29 Sep 2012

The Lorax and Other Milksharing Stories

World Milksharing Week's Blog Carnival is pleased to present two blogs in Spanish. Vilma Badillo Rodriguez shares posts from her blog, Borinquen Lacta con Amor. One story reveals how a milk donation allowed a family to get their first night of real sleep in three months, while another involves the good fortune of one mother suffering from low supply meeting a parent with a great abundance.
Jesusa Ricoy-Olariaga, drawing from Dr. Seuss, explains in the following post how as a society we have completely mistaken milksharing for what it actually is. She's brilliant – I can't say anymore, you just gotta read it! In English, below, and here in Spanish.
I was kindly invited by a breastfeeding dad - yes you read that right - to write a post on milk sharing.
I am currently on holiday in my home town of Alicante in Spain where my brain has gone into relax mode but have still found myself trying to stumble across a story for the purposes of this article.
I wanted to look back and find the commonality of women feeding their children, their sisters' children and their friends' children.
I spoke with my mother who recalled talk of milksharing in her own family but, it was in connection with an older brother who died before she was born. Then I met a Muslim friend in the street and we talked about how in her culture babies who are not part of the same family but have been breastfed by the same woman are considered siblings and therefore can't marry. I called some associations in Alicante and a lovely girl told me that although she didn't know where I could find historical information, she did mention that her late grandmother breastfed other children.
"Mister" he said with a sawdusty sneeze, "I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues. And I'm asking you sir, at the top of my lungs" – he was very upset as he shouted and puffed "What's that THING you've made out of my truffula tuft?"What I was looking for I couldn't seem to find so I just tried to relax with my family. So we rented the movie The Lorax based on the tale by Dr. Seuss. It's an ecological story of how greed destroyed nature until everyone forgot how nature looked like and what impact it had for ourselves and all the things around us. There is a point in the story where the main character is explaining what real trees are like and the evil guy trying to control everything reacts by shouting how disgusting the earth is and how it breeds dirt and bugs and pollutes the air. He has become rich and all powerful by selling bottled air to people in this polluted world and I couldn't help thinking of the similarities with the way milksharing is depicted today on the few ocassions that it is even mentioned: as something that is weird and disgusting, risky, dirty even, as something that it is alien to us when actually it's what makes us us.
Earlier this year a couple of friends had minor issues with their babies. The biggest problem was trying to gain support from professionals for formula not to be administered as a simple remedy. One midwife threatened my friend with calling the social services if she accepted donated milk from any of us which we had expressed, something that for me came naturally after feeling my milk building up as the mum was telling me she needed help. I never felt anything beyond the fact that a human baby needed milk, a friend's baby. I had milk so why wouldn't I help?  It was as natural as if someone was crying and I happened to have a handkerchief with absolutely no relation to the social perception of women fighting each other in their motherhood capabilities according to production, quality or endurance of their 'job'.
We do not do that. We mammals mother our babies. We nurture and care for them. We impose milksharing on cows. We steal their babies milk for our babies while we censor our own mothers' power and abilities because somebody once put a label to an imitation of something that cannot be imitated.
In The Lorax a tree was cut down. Then another and then some more until there were no trees left of even a memory of them. The perpetrator didn't have bad intentions. He simply saw that there was a need for his product.
Not that long ago there was a culture of normality of mothers feeding their babies, and indeed the babies of others. I am glad that even if I was personally unable to find out much from our past culture of milksharing, perhaps because milksharing was seen as an ordinary act of love within the greater matriarchal story that remains unwritten, I was thrilled to see so many references in my life to the new seed that will not allow our 'tree' - the milk of human kindness - to be forgotten. 
Our milk is ours. Our babies are ours.
Our milk is free. Our babies are too.
UNLESS someone like you 
cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
It's not." Dr. Seuss  

Ps: This post is dedicated to Trevor Macdonald a breastfeeding dad and everyone who cares a whole awful lot.

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