My in-laws, lets call them Peaches & Cream, are furious with us. She wrote us an email, since she “was so hurt by this” and couldn’t speak without emotion.
Cream has informed us that they will no longer visit our house.
She is worried that our children will have no friends.
She also hinted we could lose our children if social services find out.
She wrote that we’ll find out the truth when we die. I sense in her writing a tinge of glee in the thought of being proven right as we go to hell to suffer for eternity. I want this to be my imagination, but …
The reason for this onslaught of doom: a painting hung above the computer.
I did a self portrait of my nursing my baby. I love it. I wanted to remember what it was like to look down on my babies as they gazed up at me. To remember that connection of so many levels. The baby and the baby’s eyes are the focal point of the picture and exactly what I saw as I breastfed.
I have seen many drawings and photos of women breastfeeding, but never from the mother’s perspective. I didn’t want to forget either the joy of new eyes locking on my own or the pain of engorgement and let down (think electrified toothache). I wanted to remember and to share that intimate mother-bond experience.
Apparently what I see as mother-love, Cream sees as pornography. I do remember the face-book blocking and angry emails sent when I had a photo of my bare shoulder and a naked laughing baby as my picture. Because of that, I talked about taking down the sketch during the in-laws visit with my father first.
He is a photographer and framed the sketch for me. He also was the editor of La Leche newsletter when I was a baby. But he is also very sensitive to other people and a peacemaker. He still saw no problem but none of us were aware of Cream’s anger towards seeing breastfeeding babies.
Cream states that we did this to spite her, shock her, dis-respect and dis-honor her (her spelling).
She also writes:
“nudity is ‘almost always’ sexual” (The baby is nude, I find her statement more than troublesome.)
“it [would] my duty to report this to social services … in today’s age of sexual abuse… my child would not return to your house to visit”
“until I know that anything has changed I do not feel welcome or comfortable in your home as long as you are making this statement… I will remain elsewhere.”
My lover wrote a calm and thoughtful response explaining why we feel it is healthy for children to see breastfeeding and how harmful that hiding bodies and being ashamed of them had been to himself personally. He explained that we had thought to take it down remembering the explosive reaction Cream had to my Facebook picture but that no other people from my parents to professors to coworkers had given us negative feedback but instead assured us there was no problem. In the end, we didn’t take it down because we were busy and had forgotten all about it.
“That is dishonest and disrespectful to me. To ask others, and not me, only indicates that perhaps you also feel that your choice of hanging the picture might have been considered inappropriate”
Was she mistaken on the reasons I did not discuss this picture with her!
“I am sorry you do not understand at this time… my concern is only for the girls”
She said we called her “out to lunch”, which we had not in any sense. We said that we appreciated her many strengths but that did not stop us from learning things on our own.
“Have you really been fair about making that judgment (about being ‘out to lunch’ and old-fashioned – again, her words, not ours) about me ? especially if you had really read what I have written?”
The hypocrisy gets me at this line. I have to laugh. Sad laughter.
She was right that I do want to make a statement with my sketch, I wish to say : breastfeeding is beautiful, bodies are beautiful, mother-love is beautiful.
Of course I would take down the painting if they ever come to visit, but I will not retract that statement.
She informed me that she lost respect for me and that I would have to earn it back. I feel like I have lost more than respect for her – I have lost the ability to be myself around her or share my values and passions with her and I no longer feel safe leaving my children with her for long periods of time. I grieve the loss of a potential friendship based on mutual respect. She remains a beloved grandmother, but one who will not have the opportunity of unsupervised time with my girls.