10 Things Grosser Than Nursing In Your Own Bathroom

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:

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Achieving Unflappable Mom Status

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I was the stereotypical mom walking through Target with a screaming two-year-old this morning.

Unlike our typical public outburst, though, which is usually followed by shame-fueled sobbing in the parking lot, today I have RISEN ABOVE and believe I have reached a higher level of motherhood. Whether I’ve become desensitized to the cries of my offspring or have just developed a newfound ability to cut through the ruckus to get a job done, I realized I am no longer fazed by the antics of hellion children in public.

At the height of this morning’s pandemonium, my blood pressure remained steady. My voice was calm and still, knowing nobody was sick or hurt. I was deliberate and level-headed, never wavering or giving in to demands. And then, when it became clear there would be no redirecting or coming back from the edge of tantrum, I walked out — baby strapped to my chest, three-year-old’s hand in mine, and a raging two-year-old on my hip, flailing backwards and screaming. My expression was stoic, Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” blaring in the background (or possibly just in my head?), and there was a swagger in my gait as I strut through the parking lot. Shades down. LIKE A BOSS.

I think this liberating phenomenon is one that must be reached after dealing with a certain amount of child-centric BS and public humiliation. If there are any moms out there who were able to maintain this level of cool with their first, my hat is off to you. For me, I felt like I had finally just gotten my black belt in motherhood.

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On Jesus and Jellybeans: Talking Easter With Littles

This past week, I sat down with my son, wrapped my arm around his shoulders and braced myself for a conversation I’d had a feeling was coming. The shamrocks had been packed away, and in their place came a stack of Easter books. Many of them were filled with images of fluffy bunnies and colorful eggs, but there was one that showed a man, almost naked and nailed to a piece of wood. And this year, my son noticed.

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Today’s Mothers Will Spend A Lifetime Letting It Go

The year is 2076.

A woman, frail and old, lies dying in her bed. A well-loved woman, she is surrounded by her children, her children’s children, and even a few great-grandbabies. The blinds are drawn and the mood is somber.

Her grandson, now a strapping man with his own children, leaves her bedside to meet with some other relatives and friends who have gathered outside her room.

“It can’t be long now,” he tells them. “She’s really starting to lose it. She just said something about 8,000 salad plates when we offered her a sip of water, and she’s making up words. I could swear I heard her talking about ‘fractals.'”

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Eating For One-ish

A few weeks ago, long after the kids were in bed, my husband found me basking in the glowing light of the refrigerator. The door slowly closed, exposing me and my late-night snack in full glory: a milkshake in one hand and some homemade guacamole in the other.

His eyes widened, a sudden surge of panic rising in his throat. He choked it down and with a solemn whisper asked: “Are you…?”

“Am I WHAT?” I asked impatiently, as I shoved some tortilla chips in my face and walked past him. Adorable, I know.

“You’re not… no. No, you can’t be.” He managed a hard swallow and grasped the countertop for support. “Pregnant again?”

My jaw fell right into the chocolate ice cream rimming the frosted glass. “PREGNANT? Who said I was PREGNANT? Have you been drinking?”

As his expression softened with relief, I saw him stifle a laugh. His eyes drew down to my hands, which were now dipping tortilla chips straight into the milkshake.

“You have got to be joking right now,” I said to him, ready to launch into a rant about how a woman can eat 3 avocados worth of guacamole if she damn well wants to. He snorted behind his grin, raised his hands in surrender, and retreated to the living room.

My husband is not a judgy man, and if anything, laments about how my pregnancies have affected his own weight. Our mutual foodiness is something that has brought us closer in many ways over the years, so his observation struck a momentary chord.

It’s not an easy pill to swallow, but I am ready to talk about it.

My name is Catherine. My baby has been on the outside for five months, and I still eat like I’m pregnant.

In my earlier years, I was never a big eater, and certainly not a passionate one. Some may have even called me picky, uninterested in all things gourmet. But similar to the phenomenon that occurs after a few bottles of wine, being pregnant makes food so much better to me. It tastes better, smells better, feels better, and a considerable amount of my gestational period is spent inventing new recipes or trying new food combinations to quell my cravings. I love it. LOVE IT.

Is there anything more comforting than being surrounded by the smoky, piggy goodness that is chipotle pulled pork roasting in your oven all day? Have you felt the full-body satisfaction that comes with painting a pie shell with molten chocolate before filling it with strawberries and cream? Do you know what it feels like to bite into a spicy chicken sandwich and achieve nirvana?

These things come naturally for a pregnant lady, and everyone understands it. They welcome it, even. But the minute that baby pops out, suddenly it’s weird for me to be considering a kielbasa taco? (Okay, that one was weird. You win, judgers.)

I began to question myself. Am I eating my feelings? Am I so busy feeding the kids that I forget to eat and then shove as many calories into my pie-hole as I can to make up for it later? Do I have any leftover pee sticks to be sure?

The next day, I attended a CPR-certification class with a few friends. And as I hovered over the snack table with them, one of whom is actually pregnant, I timidly recounted how embarrassing it was that my husband thought I, too, might be eating for two again based on my snack intake the night before.

They stepped back and looked at me. “But… you’re nursing. Right?”

RIGHT! How could I forget about nature’s grace period? I learned three things that day:

1. There are few things more important in life than some lady friends to remind you exactly how normal you are, even as you’re trying to smuggle caprese salad in your napkin for the ride home after a class about choking hazards.

2. An extra 500 calories a day to support a breastfeeding baby can look like anything I want, damnit. In fact, I think the recommended guidelines specify, “500 calories, plus or minus a cobbler.”

3. They say breast is best* for a multitude of reasons, including but not limited to its ability to shamelessly extend a mother’s pregnant eating habits.

*Unless we’re grilling, in which case I really prefer thighs. Charred with some brown sugar and spices. Remind me to pick up some more avocados. And tortillas. And ice cream.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day! But Please Don’t Touch Me

I woke up this morning with my sleeping two-year-old’s finger up my nose, her skull resting squarely on top of mine, and I’m pretty sure her hot mouth-breath was steaming the lines out of my forehead.

I have spent hours upon hours today with many small children — whom I love dearly! — climbing on my body, pulling at my clothes, wiping their fluids on me. They poke me, squeeze me, sneeze on me, rub their faces into me, curl up on me, and wrap their limbs around me so tightly I have nightmares of being squeezed to death by squids when I finally close my eyes at night.

And although I love you too and always strive to make us a priority, I’m going to ask that you keep your sexy man hands to yourself for a hot minute. Mama needs some PERSONAL SPACE before I can mentally switch gears from mom to wife.

So please keep the following in mind before you turn up the slow jamz:

It may be Valentine’s Day, but our kids spent a solid three minutes today pinching my stretched-out bellybutton before I felt the baby’s diaper thundering in my bare hand. So I’m going to need you to hold your horses.

It may be Valentine’s Day, but I haven’t even peed since I woke up this morning. And during that solitary trip to the bathroom, our newly potty trained child followed me in… and offered to wipe me. So let’s just pause a moment while I try to burn that endearing hypothetical out of my immediate chain of thoughts.

It may be Valentine’s Day, but I’m wearing the same bra I wore yesterday and then fell asleep in last night. And then the baby spit up into my cleavage and it pooled there for awhile until this bra soaked it up and I forgot about it. So I’m going to need some time to regroup, and maybe to torch the Victoria’s Secret catalogue that’s sitting on the kitchen counter under the spatter of orange macaroni powder.

It may be Valentine’s Day, but our daughter wiped her nose on my arm today, then examined it and told me it was mashed bananas. (It was not.) So why don’t you just keep your distance until I can scrub both the arm and the memory?

It may be Valentine’s Day, but I just spent 85 percent of the day on my knees. Let me beat you to the punch line of that joke by telling you it was spent scraping dried spaghetti sauce off the floor, rounding up approximately a billion sensory beans, and scrubbing pee-pee out of the carpet. So as sexy as my hole-in-the-knees mom pants are, I’m going to go ahead and take a breather.

It may be Valentine’s Day, but that crazed look in my eye is the result of repeated exposure to toys that light up, honk, or sing “Let It Go” in Spanish. So please don’t be offended when you find me huddled in a dark corner rambling incoherently to myself instead of waxing poetic about romance tonight.

It may be Valentine’s Day, but I cooked three meals today with the big kid wrapped around my leg, the little one on my hip sucking my ponytail, and the middle one sprawled on the floor crying to be held. Or danced with. Or guided through “the biggest jump ever.” So for dessert, I think I’ll have an order of silent meditation — make it a double!

It may be Valentine’s Day, but I just (finally!) got the baby down, and I have already bartered with God about letting her stay asleep this time. If we wake her, I will likely have to nurse her for another twenty minutes, and to say my ta-tas are experiencing an identity crisis in moments like these is the understatement of the year. So let’s just be quiet for, I dunno, six more hours.

I love you, you are super hot, and I swear I will make us my priority again soon (maybe next Valentine’s Day?). But today, our kids were so ON me they might as well have still been INSIDE me, and I desperately need to recharge before I can look into your dreamboat eyes and think of anything but how good it would feel to shut mine and pass out.

So for now, let’s just enjoy some champagne and strawberries that haven’t been cut into quarters. Let’s sit by the fire and remember why we fell in love a lifetime ago. Hold me close throughout the night, shielding me from the toddler who tries to jump on my face at 3 a.m. Thanks for understanding — your ability to love me through this season of marriage (and willingness to wipe up all the spills while I recharge) boosts our prospects for tomorrow. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Moms: Why Your Online Voice (And the Way You Use It) Matters

There’s a conversation going on right now in our world — a beautiful, unprecedented, tapestry of a conversation. It crosses borders, ages, races and classes. It’s a conversation about motherhood, and it speaks with a breadth and richness that this world hasn’t seen before, thanks to the technology that invites almost everyone to join in.

The conversation is happening in the rising wave of voices we hear from blogs, online motherhood groups, message boards, and the comments sections in parenting articles. No longer confined to hushed tones at playgrounds or over kitchen tables, women everywhere are speaking to each other about their struggles, triumphs, and bodies with a level of open and public candor we’ve never enjoyed before.

The underlying theme of this conversation is that our likenesses as mothers outweigh our differences. We all love our children and want what’s best for them, even if our methods for achieving that look different. We all hurt sometimes, even if the pain presents itself in different ways. We all want to be loved and appreciated, even if we each bring different strengths to the table.

And when one of us is brave enough to tell her story, it opens the door for another woman to do the same. With every voice invited to this conversation, it gets a little more real — more honest, more raw, more revolutionary, more alive.

With that invitation, though, comes an unspoken call for responsibility. When you insert yourself into the conversation, are you positively contributing or are you detracting from its ultimate mission?

In one swipe through an online moms group this weekend, I saw women insisting their views were the only ones worth considering, women deleting other mothers’ comments because they presented a dissenting view, even a woman getting kicked out of the group for criticizing an admin’s perspective. I’ve seen thousands of women spewing hateful commentary at other mothers on social media for openly being in better shape or having a cleaner house or throwing a more Pinteresting birthday party. I’ve seen comments on my own pregnancy blog making fun of the size of my belly at nine months.

In a world where many of us are raising our children without the village, where the lines between work and home life are blurring, where raising kids is getting more expensive and more isolating — we need, more than ever, to support each other as women and as mothers.

So please — for the sake of all of us who have joined this conversation to improve ourselves, our understanding of each other, and our love for our children — strive to speak a language of integrity, progress, and love.

If you perceive a differing opinion as a personal attack on you or your beliefs, you may be doing it wrong.

If your need to be heard is more important than the message you are conveying, you may be doing it wrong.

If you feel the urge to shame another mother because she’s doing something better than you, you may be doing it wrong.

If you’re willing to try to silence another woman for being critical of your opinions, you may be doing it wrong.

If you think you can be cruel because you’re hiding behind a screen, you may be doing it wrong.

This conversation is happening for a reason. For the first time in history, women of all creeds and circumstances are able to speak to each other about how hard this all is, how sublime and hilarious it all is, and how unjust much of it has been, despite the beauty and grace motherhood brings to our lives. And for the first time, we’re able to combine our voices in the hope of bringing about real change that will benefit us all.

That change starts within each of us. It’s happening in the woman who just realized she’s not the only one to suffer debilitating depression after childbirth, but finds the courage to seek help knowing she’s not alone. It’s happening in the woman who’s always looked down at her post-baby body with tears in her eyes, but found a sense of pride in it after seeing the photos shared by another mother embracing her transformed body. It’s happening in the woman whose online mom group correctly suggested a life-altering diagnosis for her son that doctors had missed for years.

It extends beyond us in the women whose newfound voices are giving them the courage to petition for improved maternity leave policies, accessible and affordable postpartum care, and childcare in the workplace.

The sooner we stop hurting and silencing each other, the sooner we will step forward together. When we hold ourselves to a commitment of mutual respect and a heartfelt obligation to pull each other up out of the trenches, the conversation gets richer and more full or promise for both us and our daughters. So let’s talk.