An image of a woman breastfeeding her 11-month old while sitting on a toilet has gone viral, causing an uproar this week after the image was uploaded to her Instagram and Facebook pages. (To view the photo in question, see her public response to the Huffington Post.)
Though some people have praised her bold candor, the photo has also brought an onslaught of criticism for Elisha Wilson Beach, wife of actor Michael Beach, for her lack of concern over the seemingly unhygienic practice, for bolstering the message that mothers never get a moment to themselves, and for oversharing. Plus, if her husband took the picture, he probably could have just helped her instead. Fair points.
Beach has publicly responded to the criticism, saying all mothers do things behind closed doors but are afraid to talk about them for fear of judgment, and that a sense of humor has gotten her through many of motherhood’s challenges. Sounds reasonable.
The Internet responded to her statement with a resounding, “Ew, but poop.”
So here are my two cents, because the world needs one more opinion about this photo: The moment you lay spread-eagle in a room full of strangers to deliver a child is the moment your sense of shame goes out the window. There is very little that can embarrass us or gross us out after having several strangers elbow-deep in our birth canals while interns clean up the spills and discuss their plans for sewing our taints back together.
And the attempt to normalize and find humor in the often-repulsive struggles we all face is the mission statement of 99.79% of parenting blogs in existence. This isn’t new.
I can’t say I’ve nursed a baby on the toilet, but I’ve certainly held a baby while I’m there (and have also wiped another kid’s butt with a baby in my arms) because you do what you have to when you’re in survival mode. For what it’s worth, the concern is usually less focused on baby’s proximity to turds and more focused on pulling pants back up one-handed. Not easy — I’ll wait while you try it.
*humming the diarrhea song to myself*
So in support of this woman and her argument that motherhood is gross and we should all just embrace it rather than judge each other for it, I present to you my personal list of 10 Things Grosser than Nursing On Your Own Toilet:
10. Nursing in a public bathroom — because backward thinking forces women to hide something natural and healthy while hyper-sexualized images of breasts abound. Also STRANGER FLUSH SPRAY.
9. The time(s) my baby blows out her diaper while bouncing in a jumparoo and I have to spend an inordinate amount of time cleaning the seat and all of her nooks and crannies.
8. Taming another person’s snot bubbles.
7. Finding old cups of milk days too late and the civilizations that have started growing in them.
6. The time our 6-month-old puked peas into my husband’s eye.
5. The fact that maternity Spanx exist.
4. Rash pics in mom forums. Enough already — get that shit looked at by a doctor.
3. The time my baby turned the tables on this story and pooped where WE eat. My husband kept reaching into her high chair seat to figure out what had spilled because it was drenched and pooling. He’d lift his hand to his nose and ask if the kids were playing with vinegar, then go back in for more. Then I’d dip in for my own investigation. You know how this story ends: high chair bonfire and Lady MacBeth-style hand washing.
2. That time — at the birth of my daughter, Isabelle — when the doctor delivered my placenta, held it up for the room to see, and announced, “And here’s FERDINAND.”
1. American maternity leave policies.
So let’s just give this woman an ounce of credit for keeping it real, and if nothing else, trying to normalize the day-to-day filth we all secretly live with. I’m usually the one hiding in the bathroom to GET OUT OF feeding my kids at dinner the minute my husband walks in the door, so at least she’s tending to her kids’ nutrition. Time to cut the mom-shaming and embrace one another for loving and caring for our kids as best we can.
…As soon as everyone washes their hands.