Black Breastfeeding Week Offends People

This week is Black Breastfeeding Week! The purpose is to spread the awareness of breastfeeding to black women, who typically are the least likely to breastfeed.  Reasons for this is usually due to socio economics, but there is also a cultural aspect. From my own personal experience, the concept of breastfeeding past six months is considered absurd to many in the black community.  
With my first child, I breastfed for 26 months. Yes, I breastfed her for over two years.   The comments I received from well meaning friends and family for doing this were at times, downright offensive, other times just out of plain ignorance.

I have received comments about me breastfeeding because it was a sexual thrill; trust me, it’s not.   I have been told that only poor people breastfeed when they can’t afford formula.  I’ve heard that formula was superior to breastfeeding.  For the record, there is no proof formula is better than breastfeeding.  I’ve been told my breasts would be ruined, and my husband wouldn’t want them anymore, as if my boobs belonged to my husband, and breastfeeding would give him an excuse to cheat on me.

We also need to discuss the fact that many black women do not have jobs with maternity leave.  That ability to pump at work, might not be as readily available.  These are more of issues of class, but still issues that would encompass many black women.

I recently went to one of my favorite pages on Facebook, Best for Babes Foundation.   They are happily posting some great information about Black Breastfeeding Week.  It is being met with the usual backlash of any type of celebration or acknowledgement of blackness in America.

“Why isn’t their White Breastfeeding Week?”

“This is why we are a nation divided. How about just breastfeeding week?”

Then we have these gems:

I’m going to deviate from the issue of Black Breastfeeding Week and ask some questions:

How do white people equate into Black Breastfeeding Week, and how are they being blamed for “Blacks Problems”?

Why do we mention slavery, but never the subsequent century of segregation that happened afterwards?  

What exactly are the special entitlements and benefits received by blacks?

Why is it always assumed blacks need to “pick themselves up”?

No matter what the conversation about black people or black americans in particular, why do these “concerns” always come up?  This is about breastfeeding.  Not about slavery, not about entitlements and benefits, just about encouraging a group of women with low breastfeeding rates to actually breastfeed.   Why is it that black people are no longer allowed to have spaces that feel safe for them? Why is it we must be relegated to the backseat of all conversations to address the concerns of the majority?  The focus can never be on the minority, we must first address the needs of white people, and then any concerns or questions specific to a minority group can be discussed as an afterthought.   The fact that anytime a minority issue does come to the forefront, the discussion from white people is to discuss and critique it’s very existence is the definition of white privilege, but it won’t be acknowledged or questioned, because some in white America will gladly pat each other on the backs and convince each other in an echo chamber that they aren’t racist.


Five Years Gone

August is a weird month for me. It’s a month where I can be insanely happy and also a month I can be supremely depressed. August 2009 I should have had Lillian Jean. Lillian Jean was my daughter who was born way too early and died in April 2009. August 2009 is when I discovered I was pregnant with Rabbit. I really don’t call her that anymore, but it’s the name I originally gave her here, so I’m sticking with it. I decided just to use Lillian’s name because she never got the chance to have a nickname, and unlike Rabbit, who I see and touch everyday, she’s abstract to me. Sometimes it feels as if she was nothing but a dream and a nightmare rolled into one. Finding out I was pregnant will Lillian made me extremely happy and losing her made me almost lose my mind. Something I often wonder if I ever wish she didn’t exist. The problem is she did exist and I’m not willing to give up the brief happiness I had with being pregnant with her, so I answer no to that question often. So for that reason alone, I’m not going to make up some silly name for her, I’m going to respect her enough to use her name and let the world know she was here, and I still miss her.

Talking about dead babies doesn’t make one really popular. It makes people uncomfortable. They don’t know what the say, and to be fair, there isn’t much to be said about dead babies, except “I’m sorry”. For that reason, I don’t get to talk about Lillian, and it makes me feel guilty. She deserves to exist, and even if she’s no longer here, it’s not her fault people are uncomfortable about it.

What I can talk about are my kids that are here. Yeah, I said “kids”. I have two now. Rabbit and He-Man. He-Man, if you cannot tell, is not his real name. He also goes by Mr. Hopper and Gaston, depending upon who you ask, so really I could have gone with any of those names. People like discussing the happiness. I can talk about Rabbit and He-Man all day long. The pictures of them I happily share. The pictures of Lillian, I keep those to myself. They are in a box, scared for me to look at, and the only time I acknowledge them is when I see the box, which is usually when I miss her terribly and I want to see the few things to prove she existed, so I know it wasn’t some horrible dream I just can’t shake.

It feels so horrible at times to be so happy for the two I have. Being so happy Rabbit and He-Man are here makes me think I don’t miss or love Lillian enough. No one really mourns her, except me, and I do that often silently. Maybe my husband. I think he doesn’t so much mourn her, as he empathizes with me. He mourns for my ache and he fears the crazy months that followed after I lost her might return. It won’t. I can’t let that happen again, because I have two kids to take care of now.

So I typed up this mess of a blog post to let the world know I still miss her. She still existed, and that I acknowledge her. I’m publicly acknowledging her to let people know that, yes I moved on. I had the living babies wanted, but I still ache for her, and no matter how well I’ve moved on, she is still gone, and so is part of me. That’s ok. It’s life, and shit happens.

Lillian, I’m still sorry and I still miss you. You are loved, and the hurt is still there, I just had to move on for my sanity. I’m no longer sitting in the floor in a puddle of tears, but I miss you Lillian Jean. My biggest regret, I think having Rabbit and He-Man has to some people, made them think I forgot about you. I didn’t. I won’t. I can’t