Closet nursing and staying in my lane

This last weekend I went to church with my family. My churchgoing these days is always in honor of someone else: I go to services with my husband on high holy days; I go to mass when visiting my grandpa.

They are not my traditions, but I like these occasional encounters with religious practice. I crave more opportunities to slow down, unplug, and reflect, and I appreciate the energetic groundswell of a community of people brought together in reverence for something greater than themselves. I’m sure I make plenty of mistakes, but I do my best to be respectful when I show up, through my dress, my participation, and my comportment.

This time, I spent the service in the crying room (a glass walled room at the back of the church, with the service piped in over intercom. You can see and hear everything; the congregation can’t hear you).

I wasn’t sure if nursing was appropriate in plain view, so I pulled a rocking chair next to the changing table in the windowless closet, and stared at a wall while I fed my baby and listened to a homily on the value of family.

I hid in service to my son while I listened to scriptural explanations for how I have no identity separate from my husband and read, on endless loop, the admonition taped to my wall:

“This is NOT a nursery or a playroom. Adults and children MUST BE ATTENTIVE TO MASS.”

Out of respect, I hid in a closet to carry out perhaps the most foundational act of mothering while a man on a stage who has never had a family spoke about its centrality.

His words made me feel invisible, like a utility to be used but not seen. I learned that I am of one flesh with my husband, except when my flesh is provocative. Except when my flesh is actively prioritizing family in the most fundamental way. Except when it dares to perform in ways my husband will never be able to match or manage.

If I’d tried to come up with an image to represent the invisible work of women and the hypocrisy of ‘family-friendly’ policies, closet nursing during a sermon on the role of the sexes and the primacy of the family would have been far too overwritten and obvious to use.

And yet here we are.

Then I realized how complicit I was in my own invisibility. I dragged my own damn chair into that closet. Not knowing the etiquette, I overcorrected out of imagined respect to those who would happily force my hand in becoming a mother but shame me for publicly fulfilling that contract.

I breastfeed in public all the time—I am purposefully not shy about it—and here I was, submitting, out of a ‘respect’ that was anything but reciprocal.

The second time my son wanted to nurse, I stayed put in my glass box, in full view. No one said anything. Maybe no one noticed. I was probably just as invisible, still contained by the architecture of a protective patriarchy.

But at least I could no longer see the sign scolding me to stay in my lane.

Photo: tgraham via flickr. 

So I guess we’re done

Breastfeeding, that is. I spent ten days away from Mac this summer, and had no real plan or agenda about how that would affect our breastfeeding. Over those ten days my body gave a few last gasps of production, and then with a last sigh of resignation it relapsed into pre-pregnancy, pre-breastfeeding state.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sad about the end of our time together. Breastfeeding was hard and painful at first, and it was frustrating and inconvenient any time I dared to step beyond a certain radius of my child, but it was also rewarding, to the tune of an extra 1,000 calories a day to blow on brownies and triple cream yogurt and as a form of bonding unmatched on this earth.

Mac is sad, too. She still nurses, a few times a day, and it’s a soothing transition mechanism for both of us and discomfort for me and frustration for her. There have been so many big changes recently, so much upheaval in routines and places and people, that I’m hesitant to counter with a hard NO when she asks. So she supplicates at the dry well and I squint with occasional twinges and we get along.

Photo: stitchy.lala.pupu

And, speaking of new worlds opening up, that box of clothes I put aside as too small are back in play, and the bras once in regular rotation are officially benched. This pre-baby body is here-ish, forever altered by the expansion and service to a life more important than its own.

And I find myself in need of new bras. Which, by the way, I have foresworn along with makeup. My apotheosis into first-wave feminist is nearly complete, if only I could reject razors and dresses as thoroughly as I have eyeliner and underwires.

So to justify my shopping, I bought a Gap gift card with ShopWithScrip, and then went to town on smaller sizes in the only kind of bras I’ll tolerate these days: bralettes free from wires, hooks, clasps, and all other mechanical fixtures.

And while I wait for my wardrobe updates to arrive, I’m embracing how thoroughly motherhood has, through hormones or hocus pocus, expanded my emotional repertoire enough that I’m missing being at the beck and call of an irrational tiny human.

Skip the hassle, eat more sushi

I try to lead a pretty healthy lifestyle: to eat well, exercise, all the good stuff. But one area where I typically fall short is in seeing the doctor. I try to avoid it as much as possible, entirely because of all the hoops you have to jump through in order to spend 5 minutes with her: parking, waiting rooms, sitting on hold to make the appointment in the first place … I mean, what a drag.

So you can bet my on-demand, delivery-loving self was 100% on board with trying out Everlywell, which basically eliminates all the rigamarole associated with getting labs done. No scheduling a doctor’s appointment to get a lab order. No finding a lab close to you. No traveling however far and finding and paying for parking and waiting in some drab waiting room for 30 seconds of action. No waiting to hear from your doctor about your results. No traffic or parking or waiting rooms or online scheduling or clipboards full of cramped forms to fill out. YESSS.

I tried out the DHA test for breastfeeding mothers, because Mac’s brain development is (shocker) really important to me. So is eating sushi, so I could only see getting good news from this test: I was either giving Mac enough DHA for optimal brain development, or I needed to eat more sushi. (Or both, I mean, why not?)

The test shows up so perfectly packaged, with super simple, clear instructions. I took this test in my pajamas, without having to load the whole kit & caboodle & toddler into the car.

The breastmilk test requires just a few drops of milk. I had packed away my pump over two months ago, and I wasn’t about to bring it back out—I’m retired—but luckily a simple manual expression did the trick. I waited till Mac got the pipes flowing, then expressed a few drops into the smallest glass I had, which happened to be a wineglass. #partytime

What I didn’t anticipate was just how upset Mac would get by those few drops getting rerouted from her belly. She let me know just how unhappy about it she was. But after I’d used the pipette to drop my milk onto the little sample card, I gave it to her to play with and there was once again peace in the kingdom.

She also got to play with the cute little bandaid container included. Since my test required no blood, those went straight into the diaper bag for future emergencies. (Thanks, Everlywell!).

From there, you just pack up in the included envelope, slap on the included shipping label, and drop it in the mailbox. It literally couldn’t be easier.

Five days later, my results were in my inbox. I loved getting to see easy-to-understand charts instead of a cursory phone call from the doctor’s office with a bare bones “everything was normal” summary of results.

Unfortunately, everything was not normal… my DHA levels are below recommended.  🙁

I guess that means more sushi… or, since I’m currently in Hawaii, more poke.


Besides guzzling more fish, I’m taking my results to my next doctor’s appointment so I can make an action plan and make sure I am fueling Mac’s brain every way I can.

Want to be the boss of your health, from home, in pajamas? Cool. You can try this DHA test for 15% off with the code ALYSE15.

Or, if you’re not breastfeeding, Everlywell has a whole other suite of at-home tests, including food sensitivity, metabolism, sleep, fertility, and so much more. You can save 10%  on any (or all!) of those with the code FitApp10.

At-home testing is the way to go, for real. Who doesn’t love delivery??

This post was sponsored by Everlywell via the Sweat Pink community. All opinions are my own, and I so appreciate your support of the brands who support me and Sweat Pink?