Motherhood Killed My Modesty

How did I go from hiding in the locker room to breastfeeding in public?

I have always been a private person. Back in eighth grade gym class, I dreaded changing clothes in front of the other girls for fear they'd catch sight of a nipple or – heaven forbid – my pad during my period. Even at home, I didn't change clothes in front of my sister or mother. I'm not sure what I was afraid of, only that I'd been conditioned from an early age to believe that nudity was the most shameful state of being for a woman.

So when I watched "The Business of Being Born" during my pregnancy and saw all those naked, birthing ladies splayed out in tubs, every muscle in my body tensed with fear. The pain of childbirth I could handle, but the nudity? Count me out. I was going to give birth my way: In the privacy of my own home, wearing a gigantic T-shirt, with all my private lady parts demurely hidden underwater in an inflatable pool.

Of course, that isn't how it went down. After one short hour of painful contractions, I was completely dilated and ready to push. The water in the birthing tub wasn't even 2 inches deep, and my wet T-shirt felt oppressively heavy. I stripped it off, but even the water hugged me too tightly. I needed to move. I emerged from the pool and dripped water all the way into the bedroom where I dropped to all fours for another round of pushing. An hour later, I wound up giving birth to my daughter lying flat on my back, sweaty and naked as the day I was born. I stayed like that, naked and lounging, for hours as my husband and I bonded with our baby.

The next morning I realized my comfort level with my own body had shifted literally overnight. My parents and sister were there when I whipped out an engorged breast to nurse my baby. "That's completely natural. That doesn't bother me one bit," my dad said, sweetly attempting to mask his unease. During pregnancy, the thought of his presence while I nursed my child terrified me, but now it was totally different. It was natural. From where I sat, it didn't even feel like I was revealing a private part of myself. It was more like my nursing baby was a knitting project I'd pulled out while making casual conversation.

Two years later, not much has changed. I'll nurse my 2-year old in a parked car in public. I'll shrug when I realize I forgot to close the blinds before getting undressed to take a shower. I'll even wear leggings while working out, leaving not a curve to the imagination. I don't have anything against modesty, but for me, parting ways with my own has been liberating. That's because my need to keep my body hidden came from a place of shame.

Now that I've experienced the incredible strength of my female body and the vital functions it performs for my child, my body and I are like old friends, at ease with one another and unashamed.

If you are in Greater New York City, you may be interested in attending the Seleni Institute’s New Moms GroupLearn more about all of our program offerings.