Why I Concern Myself With Frozen Breast Milk

Disclaimer: I totally respect women’s abilities to make their own decisions about their bodies, and I’m not trying to argue that men taking an interest in these issues means that any man should have the final say on any woman’s decision.

With the very real chance of widespread power outages due to Hurricane Irene, a note on Facebook explaining the safety of refreezing breast milk was passed around. I posted it and within a few minutes, a woman asked why I as a man should be so concerned with breast milk.

Multiple reasons with the simplest first.

1. I’m a human being, and I like learning about everything… so that I can be a resource for people who don’t know.

2. Most of my friends are female. And I care about half of the human population.

3. I have a wife who travels a lot. So frozen breastmilk or breast milk sharing (yes, I am familiar, and a proponent) will eventually be a reality for me.

4. Most importantly, I believe every man should know about women’s bodies — form and function. It makes men better fathers, partners, lovers, and friends.

5. I believe that is God’s command, to be the best person you can be.

To get back to the question itself, “Why are you so concerned about breast milk?”  I wasn’t surprised by the question.  In some circles (Muslim ones included) there tends to be an emphasis on the separation between the sexes– not just space wise, but also ‘information’ wise. There are men’s spheres and women’s spheres. Men stay out of women’s business. Women stay out of the men’s business.

I was faced with this mentality head-on when getting to know an ex-fiance of mine. For example,  when discussing our future wedding, she expressed disbelief and confusion that I had an opinion on what I wanted to wear and how I’d like the ceremony to be performed. Weddings were woman-stuff. Men just had to look half-way decent.  While superficial, this was just the beginning of several discussions that hit this male-female barrier.

On another day the topic of childbirth came up when we were with a friend of hers who happened to be a physician’s assistant. I happened to express a critique of modern day obstetrics and specifically mentioned the controversy surrounding episiotimies after her friend claimed that ‘they do them all the time.’  I  said that I would want my wife to consider a mid-wife.  Needless to say, they stood aghast at the words coming out of my mouth.   I learned very quickly that I was expected to stay out of every conversation that they classified as ‘the woman’s domain.’   It’s just one of the reasons that relationship ended.  And one of the reasons I’m married to MrsHM.  We merged our spheres into one, and everything is open to discussion.

All of the above are reasons for the [expanding] section on the bookshelf devoted to Marriage, Sex, And Children. Everything from pleasing your spouse (e.g. She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman) to having children (e.g. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth) and raising them (e.g. Positive Discipline for Preschoolers: Raising Children Who are Responsible, Respectful, & Resourceful)– all of which I own and recommend.

See More @ Relationships & Sex and Parenthood, Family, Etc.

(Photo, “An Unexpected Light” by YazNotJaz, except I like to call it, “Go Read A Book About Breastfeeding And Dog-ear All The Pages!”)

7 comments

  1. Laura says:

    Yay! Thanks for this!

    I think a lack of information and information sharing is one of the biggest problems facing families and relationships today, and it’s certainly a huge problem in the Muslim community specifically. We don’t talk about these things. There’s no way to have a healthy marriage, relationship, etc. without each party having a thorough understanding of each others’ bodies and the issues that come with those bodies, be they lactation, circumcision, episiotomies, clitoral orgasms, whatever. Learning about women’s bodies, men’s bodies, childbirth, sex, child-rearing, should be encouraged!

    PS: I may have just ordered She Comes First for my husband. Not that he has any issues in that arena, but the more info the better!

  2. Ayah says:

    Bless you for this, friend.
    I often find myself in the position of FORCING unwanted information on Muslim men. Seriously, any man who refuses to understand how ovulation, female orgasm, or childbirth work is just not fit to be married to anyone. Same goes for women.

  3. Organica says:

    I think this is beyond a Muslim problem but an issue related to societal attitudes toward gender roles, etc. I have met very few men who talk about the issues above with opinion or passion. It’s not ‘manly’ enough to have an opinion on childbirth or rearing!

    Nice job and thanks for setting a positive role model :)

  4. Mezba says:

    I don’t think the issue is as black and white as that. Sure, everyone should increase their knowledge and there is no harm in a man knowing things about a woman’s body, or sharing certain articles such as this one on frozen milk, but there’s also a thing called “haya” and when certain items are not talked about in certain company. I would not discuss a woman’s menstrual period symptoms with my wife’s friends at a tea party, but if I were a doctor at a conference I would. It all depends on context.

  5. Greetings of peace,
    …And so, what was the conclusion regarding frozen breast milk? What’s its “shelf life”? Are the nutrients affected?

    The real problem with the ‘male-female’ barrier does extend from a cultural context rather than an Islamic one. We’re not being educated on the nature of the other gender, all the while expected to silently know how we, men and women, function.

    Since the average Muslim isn’t going to get a Sex 101 lesson at the mosque, we rely on anonymous sources for “taboo” stuff. Relevant books and the Muslim blogosphere being a great resource for learning Muslims!

    Shukran and jazakallah,
    Zaufishan.

  6. Willow says:

    I agree with you in principle, but let me tell you, if my husband pressured me one way or another about how to give birth, I’d take serious issue. Frankly, it’s not your body, and you’re not the one in labor–as a husband, if your wife prefers a doctor to a midwife, it is in everybody’s best interest for you to say “okay honey” and be supportive.

    PS On that subject–Don’t let the birth nazis scare you. It is entirely possible to have a 100% natural childbirth in a hospital. I did. You just have to do your research and ask the right questions when interviewing potential OBs/checking out potential venues. (And get a doula. A doula will cut your risk of unnecessary intervention in half.) I say this because I now know 3 women who had disastrous and potentially life-threatening home birth experiences (2 bled out and had to be transferred to the hospital. One lost her baby after her midwife let her go 3 weeks past her due date, insisting she didn’t need to be induced. None of these were so-called high risk pregnancies.) The anti-interventionist people, while correctly asserting that birth is a natural process, forget that as a natural process it is also a vector of natural selection. In other words, it is also “natural” for a certain proportion of mothers and babies to die. Which is why it’s nice to have a NICU down the hall. Sometimes the role of civilization is to work against nature in order to save the weak.

    In closing, an observation: the opposite of one bad idea is usually another bad idea. It’s great that husbands and fathers want to be more involved, but it’s possible to be over-involved. I’ve never understood why something called feminism means that men now meddle in everything where once they only meddled in most things.

  7. Hibba says:

    Thanks for this post. My knee jerk reaction was to agree with you wholeheartedly, because one day, I’d like to have an open and comfortable discussion with my future spouse about such ‘taboo’ topics too. It feels good to know that Muslim men aren’t completely averse to this.

    That being said, I have been in situations where I’ve had to force my friend to shut up because when talking about menstruating. I simply told him, ‘Look, our bodies are complicated things. Most of the time, even we don’t know what it’s going to throw at us; we don’t know for sure when our next period is going to be. So stop pretending like you know our bodies better than we do.’ To his credit, he replied: ‘That makes sense. I’m sorry.’

    Trying to get more information on the workings of your body, or the opposite sex’s is no problem. Yes, like you said, it does make for healthier relationships. But be careful not do it to the point of exerting influence over our bodies!

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