Wednesday, October 31, 2018


"In the time of the sacred sites and the crashing of ecosytems and worlds, it may be worth not making a commodity out of all that is revered."
                                                            --Winona LaDuke

"I saw some women had written that the cloning of Dolly* was wonderful since it showed that women could have children without men.  They didn't even understand that this was the ultimate ownership of women, of embryos, of eggs, of bodies by a few men with capital and control techniques; that it wasn't freedom from men but control by men."--Vandana Shiva

The Earth, Mother of us all, sends her message in hurricanes of wind and rain, flooding and devastation.  We are just like the ants floating in the flood waters, surviving by sheer will power or dying from exhaustion.  We are circling the storm drains of life, believing that somehow we will be rescued.  Passive to the storms created by mankind, we believe that someone or some government will rescue us.  But it appears that we are just ants to a government of ghosts from the past.  Their incompetence and ignorance means that the life boats are reserved for them and you are on your own.  

Survival?  How does one survive when the life boat you are on is filled with a flickering screen of constant entertainment.  The struggles in life muted or distorted by a Hollywood version of life or a social media version of community.  And then there is the constant background drone of trump, trump, trump.  A day without Trump and his trumpets would be heaven on earth.  Every day becomes a schizophrenic nightmare of media messages of idiocy.  At what point will the people say let's get off this train of incompetence, nastiness, and lunacy?  

I went to a library, to sooth my soul.  Escaping into the stacks of books, of quiet reflection and peace.  I found a book I wanted to read, Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a botanist and a Potawatomi woman.  And I lost myself in reading about the sacred and medicinal plants, indigenous knowledge of life on earth, and the principle of reciprocity in nature.

She writes in the chapter called, The Consolation of Water Lilies:

"I remember my babies at the breast, the first feeding, the long deep suck that drew up from my innermost well, which was filled and filled again, by the look that passed between us, the reciprocity of mother and child."


"We are showered every day with gifts, but they are not meant for us to keep.  Their life is in their movement, the inhale and the exhale of our shared breath.  Our work and our joy is to pass along the gift and to trust that what we put out into the universe will always come back."

Kimmerer's book, her observations danced around in my head and reminded me of my own observations of breastfeeding mothers and babies. Seeing the struggles of mothers to breastfeed in our society, reminded me of how isolated women are from nature and how artificial our world has become.  

Human being learn by imitation, what we see and hear becomes our reality
Modern observations of life are in many cases governed by the media.  In TV and Movie lands, life is seen through a mostly white male-dominated, corporate viewpoint. Solutions to problems involve buying certain products.  Breastfeeding problems?  Buy this or that breast pump, infant formula, pacifiers, bottles that mimic breastfeeding.  Solutions in our fast-paced world must be resolved quickly or else we go onto a newer better product to resolve a problem.  Having a baby in our consumer-driven world, means buying lots of things.  The problem with all these things is that these things don't necessarily make breastfeeding easier and often make things worse.  

Time spent using and/or cleaning breast pumps, bottles, and pacifiers is time and attention given to things.  Time taken away from the baby.  Time taken away from breastfeeding.  How did we learn to walk, when we were babies?  Babies are totally focused on learning that skill, so simple once you learn it but an investment in time measured in days and hours.  The baby never gives up, that drive and intensity is amazing to watch.  Babies are fearless in learning to get up, balance their body, push off, and reach out into space.  They watch you do it and they absolutely know they can do it, too.  As they wobble and fall down numerous times, they are comforted by their families, cheered on to continue to learn to do what comes so natural to all of us.  Many of us have forgotten that energy, that drive, that runs through our bodies as we learn a new physical skill.  Breastfeeding often requires that intensity of physical learning.  But moms often trade that learning time with baby for taking care of things.

What causes some adults to feel defeated quickly and others to continue forward despite the obstacles?  What is the reason why some women do not believe in themselves and their ability to breastfeed?  What is the thought process of mothers who seem helpless, when faced with breastfeeding difficulties?  As a lactation consultant, I met some mothers who were defeated, depressed by life and learning to breastfeed was just one more impossible task.  I also met some mothers who overcame difficulties that would defeat most people.  And some mothers who breastfed with ease.

Babies learn to walk at various ages, some are early and some are late bloomers.  But the interest and intensity in learning to walk is very much present.  They don't harbor doubt or helplessness but neither do babies have years of so-called experts telling them what and how to think.  They just see what they want to do because everyone around them is doing it.  And they don't depend on the Baby Walking Consultant or their doctor for a diagram of how their legs work, parts and function of legs, and crutches to rent to help them walk.  Babies usually have their families, who cheer-lead their efforts to walk, who pick them up when they fall. The breastfeeding mother may have few people or family members who delight in her learning to breastfeed. 

Breastfeeding is natural.  But we don't live in the natural world.  Most of us live in buildings that are temperature controlled.  We have cool air when its hot outside and warm air when its cold outside.  If we go outside, we must adjust to a vastly different temperature than our indoor temperature.  We wear clothes on our bodies, babies have to adjust to having diapers and clothes.  The skin is our largest sense organ.  In artificial environments such as ours, we have comfort without the challenge and sensation of temperature, wind, rain, and snow.  Women cover their breasts with bras and shirts, and men can go bare-chested at the beach or outdoors.  But women rarely do so without public complaint.  Breastfeeding in public, where skin-to-skin contact is required, creates unease among many people.  That discomfort at the idea or actual breastfeeding by mothers in public, creates an obstacle for some mothers that they cannot overcome.

It is no surprise that our society is becoming more and more trapped by its artificial facade.  If one is born into a world of artificial things that never challenge our bodies or our thinking, then breastfeeding appears to be this rather antiquated and unnecessary behavior.  Some women and men believe that female liberation is to have women behave more like men.  Therefore breastfeeding is unnecessary because anyone can feed a baby--even men.  Chestfeeding is the newest lingo.  Tinker with a few hormones and men can now breastfeed.  I read that the only problem is that men's boobs may get larger. 

Nature and nurture is being challenged by scientific-industrial interests.  Human milk is being standardized to fit a male-dominated society in which the belief is that some women can't or won't breastfeed.  No one questions why some women won't breastfeed.  Yet some men seem to be eager to take over that female biology by chestfeeding.  No one asks how many women can't breastfeed.  

Instead of considering breastfeeding to be a sacred gift of mothers to their children, social marketing is telling us to embrace the idea that anyone can be a mother.  Is this really what feminism is all about?  Isn't this rejection of the female and a furthering of human survival based on corporate science?  Standardize how humans are fed, instead of embracing the diversity of the gift of breastfeeding by a mother to her child serves what purpose?  The purpose appears to be so that people have to buy more products.   Will buying more products satisfy people emotionally and spiritually?  Or is this just another form of enslavement to a corporate world that uses science to hold on to their power?

*Dolly, the sheep, was cloned  using electrical pulses fusing a mammary gland cell and an unfertilized egg cell.  She was born in 1996. The mammary cell's ability to act like male sperm in fertilizing the egg is rather astounding.
Although we shouldn't be surprised by how mammary tissue (breastfeeding) is amazingly unique and life-promoting.  We now know that human mammary cells have stem cells that have great potential to treat disease.

Copyright 2018  Valerie W. McClain

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Contempt of Women: The Other Side of Violence

"The rise of reductionist science was linked with the commercialization of science, and resulted in the domination of women and non-Western peoples.  Their diverse knowledge systems were not treated as legitimate ways of knowing." --Vandana Shiva, Biopiracy:  The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge

This week has been quite awful and I guess it has been quite awful for most US women.  I believe that Judge Kavanaugh and the Republicans have really misjudged how their performance theater came across to most women.  I can't look at all those Republican men without feeling upset, pissed off, and angry.  And I don't care what the FBI turns up because this whole circus performance by the Republican Party reflects on how white entitled males view women.  So we basically know what will happen, if Judge Kavanaugh gets on the Supreme Court.  Yes, quite simply I believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

You may wonder what this has to do with human milk or patents.  Who controls the making of our laws and our government?  Legislators, billionaires, corporations and their lobbyists;  all mostly males.  The perpetuation of rape culture particularly in academic institutions of higher learning puts women in "their place."  The use of rape is a common war tactic used to subdue other nations and in our own country to control women.  It's not about sex, its about power and control.  Domination.  Fuel the need to dominate with alcohol or drugs, and what we get is a society of violent acts and violence towards people, particularly women and children.

Societies prone to violence treat their young with emotional and physical violence.  The Spartans of Greece, were considered great warriors.  They were brought up strictly:  infant cries ignored, boys at a young age taken away from parents to be trained in the military, hazing and fighting encouraged in children.

In the US, the violence of our actions globally are also reflected in how women and children are treated in our own society.  Birthing is manipulated and violent with women enduring either a very drugged birth, surgery, or a very painful birth based on the convenience of a medical staff.  Sleep training, letting babies cry it out until they vomit, separation of mothers and babies/children as normal: are all ways in which nurture/nature is disdained.  Women no longer believe that their bodies work and postpartum depression has become the norm. Birth/breastfeeding can not be achieved without technological interventions and drugs. Natural birthing  or exclusive breastfeeding is dangled in front of women as impossible, impractical, and unsafe.  Meanwhile maternal and infant mortality increases as more women are persuaded that male-dominated medicine and corporate infant feeding is the only answer to risky female biology.  Female instincts are mocked and driven underground.  Women are encouraged to return to employment while having their babies and children.  Mocked for being depressed because of forced early separation.  Mocked for being tired or sick.  Told to remember that indigenous women had their babies in the fields as they worked and went right back to work.  So women feel guilty for not having babies easily in hospitals and guilty for being so damn tired.  And guilty for not breastfeeding.  How easy to manipulate women into one huge guilt trip regarding their own biology.  Women have a biology that many men do not understand or even care to know.  It is a biology not necessarily connected to them and their sexuality.  War-like societies do not want a society that nurtures the next generation.  They need a society devoid of connections to humanity, a society that turns a blind eye to its violence against women and children.

Women can grow and feed a human, sustaining life without dependency on corporations.  Men of science are busy in their labs trying to imitate that ability in order to make a profit.  Meanwhile the propaganda machines continue to spew out messages that make women feel less capable physically and mentally.  It's a societal rape on the nature of women.  Modern science no longer needs women.  They can make a baby in a petri dish, grow it in a plastic sack, birth it, and feed it an imitation human milk.  So women can be more like men and men can have babies and feed them, too.  The problem with presumption of control of nature/biology is that life is far more complex than current knowledge.  Do we understand the biological and societal repercussions?  How much of this science is based on discrimination and contempt of women?  

"Indigenous knowledge systems are by and large ecological while the dominant model of scientific knowledge, characterized by reductionism and fragmentation, is not equipped to take the complexity of interrelationships in nature fully into account." --Vandana Shiva, Biopiracy:  The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge

I consider breastfeeding a system of primal, instinctual knowledge that runs counter to the current medical, legal, corporate, and scientific value system. Originally breastfeeding was shared from mother to mother, passed from one generation to the next.  It was survival.  It was about keeping the next generation fed.  And it was about quickly responding to infant cues for comfort, food, and warmth with the breast. The cries of infants were never ignored. Babies slept with their mothers because an infant alone in those early days would not survive.  Modern medicine ignores the instinct of mothers to be near their infants, to sleep with them, to hold them close, to breastfeed them.   That instinct is always close to the surface of a mother's emotions in the early days postpartum.   And sadly that instinct is discouraged, replaced with medical-technical advice that is contradictory and confusing.  Mothers suffer, when breastfeeding fails because it is a far bigger loss than is recognized by society.  The primitive part of the brain recognizes the loss but society refuses to recognize it.  Women are told breastfeeding doesn't matter.  We have infant formula, "closer to breast milk than ever before." 

The domination of women impacts our lives as girls, young women, in pregnancy, childbearing, and even into our "elder" age.  Violence towards women is part of that domination and control.  Rape is one part of that domination.  Similar violence permeates birth and breastfeeding.  

I feel tangled up in a variety of emotions.  Hopeful because of women like Christine Blasey Ford who are willing to speak their truth to power. Disgusted by the contempt republicans revealed in the Congressional hearing, towards women.  I have seen that same contempt towards women by males in the medical, legal and business communities.  Contempt is the other side of violence.  Contempt blinds people from seeing the person in front of them as human, as worthy of time and consideration.  It blinds people from seeing the physical and emotional pain of another human being. 

Likewise, the patenting of human milk components shows a contempt, a violence, towards women and their biology. Human milk components are not inventions or the intellectual property of researchers and corporations.  Human milk components are part of a complex nurturing system that cannot be owned. We do violence to women and future generations, when we ignore the violence behind a system that patents life, that claims ownership in the biology of women.  The culture of contempt of women creates a blindness to rape and a blindness to the usurious nature of patenting human milk components.
Copyright 2018 Valerie W. McClain