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Breastfeeding at the Museum

02.09.12 | breastfeeding, LDS Church, motherhood | 8 Comments

It’s time for another breastfeeding post! Or as I usually call it, nursing. As in (to my baby because she’s the main one I talk about this to): Time for nursing? Want to have nursing and nappers? Nursing and nigh-nights? (I never thought I’d babytalk, and then you should have heard Tom and me even before our first baby beluga was born. After she was, and Tom was bringing her in on the subway so he could go to class and I could go home from work, he would call and ask if I had prepared the nets for her to sleep in. Now I’m confused as to why nets would be good for a beluga whale; maybe I need to check the lyrics again?)

(Also true story, I worked as the Assistant to the Chair in the Economics department, and often the Chair was not in; this is before he went to DC to do something for some guy named Bush. I nursed Avery to sleep many days, both of us lying on the floor, her on a blanket, in his spacious office, while my angel of an office manager posted a sign on the door that said “Do Not Disturb. Exam in Progress.” That was the sign she put up on empty grad student offices for me twice a day while I pumped, too.)

When I was at the BYU, there was a big kerfluffle (or according to motherhood aphasia, a ferdluffle) over a few Rodin sculptures being excluded from a traveling exhibition. Including The Kiss (which is the only one I remembered. Sunstone, however, reminds me that there were four, and that it was also this transition from Rex E. Lee to President Bateman at the time that made me sad).

Sunstone also reminds me that though the four pieces not displayed were of male nudes, the female nudes were exhibited. Also, that the museum director said it was the “lack of dignity” rather than the nudity that disqualified the sculptures.

Anyhoo, that’s not what I’ve brought you here today to talk about. Several months ago Grampa came from Florida and we took him to visit the Museum of Art on BYU campus. We also ate at JDawgs and played a round of bowling at the Wilk. I think we even finished off with ice cream at the Creamery!

Among the religious paintings highlighting Jesus Christ’s life there was this fantistic Nativity by Brian Kershisnik.

I love that the angels include people of all ages, and that they’re so focused on the nativity until they’re past it and then they’re rushing out into the world to bear witness. I like that Joseph looks a little overwhelmed, and Mary looks exhausted but exultant. I like that she is attended by two women. I like that newborn Jesus has that squished, red newborn look, and most of all, I love that they’re getting belly-to-belly contact and that he’s nursing, or she’s nursing him. The baby’s little fist kneads her breast and she rests one hand over Joseph’s while her gaze and her other arm are all encircling her little one.

I like the curious dog.

I really, really like the nursing.

I like the differing individual reactions to His birth, and again, poor Joseph. This painting is a little white, and I hope the open exhibition of it is not just a reflection of Western preference for female nudity over male. (Not that there’s much nudity here, but that is a sliver of her breast! and this is BYU!)

Molly has now been nursing longer than my other three kids. I still enjoy it most in my day, though not the occasional industrial suction through two rows of robust teeth, or even more the flailing foot and the busy busy hands and arms that wrap in and out and around my bra and shirt instead of drifting peacefully off to sleep. I have a trip planned in a few weeks, just a short three-day visit that my child-smothered mommy heart is calling the helpline to demand. I thought I would take Molly, because I’m her mother, and she still could fly free on my lap, of course I would take her.

And then I thought of the freedom of three nights away from all of the kids, three days and nights of no one needing nothing. It is bliss, no? Until I sat there this afternoon, rocking her and nursing for nappers, and worried, what if she forgets me in that short of time and weans without me? I would come home and my baby would be no longer be my baby. Ambivalent does not begin to describe it. (Well, actually ambivalent exactly describes it, but I mean, even more emphatically.)

I would turn around once in a circle to the right and find myself the mother of teenagers, or once in a circle to the left and find my own sweet line of ducklings, the youngest one still eager to be with me, be one with me, complete the circuit that is my left arm and my right arm. Which would I come home to? If I never leave her, would I ever be able to stop? Or will she stop one day, ready or not, and the next it’s off to college?

*More art by Brian Kershisnik: This is us on a Sunday afternoon, ahem.

*In Breastfeeding in Public: What’s the Big Deal? I posted a video and more pictures of nursing. In the comments there is a discussion of specifically LDS (Mormon) perceptions of public breastfeeding. I’m for it, in a big way.

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