in public that is so overtly hostile and full of ridicule than Shelley Fralic's "Etiquette lesson for breastfeeding mothers: Cover Up."  I am, in fact, surprised and disappointed that the Vancouver Sun decided to run this ill-informed and, frankly, immature piece, which is available online here.  Fralic's editorial concerns an incident that took place earlier this month at a Vancouver furniture store, Farmhouse Collections.  A mother, Samantha Watt, was asked to stop breastfeeding her 10 month-old son, and was then asked to leave the store when she refused.  An earlier article in the Vancouver Sun  quotes Watt:
"I chose an armchair out of the main thoroughfare, and there were actually no customers in the store at the time. Every time I breastfeed in public I’m very discreet."
If you can manage to wade through the condescending tone and language of Fralic's article and fish out her arguments, her point is this best summed up in this quote:

This is not an issue about a breastfeeding mom’s rights, or society’s skewed view of boobs, or even whether or not a business owner has the legal right to ask a breastfeeding mom to cover up or move out of public view.
It’s about an individual’s ability to size up a situation and employ basic common sense, and decency, and respect for others. The same kind of respect that dictates we don’t wear a bikini to a funeral, or say the F-word in front of Grandma, or wear a hat at the dinner table, or walk naked through a children’s playground
Actually, this is about society's skewed view of breasts.  This is about mothers' rights, and it's about babies' rights.  The second paragraph of the above quote exposes the writer's own skewed view of breasts; that she would compare the minimal sight of a breast during breastfeeding to wearing a bikini to a funeral, swearing, or walking around naked is absurd.  If, indeed, society at large views breastfeeding in public as contrary to basic common sense, decency, and respect for others, then society needs to change.
Fralic asks "So what’s wrong with putting a receiving blanket over the baby and your boob if you want to breastfeed in a store?"  I nursed my son for a significant length of time, and often in public as well.  I tried to be discreet, as most women do, mostly for the sake of my own modesty.  However, it's not always possible to prevent the occasional glimpse of flesh from every passerby.  In my experience, once my son was able to coordinate the use of his hands and arms to move a receiving blanket off his head while nursing, he did so.  I can't say that I blame him, either.  I certainly wouldn't want to eat my meals stuffed under a blanket.  Fralic claims to have connection with both "camps" in this situation as a former breastfeeding mother and as a customer of the furniture store in question.  However, I wonder if she ever nursed a 10 month old child as Samantha Watt does, or if she is speaking from ignorance?  Covering-up simply ceases to be an option for most babies.  As a baby grows more capable and interested in the world around him, the choice might become: Am I going to continue breastfeeding this baby without covering-up, or give up on breastfeeding because I can't breastfeed in public and I don't want to be socially isolated for the next x many months or years?  Thankfully, we have a third option protected by law: to feed our babies when and how they need to be fed.  As for indecency, breastfeeding typically exposes the same as or less of a woman's breast than a scoop-necked shirt.  I drove along the street where our local high school is located recently just after school had been dismissed, and I saw far more breast exposure on that sidewalk than I have ever seen from someone who is breastfeeding.  And it's not just teenage girls who bare a lot of skin either.  If this same mother had entered the store with a low-cut top, would the shopkeeper have been as concerned to usher her out?  Why is it that we are more tolerant of seeing a part of a woman's breast in the name of fashion than seeing a breast doing exactly what is was designed to do: feed a baby?
In the second article mentioned above, the shopkeeper claims that he is not against breastfeeding in public, and that four or five women have nursed in his store over the years:

He said unlike the previous breastfeeding women who were discreet, Watt did not cover up with a blanket or ask to use a private area in the store such as the washroom or staff kitchen.
Nursing in washrooms is often cited as an alternative to covering up.  For some reason, people sometimes fail to realize that breastfeeding in a washroom is gross!  I certainly don't eat in washrooms, and I wouldn't feed my child in a washrooom either.  Especially a public washroom.  The best available option in a public washroom is to sit on a dirty counter, or the equally filthy floor.  And can you really expect a mother to keep her three and four year old entertained and keep them from touching disgusting things while she nurses a baby in this public washroom?
Fralic also asks: What’s the big deal about going back to your car, turning on the heat and feeding the baby while the toddlers listen to Raffi in the back seat?  Last time I checked, the heat in one's car only works when the engine is running.  Also on last check, doesn't Vancouver has an anti-idling law that prohibits you doing what the writer suggests?  Additionally, even if it wasn't a cold day in January, it can be a big deal to pack up two toddlers and a baby, walk back to the car, get everyone settled, feed your baby, get everyone back out of the car, and go back to finish your errand!  Thank goodness for laws that protect a nursing mom's rights, and for all human rights laws, which see the big deal in something that seems insignificant for others.  Beyond the practicalities of the big deal, the message of having to leave the store to feed your baby is that breastfeeding is or should be somehow wrong or at least a little bit embarrassing for mothers.  There's no debate that breastmilk is the best thing for babies to consume, so shouldn't we be sending a clear message of encouragement to mothers?
The one valid concern that I glean from the shopkeeper's comments is that he was concerned about the baby spitting-up on the chair upon which the mother was sitting on.  I wouldn't buy a brand new chair that had baby spit-up on it, so I can understand his point on that issue.  However, that was not the issue that he brought up when he approached Watt, and he could have easily brought her another chair, perhaps a chair from the staff lunch room that he mentioned in the article.
Fralic's supposed "etiquette lesson" is summed up by her words:

Some people think bare-boobed public breastfeeding is vulgar or sexual or culturally inappropriate. Others, especially citizens of the older vintage who were born to a different era of decorum, are embarrassed by it.
You don’t have to like that, or agree with it, but surely it’s not that big a sacrifice to respect it.
Breastfeeding is not vulgar, sexual, or culturally inappropriate.  Unless a woman spends her breasfeeding years in the seclusion of her home, breastfeeding in public is reality,  a reality that our society has decided to protect with legal rights.  The benefits of breastfeeding for baby and mother are proven by countless, valid sources.  To pressure women to stop breastfeeding in public directly, as this shopkeeper did, or indirectly, as in this unabashedly shame-mongering article by Fralic, is to subtly pressure women to stop breastfeeding altogether.  To place the irrational thinking of people who view breastfeeding as something to be embarassed of above the importance of giving a baby the best nutritional start in life is a big sacrifice.  Too big of a sacrifice.  My fear is for the women who aren't prepared to stand up to ill-informed shopkeepers, or who may give credence to thoughts of those like Fralic, whose article may do more damage as such than the original act by the shopkeeper.
I'm terribly proud of British Columbia for having laws in place that protect the right to breastfeed in public.  Sometimes, laws take time to reshape society's thinking about issues.  It wasn't that long ago that we thought it sufficient to have a smoking and non-smoking section in restaurants or airplanes, even though you could be sitting next to a table or a row of seats in the smoking section.  Now, the memory of how I worked in a smoky restaurant as a teenager, or how I sat on a fourteen-hour long plane ride home from the Philippines one row ahead of a nervous flyer turned chain-smoker seems absolutely absurd.  I hope that one day, in the near future, it will seem equally absurd that we used to turn women out of public places for feeding their babies.  And I hope that the women and men who see the value in protecting the right to breastfeed in public can lead the change in our society's thinking bravely, but with more decorum, sensitivity, evidence-based information than Shelley Fralic's incendiary words.

Friday, January 14, 2011

My Rant About Tanning Beds

It's a good thing that I don't have cable TV or satellite anymore; I would use up far too much time.  I spend enough time as it is with our limited Netflix selection, library movies, and TV shows on the internet.  On our recent getaway to the city, our condo had cable TV, and I took advantage of watching all the TLC my husband could put up with when we weren't walking around the city.  I love "Say Yes to the Dress," and, generally, all the wedding and baby shows.  I caught a couple of episodes of "I Didn't Know I was Pregnant" and I still can't fathom how somebody could not realize that they are pregnant at 8 or 9 months along!  I know I've probably written this before, but I would have thought I was suffering from some cruel disease if I didn't know I was pregnant with all of my pregnancies!  And with my baby bellies, there is no doubt that I'm pregnant from about three months on.  I was in maternity clothes in the single digit weeks this time!  It actually sounds fabulous to have a baby without, in a sense, being pregnant.  Although knowing that you're pregnant serves a very useful purpose of preparing yourself mentally, and eating healthy.  I write this after eating two peanut butter chocolate chip muffins.
Another show I watched for the first time was "My Strange Addiction."  Strange, indeed.  The show is actually very sad, and, like many TLC shows, verges on capitalizing on people's struggles for TV ratings.  I hope that such shows at least help their subjects and other people deal with similar situations.  One young woman on the show was interviewed for her addiction to tanning.  She visited three different tanning salons DAILY, and had done so for several years.  This  just confirmed in me my wish to see tanning banned for minors.   This sounds harsh, but I really think that many teenagers are not equipped to make educated decisions about their bodies that will impact them for the rest of their lives.  Isn't this the same reason why we don't allow the sale of cigarettes to minors?  It seems pretty simple, actually.  UV radiation is a proven carcinogen, just like cigarettes.
The pressure to "look good" is so overpowering in the teen years, and the pressure comes from all angles.  The young woman on the show started tanning when her father bought her a tanning gift certificate as a gift.  The pressure to look tanned outweighs any fleeting thoughts of future health for most people this age.  I know that most girls are more concerned about how they will look for prom or grad than if they will be diagnosed with melanoma in five years.  If the average teenager is anything like I was, she can't imagine something like cancer actually happening to her or somebody her own age in the near future.  I never imagined that my husband would get cancer at 24 years old.  And no, he's never been to a tanning bed!  I'm always astounded when otherwise intelligent adults even visit tanning beds.  Especially when they use the "I'm just going to get a base coat before my tropical vacation" reasoning.  Isn't it better just to avoid getting too much sun on your vacation?  I wish I could turn back time to undo the few bad sunburns that I had in my teens after visiting the Philippines and Hawaii, especially now that I know that it's possible to go to such places and not get sunburned if you are diligent.  I've been to Mexico twice since then, and never got a sunburn.
Thus ends my rail against tanning beds.  For now.  I know I get a little worked up about these things, and that it's a result of my experiences.  I respect the fact that adults have the freedom to make choices about their bodies and their health.  There's definitely a balance between being smart about not harming your body, and venturing into paranoia about the unavoidable risks of everyday life.  I just believe that tanning, like smoking, is one of those things that is clearly harmful to your body, and totally avoidable.  I remember when my husband was in the midst of chemotherapy treatments, some young teenaged boys stopped me on my way into the drugstore to ask me if I would buy some cigarettes for them.  I wish I had the emotional wherewithal at that moment to explain to them that I was going into the drugstore to pick up a prescription for my husband (an insanely expensive prescription, nonetheless, which I had to inject into his arm) who was sick at home with cancer.  I wish I could show them that they could be us in ten years, newly married and excited about life but, instead, dealing with the prospect of death.  So, no, I can't buy you cigarettes to get you there faster!  And I won't buy you a gift certificate to the tanning bed either.  Okay, rant is really done now.

Friday, January 7, 2011

I Have the Acute Memory Powers of an Elephant.

I tend to forget things if I don't write them down.  Most often, the things that I forget are insignificant annoyances in the grand scheme of things.  Like forgetting that I put a load of laundry in the wash until two days later, or forgetting my carefully planned out shopping list at home.  Or, I just forget to look at the shopping list when I'm shopping.  It makes me wonder how many important things I have forgotten.  I remember when I was a kid, I was always stunned that my parents couldn't remember everything from their childhoods.  Even when I was a teenager, I could still roughly remember what significant things had happened during every year of my life, and what my daily routine was like that year.  I suppose that being with a group of classmates and a teacher almost every day during that period of time made it easier to remember different years clearly.  The more years that pass, the more difficult I find it to differentiate one year from another, and to remember everything.  And everything seems to go much more quickly.  I know I've blogged about this before on my old blog site, so forgive me for the repetition.  I likened the perception of the increasing speed of life to the years of my life being like slices of a pie: every year, there are more slices and they seem smaller.
2010 is done, and there are things I want to remember.  In some ways, it does seem like a long time ago when I remember that my son was only starting to sleep through the night at this time last year.  Oh goodness, I will be living like a zombie again soon.  I couldn't even think about having another baby until he was sleeping through the night, and I decided to wait a couple of months even after he started sleeping through regularly.  Sleep is a dear, dear commodity.  We decided to start trying for a second baby and I was shocked that we conceived right away.  After my husband's chemo treatments six years ago, it didn't look like we would be able to have biological children.  After our first pregnancy ended in miscarriage, it took about a year to conceive our son.  So I was definitely not expecting to get pregnant the first month that we started trying!  I had some unusual pain with that pregnancy, so I went for an early ultrasound.  The ultrasound was inconclusive, meaning that I had either miscalculated my dates, or that the baby was not developing on pace.  My bloodwork was normal and indicative of a normally progressing pregnancy, but the second ultrasound a couple of weeks later showed no heartbeat.
It was so terribly disappointing.  But, strangely enough, I don't want to forget.  I want to remember that little life, brief as it was.  I recently saw the Body Worlds exhibit (which deserves a whole post on its own) and the most fascinating part of the exhibit showed babies (who had died of natural causes) at different points of development in the gestation period.  I was amazed to see just how complex and intricate we humans are just weeks into our development.  My mom and I stared at the fourteen week baby, both of us having lost babies at that point in our first pregnancies.  It was kind of surreal.  I feel badly for women who are encouraged to just dismiss their miscarriages.  I was so fortunate to have people around me who understood my need to grieve the passing of that life, and who cushioned the blow of disappointment with care and prayers.
I was surprised, but a little less so this time, when I got pregnant a little more than a month later.  Clearly, the fertility does not seem to be a problem after all!  It was hard to balance feelings of hope and preparing ourselves for another miscarriage with all the early complications in this pregnancy.  But, I'm 23 weeks today and things are looking wonderfully normal.  We had a fabulous camping trip in the summer, my hubby started working on his master's degree, and another great babysitting opportunity came up for me. I'm so grateful to be able to stay home full-time with my little guy, and I'm glad that he has a little buddy to play with part-time.  I turned 30 years old (eep!) on the same day that my son turned 2.  My husband and I enjoyed our eighth year of marriage and just celebrated our 8th anniversary on the 4th of January.  We also celebrated 6 years of his remission from Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.
I'm anticipating great things in 2011, most obviously the addition of another little person in our family.  I'm more excited this time around, because I know how magical it is to have a child.  I'm a little more nervous, of course, too because I know the down side of what's coming!  Childbirth (come on, think positive), lack of sleep, colic.  We started this year off with a great little holiday downtown in the city, and I just enjoy my little family so much; I'm excited to see us become a family of four.
This is the part where I feel obliged to make some New Year's Resolutions.  I'll keep it simple to avoid setting myself up.  I want to have more patience; I know I'll need it with another little person depending on me.  I appreciate the friends that I have in my life, and I hope to deepen those friendships.  I don't have many regrets in life, but I do look back on friendships that have drifted apart over the years, and wish that I had done a better job of cultivating those friendships.  I suppose it's a part of life for most people that many friendships come and go, but I really admire people like my in-laws who have close friends that they have known since childhood.  I want to cultivate my relationship with God more in the coming year too.  It's hard to find any time for yourself when you have a child, but I'm realizing that my time is only going to be more in demand in the coming year, so I'm just going to have to carve out time in my day.  Sometimes I listen to podcasts of sermons while I do laundry or dishes, which is great, but I need to just make time to read my Bible and reflect.  I'd like to finally finish reading "Discipleship on the Edge" this year, a commentary on the book of Revelation.  I've read the first half twice, and it's begging me to finish it.
I hope to keep up with my blogging, finish that birthday gift I've been working on for five years for my little sister, and catch up on three years of scrapbooking.  And I'd like to remember to take my calcium supplements this year.  The end.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...