There may be a few points that have to be known before I continue: I have been a professional stage actor. This matters because there were times that, in locations with limited dressing space, I had to change costumes in front of co-actors of the opposite sex. Wearing appropriately modest undergarments, yes, and always on the clear understanding that we are all there to do one thing: perform. And that may include changing attire in an open room in front of the entire rainbow of genders and gender preferences.
The heart of this story is, however, the importance of being part of a supportive community, which I realised when I participated in my first ever breastfeeding photo shoot. (Yes, my boobs hanging out as I make my kids latch so we can have our picture taken. Okay? Okay.)
Truth be told, I had no idea what to expect other than to be ready for anything. Children can be unpredictable and mine…well, they are precisely that. When we arrived, the studio was so quiet that I felt sorry that my son had taken his full afternoon nap. As I knew he would, he ran all over the place like he owned it. I focused on what must be done: get my outfit and game face on, grab my kids for latching, and posing as best as we all could for the brave photographer taking photos of such young children…and their topless mothers.
I treated it like any other performance and, as I had done backstage during my days as an actor, I changed into the skirt I meant to wear, covering up only because I’m no crazy person to walk around topless in an air conditioned room. Once it was my turn, the cover came off and I have to admit, I was shameless in walking around, topless, carrying my infant son, calling to my toddler son, and posing. Completely, utterly shameless. If the photographer asked me if I wanted to pose even without my kids—perhaps a photo commemorating what my mom bod looks like?—I would have said yes without hesitation.
That, in my pure and honest opinion is the kind of comfort and confidence a supportive community brings.
I was there as one of the many mothers who wanted to celebrate breastfeeding: boldly and with pride in the gift of being able to do so. I was shameless in my movement because that was how it felt in the studio. I did not feel the need to be concerned about whether or not I was making someone uncomfortable by baring my breasts, even though there were more than just other breastfeeding mothers present.
As a modern society we’d like to think we can accept anything. The truth is far from this. Parent shaming is rampant for all the differences in choices and methods we use to raise our children. There’s really not much to be done about the matter beyond raising them as best as we know and can manage. They are, after all, individuals just like us and will ultimately make their own choices, whether we agree with them or not. Our circumstances are all unique despite any similarities we may find.
The real magic is in creating an environment of support where we are free to make our choices and feel comfortable in making them—be they correct or not. It’s how we grow and learn. And that afternoon, the room was an environment filled with love and support for women who choose to breastfeed boldly.
Note: This post also appears here on the Go Breastfeed website. Many thanks to Kate delos Reyes of Go Breastfeed for the opportunity to be part of this advocacy, as well as Apy Arevalo for the beautiful photos of me and my boys.