Today, I'm reflecting on questions that bubble up when I talk to fellow breastfeeding breadwinners. How are we defining choice for childbearing people in 2023? Usually choice is the buzzword representing reproductive freedom as pertains to abortion. But there are so many other ways that choice is stifled for us. Does one really choose to breastfeed or not? Sometimes a formula shortage removes one's choice, as in my case. Sometimes choices are made by our anatomy, or emotional resilience, chemical makeup, and distress tolerance. Sometimes the choice is made according to the need for bodily autonomy, or costs us our body autonomy. The choice is sometimes made by the math… is there enough time? Can you be there EVERY OTHER HOUR? Do you also want your home to be tidy, and do you have the support for that? Can you pump frequently enough while working? Does your income make it a no-brainer that you're the one who works… but then your working negatively impacts your ability to lactate? Does lactation and weaning have impacts on work that you wish it didn't? Do you choose the amount of time you're off of work? That's going to be a resounding NO. The more time I get away from my breastfeeding journey, the more curious I get about what that was. I chose it again and again and again, despite the marathon it felt like and the disaster it sometimes made me. I chose it because we set ourselves up to pull it off, and we were truly just barely pulling it off. So I kept going, because I was privileged to have logistical partner support with no outside childcare. I ran with the plan and never looked back. What I would have chosen is an entire year off to sink into the experience with no outside pressures. I'd have chosen trusted outside care to give us both a break together. I'd have chosen a night doula and house cleaner. And a personal chef, and a diaper butler. I didn't have access to those choices. In that world, I'd have luxuriated in every bath time and story time because I wasn't worrying about the mess around me, or how hungry I am, or how I wish I were shopping or traveling right now. Those needs would have been met. Because when something suddenly obligates 1000% of your attention and actions and it all depends on you or your partner, you're allowed to resent the loss of freedom. And you lose scope of the one-time-only experiences before you. I'd have scheduled myself a little more space between sessions at work to make sure I didn't feel grouchy rushed pressure to do the feeding while I also need lunch on a time crunch. Maybe next time. But because of this experience, will I choose a next time? Is the shape of my family, my fate and destiny, determined by choices I don't get to make? That's kindof a big deal, and a rather significant injustice, in my view. That I would choose not to have a second ENTIRE child because it's just so hard in modernity to do it well. In a breastfeeding breadwinner's story, and that of so many others, the money source unfortunately makes quite a few choices for us. While I am so grateful to be self-employed and in love with my career, I know that's not the case for everyone. I'm not a fan of the reality that anyone's job should have influence over their personal life choices… and the defenseless little one whose life trajectory quite literally depends on the wellness of their caregivers. So a pro-choice movement, to me, now includes access to a range of choices in a future where we truly value the lives of littles by wrapping parents in supports, removing stressors, and providing resources. FOR FREE. Then we'll really be choosing.
If you or anyone you know is in need of some protected reflection time, come see me in therapy. Visit growthpointcollaborative.com to inquire. Our movement can now be found on instagram @breastfeedingbreadwinners!
Check out this podcast where I appear and discuss this work!