Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Re-education in Africa

This past summer I had the opportunity to travel with my family to Ghana, West Africa. This was a missions opportunity; my very first and my husband’s second. We were deeply committed to taking our children so that they could experience “being” in another country. I had always heard the stories of women “whipping” them out, not caring “…where they were…”, and etc etc etc. I frankly prided myself, to a degree I suppose, on being a “good” breast feeder. Meaning I covered myself, ran to my car to feed my baby, or found some “safe” place to go feed them. But boy did I turn baaaaaad in Africa! I learned so much from Ghanian women. The women carry themselves with such grace, strength, & confidence. They are symbols of beauty. They are symbols of humility. They are women of innocence. They are women of courage. They are women of love. They are women of creativity. They are women who pull their boobs out IN PUBLIC and feed their babies!
I felt so stupid when I first saw a mom breastfeeding while sitting on the streets outside of the airport. I looked away, like “Oh, shoot! Sorry.” But she smiled at me. She held her head high; she looked down at her baby and stroked its cheek. She NEVER covered herself! She never covered her baby! She never rushed her baby! All while the police were right there outside of the airport. I kept watching her from afar. This intrigued me! She wasn’t exposing her breasts! She was feeding her baby! Everywhere I looked as we were in the city on the way to village, were babies on backs; babies on breasts. It was never ending. Mom’s with big babies, little babies, in between babies, and obviously preschool babies on breast or sitting at mom’s feet. Babies tied in the front with free access to breasts, while mom cleans, makes a sale, or does hair.
As we had church services, pastor’s wives sitting on front rows pulling out breasts feeding their babies. Ushers sitting down to feed babies; women praising God while feeding babies! Never once covering themselves; never once covering their babies; never once going to the back of the church or leaving. They were just feeding their babies!
Finally it happened….my little milkie baby wanted to eat…..IN PUBLIC! I was frantic! Not because of what people would say, because I KNEW I’d whip it out! But because I didn’t know what my husband would think. He was bringing the message this particular day. It was hot…..VEEEERY hot! I was thirsty. I was sweating. My babies were thirsty. They were sweating. We had one bottle of water to go around. She was having a fit! She wanted some milkies!!! I tried to offer her some water; but she refused. I looked at daddy in the pulpit and he KNEW. He mouthed to me “go ahead and feed her…” Oh boy was I excited! I get to experience PUBLIC breastfeeding! I unbuttoned my shirt, pulled out my breast; she latched on and melted in my arms. I was so happy! I felt so free! I WAS PUBLIC BREASTFEEDING! Then for a moment, a voice rose up and said “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! Put a cover over that baby!” It was her THE AMERICAN SHLONDA…. I quickly reached for something and covered myself and my milkie baby. It wasn’t long before she was nursing and angry! I looked at her and she was pouring in sweat!! I looked around and all of the women were looking at me (I just haaaad to sit in the front right?!). They were frowning like I did something wrong! They just kept staring; whispering to one another. They didn’t understand what I was doing. They were worried about my baby. They saw her under a cover…in HOT weather…sweating….wanting to eat. I felt bad, then. What was I doing?! It was my baby….EATING! It felt so right to be able to sit, where I was and feed her. She was happy….kicking her little feel…rubbing her milkies, LOL! I was soon that mother I saw my first half hour in Africa…..confident, head held high, looking at my baby, & stroking her cheek. I had arrived ignorant; departed as a Re-educated AFRICAN-American…..