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#MyStoryMatters

“I always feel bad sharing my story because I don’t want to make others feel bad, breastfeeding my baby was so easy for me, it was just perfect. I almost feel like my story doesn’t count.”

The woman standing in front of me had a sleeping little one strapped on her back and a worried expression pressed on her face. She shared briefly in this rushed moment with hundreds of people around us that she rarely talked about her breastfeeding experience when she knows so many women struggle in their own journeys. Concern that sharing her own story may cause them pain, she keeps it to herself.

Another woman before her told me she didn’t talk about her breastfeeding journey except around a few key friends because it was so discouraging and difficult she didn’t want anyone else to feel sorry for her or not try breastfeeding out of fear that they would have a similar experience.

And before that a mother told me that she never talked about her experience feeding her baby for fear of judgment because she switched to formula just a few weeks in due to difficulties and postpartum depression compounded by needing to return to work. She just couldn’t take hearing more of the inevitable questions that would follow if she shared, asking if she tried any number of herbs and medications for her supply, if she saw the right kind of breastfeeding support, or how she felt about poisoning her baby with formula, or that if she truly loved her son she would have tried harder to give him breastmilk.

Following all of them was the mother that loved breastfeeding, had overcome a few difficulties, and went one to breastfeed for 3 years before weaning and starting all over again with a new little one. But she was a quiet person and not comfortable with breastfeeding in public, it was even challenging for her to do so with a cover and she preferred a private location away from other people. Awkward and very self-aware, she hated breastfeeding in public and she never posted breastfeeding pictures online (does that mean she even really breastfed if she didn’t take and share a #brelfie? Would people think she was lying?). So she didn’t talk about breastfeeding much because she felt like a fraud. There were some points she would love to tell but not all of it and not to just anyone. Her past history of sexual abuse made it even more difficult for her and she didn’t want to share more about her infant feeding path than she was comfortable with but that seemed inadequate and wouldn’t really help anyone.

All of these women and thousands of others I have heard from felt that their story didn’t matter. They felt their stories weren’t happy enough, dramatic enough, perfect enough, difficult enough, strong enough, smart enough, right enough, important enough, painful enough, humble enough, promising enough, advocate enough, bold enough.

Enough.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

You aren’t perfect and you never will be, whatever perfect means.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Your highs, your lows.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

The flab, the stretch marks, the skin and bones, or the extra padding.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

The moments of pride, the moments of shame.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Your hurt and your joy.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Your vagina, your scars, your breasts, and your bottles.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

And #YourStoryMatters.

#MyStoryMatters too.

Our children are watching, long before you will realize they are aware, they are watching. Every criticism you bestow upon yourself eats away at your confidence and how you view yourself. Which eats away at your child. How they will grow to see you, how they will grow to believe you see them, and how they will grow to see themselves. Are you treating yourself as well as you want your child to be treated by themselves and others some day? We are their models, is this what we want for them? And are we treating others, our friends and peers, how we want our children to treat others and how we want others to treat our children?

Will your child look at you and see that you are enough?

Will your child look at themselves and see that they are enough?

Perfection is far too high to aim for and since it is unattainable we are setting ourselves and our children up for failure if we tell them they are perfect and berate ourselves when we’re not. Someday they will know the truth that they aren’t perfect and we will have been the ones that lied to them.

But enough is enough. Within enough, there’s room for growth but still acceptance of where you are. When we are enough we can see how our stories matter. All of ours.

#IAmEnough

 

TLB is celebrating its 5th birthday this month. A month long celebration of our community and the thousands upon thousands of stories shared there. For 5 years families have been finding support in their journeys, receiving support and giving support. After finding the support they needed, many stay to pay it forward. Support forward. #TLBSupportForward. There is no better way to celebrate this milestone than going back to our roots, sharing our stories of feeding our children, our babies. To share your story with our community, email it to content @ theleakyboob.com (no spaces). All stories are welcome, we will have to be selective in what we publish to be sure it is a good fit and due to the volume of submissions it is possible we won’t be able to publish them all, but your story matters; so whether it is published on TLB or shared in the comments and interactions of our community, we hope you share your story. You can help encourage others with your story by making your own sign like above and taking a picture of you holding it to share on social media with these hashtags. Whatever it may be, from pure bliss of rainbows and sunshine to heartache and pain, your story matters. In sharing it you testify that you are enough and encourage others that they are enough too.

And together we all can say #IAmEnough #MyStoryMatters #TLBSupportForward.

More Than a Pair of Tits, But Can I Be Human?

by Jessica Martin-Weber
Breasts. Comfort? Sex things? Feeding utensils? Provocative snares? Defining body parts? Or just a pain in the neck?

Breasts. Comfort? Sex things? Feeding utensils? Provocative snares? Defining body parts? Or just a pain in the neck?

Once, a supportive male boss told me I was more than a pair of tits. Thanks, I think, so what does that make me? What about other women?

Breasts are at once over celebrated and under appreciated. The bastion of physical femininity, breasts rise up before young girls as the ultimate marker of becoming a woman while at the same time being berated for tripping men up and getting too much attention. Slap a pair of breasts overflowing a lacy bra on the side of a bus and watch the accidents’ ticker tape start rolling. As for coming of age, periods shmeriods, it’s not the uterus the world notices, it’s your tits! We idolize the lactating breast as the best, the mark of superior motherhood, yet we worship the sexually available ready to have fun-oh-sex-goddess-of-desire-breasts as the mark of superior womanhood. Shake those milk jugs and bring all the boys to your yard! Here’s a cover for feeding your babies, don’t let that disgusting best milk of awesome slutty motherness get anywhere or be noticed and here are some pasties for when you set aside your mom of the year sash at night and it’s time to BLOW HIS MIND!

The messages we get about our breasts and our bodies, messages we may internalize, can end up defining us. They don’t have to but often they do without us realizing it. Our successes and our failures may be measured against these messages. We all want to pretend we don’t care what other people think, but the truth is most of us do to an extent. Understandably so because none of us want to be alone. We actually need each other, need community, and needing people means we care about what they think.  Sometimes we can’t see past the tips of our nipples. Sometimes, we can’t see past the tips of other women’s nipples either. And more and more we can’t see past the tip of an artificial nipple. Do men have to put up with anything like this? Society gets their panties in a bunch when a woman feeds her baby no matter how she does it, oddly enough, not so much when a dad feeds his baby. Men get accolades for “babysitting” (AKA: parenting) and adored for feeding their child. Women get covers, judgment, shunning, and news reports. Why? Because they’re women. And there are breasts involved even when not being used.

When I began developing I mostly had a feeling of dread tinged with excitement about my impending new appendages. Then they were real, not just a developing idea, they were really, really there and I was thrilled, I was a woman, not only did I bleed between my legs, I had BOOBS! That lasted for all of 2 minutes and came crashing down when I realized that when properly clothed, the tiny bits I had wouldn’t bounce joyfully in a bra, wouldn’t fill out a bathing suit, they wouldn’t even cause a disturbance in the fabric of my shirt. I got mosquito bites for breasts. There had been fire ant bites on my ankles bigger than my tits. Before my breasts grew, I hated the idea of having my own pair of tits and being seen as a sexy symbol of busty lust but once they set up a very disappointing shop on my chest, I wanted nothing more. I had been betrayed!

They were supposed to be alluring. Sexy. Comforting. Nurturing. All at once. Instead, my breasts were barely there. My disappointment was palpable. Unlike my breasts.

My mother has fabulous breasts and I had a deep appreciation for them. To comfort me when mine were disappointing she shared how she had tiny tits once too. But then she got pregnant and breastfed, and my brother, sister, and I gave her the gift of big boobs which stuck around after all her children weaned. It was hope. Except, of course, there wouldn’t be any tits there for my some-day-partner to feel up and lead to baby making, my chest still looked, and felt, like a preteen boy’s. If the only thing that was going to change that was having babies, I might have a problem.

Later, after I had managed the baby making feat, my breasts would still be disappointingly small and my mother, out of love and concern, would come to me with an offer from her and my dad. Breast implants, they would pay for them to ensure my husband was satisfied with me sexually and would not leave me and my daughters. Because they believed what I had long suspected, with my tiny tits, I couldn’t possibly be enough.

Breastfed or not, little girls and boys tend to find comfort at their mother’s or a mother-figure’s breast. Nurturing and comforting, breasts are just pleasant. Why? I’m not sure anybody really knows. Biologically it’s probably because they are both sustenance for the infants of our species and have a certain erotic appeal that helps with the continuation of the species. But none of us are thinking about that when we’re drawn to them. Besides, essentially breasts are skin covered sacks of fat with some glandular tissue and milk ducts thrown in for functionality. They’re more complicated than that, but when you break it down, boobs are fat bags with nerves. Which hardly sounds attractive at all. Still, humans are drawn to these fat bags, the human female breast. At first for food and comfort, then for fascination, and then for sex. Sex, of course, leads to more babies and the cycle starts all over again. Beautiful, important, and confusing.

Are they ever really even ours?

How do we reconcile how we’ve seen our mother’s breasts, the breasts of other maternal figures, the breasts of our peers, the breasts of celebrities, and even the different stages and functions of our own breasts? There’s no switch we get to flip, you know. Moving from one phase of boob love to the next is complicated and confusing. Often it doesn’t go smoothly and there’s struggle involved. Find nurturing comfort and sustenance at the breast, baby! Stop that. Grow some tits! Stop that. Cover them up! Stop that. Flaunt them! Stop that. Boobs = sex! Stop that. Nurture a child with them! Stop that. Play things for your partner! Stop that. Tie them up, nobody wants to see those tired old things hitting your knees, that’s not SEXY! How do we go from being comforted at the breast, to admiring breasts, to wanting our own breasts, to discovering how the world sees breasts, to embracing the sensuality of our breasts, to properly covering them, then by just having breasts somehow being responsible for being harassed for sex, forget the nurturing stuff breasts are for sex, have a baby and hold them to your chest and just be ok with now your baby’s mouth and hands and head are there more than your sexual partner’s. Be a good child, a good sex goddess, a nurturing goddess and don’t be a slut or a bad mom or sexually unavailable. Do. It. All. What you do with your boobs, how you dress them, how you use them, how you present them, and how others notice them requires a lot of time and energy. A defining factor of how others see us and more importantly, how we see ourselves. The shape of our breasts can shape us.

Which can mess with our heads.

I talk with women every day about their breasts. It’s a casual conversation, but honest. Women are surprisingly willing to talk about them, if somewhat hesitant at first. But talking about our tits is kind of like taking our bras off at the end of the day: HALLELUJAH, I DON’T HAVE THAT CONSTRICTIVE TORTURE DEVICE HOLDING ME UP ANY MORE! I CAN BREATHE! We can talk about our boobs! You see, everyone else is talking about them and we know it. Men, fashion designers, doctors, nurses, lactation consultants, fashion magazines, politicians… you name it, everyone’s talking about our tits. Except us. Some of us are still whispering “breast” before cancer because even the word makes us uncomfortable. We’re not supposed to actually notice our own breasts! And noticing the breasts of others comes with baggage packed with jealousy and judgement. We’re certainly not supposed to be talking about them. Feel your boobies? Ok, but could we not say that out loud please? Don’t you just have a card I can stick in my underwear drawer for a monthly reminder? To talk about our breasts means we have to dance our words around in a complicated choreography of avoiding the conflict and appreciation we have about our own chests. It’s not a safe dance. If we like them, we sound like we’re bragging. If we don’t like them, we sound like we don’t enjoy being women. If we enjoy them in sex, we wonder if we’re weird. If we don’t enjoy them in sex, we’re pretty sure we sound frigid. If we’re proud of them, we’re going to be heard as putting down other women. If we’re not proud of them, we’re perceived as being dissatisfied. Most of all, we wonder how much of our success as women, as sexual partners, as mothers is tied up in these things we contain between some elastic, padding, and maybe a bit of wire. If we participate in titty talk, do we risk exposing ourselves with our womanly failures to the world? Are we enough?

Sometimes, our breasts and all the baggage that society hands us to go with them, get in the way of remembering we are human. Perhaps we could connect with our own humanity a little bit deeper by appreciating our breasts without shame, no longer worrying about how others are or are not using theirs, and talking about our own breasts without apologetic whispers. And to look in the mirror and tell ourselves we are enough.IMG_3816.JPG

This post is inspired by a portion of one of the talks sponsored by Ergobaby and Ameda, Inc. at MommyCon 2015.