I lay here nursing this sweet child to sleep worrying and just trying to be here now, the wind blowing in the trees out my window, golden sun touching hair, the hands holding hands and ears, and it works and it doesn’t. So much I would leave behind and undone. Raising this child to remain loving in consent and respect even to nurse, momma nurse please he asks even in the middle of the night half asleep. My love overflows. And in this moment I find enough.
I have been thinking the last few weeks, months, years about consent and the tiny humans we help grow. My sister taught her now 6 year old son to ask to nurse with the words, “nurse please” and in all things parenting I learn and emulate her. My now 2.5 year old asks, ‘nurse please’ and when I say yes sometimes he will respond with ‘thank you’. Sweet consent has helped me when I’ve felt tired or resentful of nursing but it has especially helped in he hasn’t bit my nipples the few times we have had a rough unlatching or nip I have told him, “that hurt me and I don’t want to nurse anymore” and we stop or pause nursing until he asks again.
We often talk about how momma is sharing her milk from my body which then leads to him pointing at his belly saying, ‘my body’ and at me saying, ‘mommy’s body’. Simple rituals we use in interaction we have at least 3 times a day, sometimes more. These moments gather into the way his understanding of the world that our bodies are our own even when we share space with others. Another part of the ritual I recognize in nursing is thinking ‘this is my body, given for you’ while we nurse, the basic magic that is nourishing a child which begins in utereo and continues once they’re earthside in nursing and feeding our children.
That phrase resonates from the reading Dance of the Dissidents Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd wrote on page 15, “I … nourished by the symbol and power of this profound feeding ritual. It never occurred to me how odd it was that women, who have presided over the domain of food and feeding for thousands of years, were historically and routinely barred from presiding over it in a spiritual context. … ‘This is my body, given for you,’ not once did I recognize that it is women in the act of breastfeeding who most truly embody those words and who are also most excluded from ritually saying them.”
When we feel powerless to make change remembering that in the small every day moments we weave what will become memories and foundation of interaction with the world for our tiny humans. These are the things that will spark compassion, connection, consciousness when faced with other narratives of human interaction that can be harmful – toxic masculinity, objectifying femme bodied people, rape culture, romantic hierarchies, and lack of consent. Allowing the space for our children to develop into full people means thinking about every interaction we have and working to make it better and trusting what they have to teach us as much as we feel we must teach them. A friend, Onyx, reminded me once when I was touched out and frustrated that kids know what we need when they come cuddling to us – we need reconnection or just connection and its a part of our trauma that we hide from that when we need it the most. It doesn’t mean it’s easy or that we have to surrender our ability to consent and have boundaries. But it does mean that we have to hold space for the lesson to emerge even if we choose otherwise.
Parenting, like activism and allyship, is not a checked off done once and finished thing. It is a daily, every moment, and breath thing. And in the radical connection that happens during nursing and feeding our children we have a place to re-write the narratives of bodily autonomy and consent.