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My Breasts Reclaimed

By a woman in Ontario, Canada, 2001 April 27.

This story makes the connection between women's topfreedom and breastfeeding, in the context of life-giving well-being.

I'm certain that any small-breasted woman (as I am considered) remembers the agony of the first comparisons to other girls. In high school, changing for gym class made me self-conscious. I was the only girl in Grade 9 not wearing a bra.

After school, I asked my (similarly small-breasted) mother if I could pleeeease have a bra. "A training bra?" she asked. "Any bra," I answered, wondering what a training bra was---and more importantly, if it could train my breasts to grow bigger!

Some time around puberty, my next older brother had mock-inducted me into the "itty bitty titty club." His teasing was the beginning of nearly 20 years of shame, embarrassment, and feelings of inadequacy regarding my breasts. Did I ever toy with the idea of breast surgery to incease my cup size? You bet.

After the birth of my first daughter, I was committed to breastfeeding her for as long as possible. With the books "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding" and "BestFeeding" as my guides, I suffered through six weeks of painful cracking, bleeding, and screaming nipples---but finally drifted into six additional months of comfortable breastfeeding. Ah, relief. And confidence. WOW, the confidence!

I finally realized that I measured perfectly. When did this new woman emerge? Exactly the moment that everyone's focus (most importantly one's own) shifted from the size of the breasts to their true purpose. It was exhilarating. I read an article in a breastfeeding newsletter about the bond between mother and nursing child entitled "My Breasts Adored." I beamed with recognition. After the powerful experience of successful breastfeeding, I decided that the only changes to my breasts that I was willing to undergo were natural ones, associated with nourishing my children.

Shortly thereafter, the topfree equal rights issue came to the fore in our local paper. I felt a spark, a confirmation. How dare anyone limit the purpose or visibility of my breasts? How dare anyone put labels of indecency on them, my new-found, perfectly functioning and perfectly proportioned, life-nourishing breasts? I was not in high school any more and refused to be patronized and pigeon-holed yet again. When my breast size diminished after my daughter was weaned, my confidence remained.

Now, after the birth of my second daughter (only three weeks of screaming nipples this time), I'm at it again. We're into our 13th month, and nursing anywhere and everywhere. People hardly notice my exposed areolas and nipples. When I'm feeding my child, I don't care what they see.

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