Exhibitionist: someone who deliberately behaves in such a way as to attract attention.

It would seem that I am an exhibitionist.   Throughout my life, there have been instances where I have gone above and beyond to flaunt whatever I may or may not have had at the time.  Yet for all of my flaunting, I was never labelled an exhibitionist.  Until I became a mother.

You see, the moment that I dared to bare that sacred inch of breast immediately pre-latch, the judgement started rolling in.  Yet I cannot help but feel slightly bemused by this concept of exhibitionist breastfeeding.  Because in truth, my past exhibitionism has had absolutely nothing to do with babies or milk…

I remember being set an assignment at school when I was 16; to design and create a piece of ‘fashion’ out of household products.  I watched as my classmates worked diligently with their egg-boxes; plaiting string to create a handle for the soon-to-be handbag they had designed.  I sneaked a peak at the sponge hats being carefully crafted and intricately painted.  Did I follow suit?  No; I simply took out my three magic ingredients:
  1. Scissors.
  2. Sticky tape.
  3. A roll of bin bags.
I took off my t-shirt, stepped out of my skirt and wrapped bin bag after bin bag around my body...think cheap and shiny tube dress and you’re somewhere close to the look that I concocted...I remember looking up as my teenage peers stood watching, silently aghast at the scene before their eyes.  I remember glancing across at my nervous teacher, as he deliberated whether to turn and run.  I flashed a quick smile, taped myself together and proudly pronounced my creation complete.

Did anybody call me an exhibitionist in this instance?  No.  I was praised for my creativity and confidence.

Roll forwards a couple of years and you’ll find me dancing on a table-top, beer-in-hand, at a student party.  This particular instance is memorable because it was the first time that papa bean set eyes on me...and when he reminisced about our less-than-fairytale introduction in front of our friends and family during his groom’s speech, it was met with knowing smiles and quiet chuckles; not once did an elderly relative stand up and pronounce the bride a brazen exhibitionist.

It seems strange then, that I somehow avoided the label of exhibitionist for so long.  And I’m sure that you’ll understand my confusion as to why it is only since baby bean came into the world, that strangers feel the need to point the finger and hurl the label towards me...or rather, towards my boobs.

Ah yes, introducing exhibits one and two: my breasts.

Because when little bean and I sit down quietly to nurse, I must admit that at least one breast is air-bound.  And as we share our treasured moment, it's true that a nipple will undoubtedly meet fresh-air.  But let's be clear; when I lift up my t-shirt, I am not doing so to cause a scene or make a statement.  I am lifting up my shirt so that my daughter can eat, can heal, or can chatter away to my breast in between sips, as she so pleases.

You see, I am not an exhibitionist because I breastfeed my daughter.  I am simply a mother.  A mother feeding her child.

In fairness,  I am the woman who has charted the loss of 14lb of boob for thousands to read.  It seems that my exhibitionism has simply matured and taken a different form...much like the rest of me, it has changed shape with motherhood.

Now though, my reasons for putting myself out there are slightly different...now I actually have reasons.  There is a reason why I bare my soul in every post that I dare to write.  There is a reason why I lay myself vulnerable with every word…I suppose, in a way, I am writing to my past-self.

I am writing to the new mother cradling her tiny dream in her arms in between IV sites.  I am writing to the the new mother too weak to walk upstairs alone, yet strong enough to nurse her baby day after day, night after night.  I am writing to the new mother surrounded by a fog of tiredness and speculation; engulfed in a haze of sleeplessness and self-doubt.  I am writing to myself...I am writing to us all.

You see, I am writing to fuel the strength that every mother already has nestled inside her...somewhere behind our stretched-out bellies and below our milky breasts...the strength that every miniature kick and tiny hiccup has left lodged within us for always...the strength of motherhood.

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