This article is inspired from my Facebook group’s book study of Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, specifically Chapter 11: Retrieving a Sacred Sexuality.
I confess that I had never before heard of the term ‘seeing through your nipples.’ I continue to think on that. But I tell you what though; I do know the power of a nipple. And I can definitely say that it made me take one definitive path in life that has led me right here.
I’m going to take a moment and also ‘speak through my vulva’. I get that, too. It’s raw, and it’s honest. And I hope I don’t offend as it’s always so ‘touchy’ this talk of breastfeeding. But I am not meaning any of this in a judgmental way. I just wanted to speak of my experience personally. I wish I had had these stories before I became a mother so I could try them out, test them on my tongue and make a decision that worked for me without some of the trials I went through.
When I had my first child, way back in 2000, we were living in an apartment east of San Francisco in the rolling green hills. My mother-in-law came for the birth as my mom was on vacation somewhere in South America with my stepfather.
I had planned on breastfeeding, and my mother-in-law decided to ‘humor’ me. She is one of those tough New Jersey, Brooklyn born and raised women who have no idea how something like breastfeeding could actually work. She doubted the value of it. She wanted to see the can, the formula inside it, a nicely sanitized bottle and a chart with three hour intervals. And she was quite the persuasive lady.
Well, my first son came, a Leo the Lion, oh, he could roar! Cry and cry some more: a the top of his little lungs bellowing, that ‘My oh my where the hell is the owner’s manual!’ ‘What did we get ourselves into?’ ‘Please, please tell me what’s wrong and how I can fix it!’ sort of crying.
And I stuck to that stupid schedule for about a day. But the second night, when he woke up an hour-ish after his ‘scheduled feeding’ and was crying, I took him out of his crib, tortilla-wrapped in his blanket, unfolded him, put him on my chest and began to feed him.
And in walked my mother-in-law: ‘What are you doing?’, ‘You are going to harm him’, ‘It’s not time to feed him!’
Long story short, the next morning my husband took her back to the airport to return to her home.
I look back at myself: a new, anxious, worrying, unsure mom, and I put my arms up in the air in victory. I am so very proud of myself. I am so very proud that I did not let her thoughts and her beliefs railroad me.
Now this is not a diatribe against formula. My opinion is that we all need to take a look at our individual situations, do what is best for us and sits right with us.
But I do have to tell you, my challenges with breastfeeding did not stop there. And neither did my courage.
By child number four, I understood how very natural and powerful and bonding and good for everyone in relationship with the child– as long as you don’t have power fraus like my mother-in-law in your life who resent that bonding. Then again, maybe it is still good for them too in the sense that one needs to set some boundaries with them.
Nature intended a mother to lie around naked with her infant, resting, rejuvenating, suckling, getting to know each toe and each finger, studying and falling in love with that little life that you just gave up nine months of your life and will give up so much more for. It is a natural system that ties you to your baby. Engorged breasts letting down even if the baby is on the other side of the house, demonstrate that tie. But usually in this type of child-rearing, our babies are much more likely to be in a little papoose on our front or back, watching and learning and forming little synapses.
How there is such a healthy, life-affirming power in breastfeeding! And the last generation of feminists may have thought that formula gave women something important in that they had the ability to return to work and more independence from their infants. But this generation of feminist women understand just how much more it took from us than it gave to us.
Almost sixteen years later, I am nearing the end of my breastfeeding years. My daughter will be four in April. My right breast has shut down, and my left is the one occasionally still relied on. It somewhat bothers me that it’s slightly longer than the other one, and I’ve been called a hippie and unhealthy and whatever else people who don’t get it feel like throwing at me. But just like many other choices I’ve made in my life, I have figured out that other people’s opinions are not what matters to me in the end.
Because I know. I know the relationships that I have formed with my kids. What has worked, and what has not worked. Where I have succeeded, and where I have failed.
The material Estes shares with her readers in Chapter 11 of Women Who Run with the Wolves about Sacred Sexuality has so much more to do with than just ‘sex’. It has to do with your body, your Goddess-given gifts, the power of this human form you have been given and learning to step fully and proudly into that.
A-ho. Jai Ma.
Readers are welcome to join Karen’s discussion group to explore Women Who Run with the Wolves further for themselves!
Growing up, Karen Moon ‘coulda been somebody’ as she had the brains but lacked discipline and motivation. She pursued what she wanted most: Mommeehood and a large loving family. She tried so hard that she and failure collided often, but along the way she figured out she had been somebody all along. Nowadays, in addition to raising her four children aged three to fifteen in a blended family, she hosts moon lodges on the new and full moons, meets and supports other wild mamas, and continues to work on making her home first in her heart. Her writings can be found on her website, as well as on various other sites such as Feminism and Religion and Elephant Journal.