men / without milk stains on their shirts

Last year at this time, I was nursing a two-week-old and trembling, tossing, turning with anxiety instead of sleeping. A friend sent me a poem by Kaitlin Hardy Shetler, who asks if Mary breastfed Jesus and struggled with a painful latch. My phone shows I screenshot it at 3:17 a.m.

3:17 a.m. is a time stamp familiar to those nursing newborns and grinding their teeth into the night guard they wear, familiar as well to those lying not sleeping nearby. I saved the poem because I felt it saved me.

Six hours later I took this photo:

It wasn’t the only milk stain photo I would take in those upended first weeks.

And yes, visits to a lactation consultant can help, but the reality of nursing can look very different than the paintings of a serene Madonna.

Did Mary have to configure concoctions of pillows?

Here’s the full poem, with link below:

sometimes I wonder
if Mary breastfed Jesus.
if she cried out when he bit her
or if she sobbed when he would not latch.

and sometimes I wonder
if this is all too vulgar
to ask in a church
full of men
without milk stains on their shirts
or coconut oil on their breasts
preaching from pulpits off limits to the Mother of God.

but then i think of feeding Jesus,
birthing Jesus,
the expulsion of blood
and smell of sweat,
the salt of a mother’s tears
onto the soft head of the Salt of the Earth,
feeling lonely
and tired
hungry
annoyed
overwhelmed
loving 

and i think,
if the vulgarity of birth is not
honestly preached
by men who carry power but not burden,
who carry privilege but not labor,
who carry authority but not submission,
then it should not be preached at all. 

because the real scandal of the Birth of God
lies in the cracked nipples of a
14 year old
and not in the sermons of ministers
who say women
are too delicate
to lead.

– Kaitlin Hardy Shetler

the pink tax

As the mother of a baby girl, I feel my ears prick up in newly painful ways whenever I read about gender disparity. I’m currently reading Boys & Sex, by Peggy Orenstein, having appreciated her previous Girls & Sex. Also reading Fair Play, by Eve Rodsky. I forget which of these books clued me in to the “pink tax,” but, I’d just read about it before going to Amazon to look for bottle-cleaning brushes.

Lo and behold….

pink brushes

blue brushes

 

Click here for pictures of products in stores–blue and pink, side by side–with the mismatched price tags as proof.