Saturday, July 09, 2011

Pin-up madonnas

WITH my bags of books and groceries, I squeezed in beside the woman seated quietly beside the Vhire window.

The bags, the woman and I made too intimate a fit in that narrow space. After a few minutes, two other passengers completed our row.

While getting my fare, I felt someone’s eyes on me. When I glanced at my left neighbor, what I mistook to be a bundle hugged to her chest turned out to be an infant girl, nursing.

Like other babies latched on to their mother’s breast, she had this preternaturally wise glance. I’ve a better seat than you, this tiny creature with a few wisps of hair airbrushed on her perfectly rounded head seemed to tell me.

I could tell from the way she was watching me watching her that she was way past the throes of a great thirst. Replete, she was having post-prandial sips, the infant version of watching the world go by while occasionally wetting one’s whistle in a brew mixed strictly according to one’s specifications.

After the Vhire driver called out for fares, my left neighbor rummaged for her purse. When those ancient eyes alighted on the pink thing, there was a loud wet pop as she pulled away from a teat and grabbed for the bright coins.

Her mother told her she could have something else. My neighbor did several things at once: paid her fare, fixed her blouse, rearranged her packages and gave her daughter a slip of paper she waved at me, as if to say: what are you looking at?

Mother and daughter chatted, ensconced in a bubble of bonding that excluded the rest of us.

None of that babble that naïve or occasional mothers use on children they regard as adorable but unknowable aliens.

This mother conversed with her child. When a man on motorcycle sidled beside our Vhire, my neighbor commented that the child’s father must be on his way home from the office, too. Little Ms. Genius agreed. “Pa-pa,” she said and waved the slip of paper at the man on the motorbike.

Until I dropped off for my usual nap, mother and daughter were chatting away, an exchange that was far from being only one-sided on the part of the adult as the young one always had something to say with a few well-placed syllables, accompanied by an emphatic rustle of the paper held in that tiny fist.

On top of the many benefits of breastfeeding, add traveling convenience and jumpstart in socializing savvy.

I’m glad that the month of July, which banners the theme of nutrition, was ushered in this year by public campaigns promoting breastfeeding.

In a mall, an exhibit showcasing photos of nursing mothers drew a respectable audience even during a mall-wide sale.

Even better, I see more women nursing in public places, including jeepneys. One mall conspicuously displays a sign emphasizing that benches were placed to prioritize nursing mothers and senior citizens.

It’s a long way from the time when breastfeeding was perceived to be a low-income mother’s only alternative for good nutrition.

It’s even better: breast milk is the best choice for any woman and her child.

As any envious son of Adam knows, being anatomically equipped to instantly nurse and comfort one’s child makes mothers unequalled at mothering.

A working mother survives the rigors of graveyard shifts of feeding on demand and waking up in time for the office because of the maneuver I call “roll on-roll off”: roll over and uncover a breast when the baby just stirs. Roll away after the little tyrant nods off again. All this without the three of you—madonna, baby and pater—losing sleep.

Given all the good it’s wrought, breastfeeding deserves one of those gigantic Edsa billboards. Why distract motorists with only one type of breast: the cheeky uptilted ones that have not yet been sucked, pulled, squeezed, chewed and remolded to suit a small tyrant’s specifications?

On the other hand, I’d rather sit beside nursing mothers any day rather than gaze up at a sagging, floppy breast blown up to the size of a skyscraper.

If breastfeeding has taught me one thing, it’s that looks aren’t everything.

( 09173226131)

* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s July 10, 2011 issue of the “Matamata” Sunday column

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