There’s been a lot of writing lately about breastfeeding. Well, what’s new? It seems that every few months a lot of writers have to get all het up about breastfeeding. And normally I just read what everyone has to say and keep my opinions to myself. After all, I’m not you. I’m not in your life; I can’t second guess your decisions. I assume that you’re informed and that you’re making the best decisions for your family. Who am I to judge that? But, over the last several months, and particularly because of the latest round of breastfeeding pseudo-dialogue, I’ve been thinking of writing a response. Specifically I want to address the idea that women who think that nursing is “icky” deserve all the guilt anyone can heap on them for completely ruining their babies’ lives by subjecting those babies to myriad ailments due to their own immaturity and selfishness. Because if you were to ask me what I personally feel about breastfeeding (not what I think about others breastfeeding, but about myself breastfeeding) in one word, that word would be “icky”. And then there would be an emphatic "No!" and then maybe “ug” or even simply a gasp of horror. And I consider myself fairly eloquent. Give me enough space and time and I can explain. But not everyone is so comfortable expressing themselves in words.
So, I’ve decided to sort-of put my .2 in. Not to give advice, but to share my thoughts and experiences. Because I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one to feel the way I do, and I want to provide a different view. What I’m writing is going to be intensely personal and while I don’t want to sideline the dialogue by offering The Trump of Personal Anecdote, (see the #1 Science Myth in this post) I do think that my anecdotes will relate to more people than myself, and so I think they should be heard. Besides, ickyness has nothing to do with science, and the choice to breastfeed or not has only little to do with health concerns and risks. Bear with me; this is going to take more than one post and will involve extensive mental wandering. I’ll link them all together when I’m done and hopefully then they’ll all make sense.
Because of the nature of the breastfeeding debate, any comments I get on the following posts that are hateful, nasty, and/or simply needling will be deleted. You can feel free to disagree with me, you can feel free to express that disagreement in my comments, but you must do so respectfully and with a mind to dialogue over ranting/accusing. Thank you.
Bodily fluids gross me out. Seriously. Not just a little, but a lot. To the point where I will have to fight to keep from retching if I see someone drooling (Babies and toddlers excepted. Preschoolers and up NOT excepted), or that little string of saliva that sometimes attaches to a person’s teeth or lips… and it stretches as they talk to you… and you’re supposed to not say anything… oh, god, I’m going to lose it as I type this…
Even my own bodily fluids can push me past composure. For example: I hate to floss because sometimes the floss will flick saliva on my face. Not to mention the fact that it gets on my fingers; I can’t stand any sort of body fluid on my hands (this does not include certain fluids from a certain person, I am fine with those, but it took a great deal of work before I met her to get to that point). In fact, I’m so bothered by my own body fluids, that I’ve begun to suspect that I keep myself in a permanent, slight state of dehydration in an attempt to reduce my bodily fluids and make them more manageable.
Remember my post about sex a few days ago? That line I repeated about mucus membranes? I really did say that. Because the fluid that gives me the most problems in terms of disgust factor when I feel it coming out of my body is the lubrication I produce when sexually aroused. Let’s just say I am capable of producing quite a bit. And I hate it. I hate the way it feels. I hate that I have no control over it. I want to wash it off, hide it, deny it. Body fluids – all body fluids – are disgusting, dirty, contaminated and because of that being profligate with them is irresponsible and rude. Believe me, I’ve gotten much better than I was, slowly having altered my perception of some body fluids. But this is still my default reaction.
I thought for a long time that it was because of how I was raised. My entire family is more than a little germ phobic – with the strongest of our germ paranoias centering around saliva. I mean, seriously, all it takes to get a bowl of dip, or any kind of food, really, is to suggest that you may have double dipped. The suggestion doesn’t even have to be verifiably true. You don’t even have to have gone anywhere near said food. The suggestion is enough for the family to treat the entire bowl as contaminated and avoid it like the plague.
But recently I’ve begun to realize that there’s something more going on with me and my strong feelings about body fluids and contamination and betrayal. Something akin to abjection -- a violent rejection as a way to preserve the integrity of the self. Indeed, my reaction is so violent, so personal, so blind, that I think it must be rising out of the subconscious, and I begin to think that it must be the remnants of some old defensive mechanism. Especially after I read in several sources that one symptom/indicator/result of childhood sexual abuse is a phobia of body fluids.
to be continued...