On Birth Photography and Brelfies

I see many bodies in my fb and pinterest feeds. Some make me uncomfortable, some are personal triggers, and a few make me angry (breasts selling fishing line, for example). It’s ok if birth and breastfeeding images make you a little squeamy. When babies weren’t on my radar, they probably did that to me, too. I thought judgy things about breastfeeding women in restaurants. But I said them *in my head!* Because shaming others is ugly and unkind. And shaming others because they are using their bodies as designed? That hurts women at a core, biological level. And I hear their stories. The stories of women who were told they couldn’t breastfeed in church. The women who were told they were obscene.

IMG_4479_edited-1Why do women share images of birth and breastfeeding? Why can’t they keep that private? Because it never was private until recently. Birth and breastfeeding were always visible parts of the community. Even menstruation was, for most of human history, part of the community. When these things became private–when birth retreated behind hospital walls and breastfeeding was hidden under covers–these body functions became taboo. One way to normalize is to make visible.

But beyond that, birth is a proud, barbaric yawp. For me, it was the first time I really used courage and endurance. Not only did I discover that my body was amazing, I also found depths in my spirit I didn’t knew existed. It was a proud and transcendent moment. And my husband witnessed it, which changed the way he thought about me. Why wouldn’t I want to share this pinnacle event just like my runner friends post their photos at the finish line?

So examine these images. Do they make you uncomfortable? That’s ok. But explore that feeling. Ask why? Are they too fleshy? Do you find them immodest? Compared to what? Don’t we need men to see the female body doing this incredible biological function? Because they see plenty of female bodies selling fishing line. Don’t our sons need to see women breastfeeding before they see breasts selling beer? Don’t our daughters need to find pride in their bodies’ incredible strength before they learn our culture has co-opted it as commodity?

10583814_10202667160945656_2423246710165938046_n“I have done this thing,
I and the other women this exceptional
act with the exceptional heroic body,
this giving birth, this glistening verb,
and I am putting my proud American boast
right here with the others.” (Sharon Olds, “The Language of the Brag”)