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A Mother Speaks Out

I thought it was OK.
I could understand the reasons.
They said, "There might be man or a nervous child seeing
this small piece of flesh that they weren't quite expecting."
So I whispered and tiptoed with nervous discretion.
But after six months of her life sat sitting on lids,
sipping on milk, nostrils sniffing up piss,
trying not to bang her head on toilet roll dispensers,
I wonder whether these public loo feeds offend her?
Cuz I'm getting tired of discretion and being polite,
as my baby's first sips are drowned drenched in shite.
I spent the first feeding months of her beautiful life
feeling nervous and awkward and wanting everything right.
Surrounded by family until I stepped out the house,
it took me eight weeks to get the confidence to go into town.
Now the comments around me cut like a knife
as I rush into toilet cubicles feeling nothing like nice.
Because I'm giving her milk that's not in a bottle,
wishing the cocaine generation white powder would topple.
I see pyramid sales pitches across our green globe
and female breasts banned — unless they're out just for show.
And the more I go out, the more I can't stand it.
I walk into town, feel I'm surrounded by bandits.
Cuz in this country of billboards covered in tits
and family newsagents' magazines full of it,
WH Smith top shelves out for men —
Why don't you complain about them then?
In this country of billboards covered in tits
and family newsagents' magazines full of it,
WH Smith top shelves out for men, I'm getting embarrassed
in case a small flash of flesh might offend.
And I'm not trying to parade it.
I don't want to make a show
But when I'm told I'd be better just staying at home,
and when another friend I know is thrown off a bus,
and another mother told to get out a pub —
even my grandma said maybe I was "sexing it up."
And I'm sure the milk makers love all this fuss:
all the cussing and worry and looks of disgust
as another mother turns from nipples to powder,
ashamed or embarrassed by the comments around her. And as I hold her head up and pull my cardy across
and she sips on that liquor made by everyone's God,
I think, for God's sake, Jesus drank it
So did Siddhartha, Muhammad and Moses and both of their fathers
Ganesh and Shiva and Brighid and Buddha
and I'm sure they weren't doing it sniffing up piss as their mothers sat embarrassed on cold toilet lids
in a country of billboards covered in tits,
in a country of low-cut tops, cleavage, and skin
In a country of cloth bags and recycling bins and as I desperately try to take all of this in,
I hold her head up.
I can't get my head round
the anger towards us and not to the sounds
of lorries offloading formula milk
into countries where water runs dripping in filth —
in towns where breasts are oases of life,
now dried up in two-for-one offers, enticed by labels and logos and gold standard rights
claiming "breast milk is healthier powdered and white,"
packaged and branded and sold at a price so that nothing is free in this money-fueled life.
Which is fine if you need it or prefer to use bottles,
where water is clean and bacteria boiled.
But in towns where they drown in pollution and sewage,
bottled kids die and they knew that they'd do it.
In towns where pennies are savored like sweets,
we're now paying for one thing that's always been free.
In towns empty of hospital beds,
babies die, diarrhea fueled that breastmilk would end.
So no more will I sit on these cold toilet lids,
no matter how embarrassed I feel as she sips.
Cuz in this country of billboards covered in tits —

I think we should try to get used to this.

—"Embarrassed" by Hollie McNish


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