Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Sisterhood of Travelling Breasts (finding bonds while nursing in public)

Nursing in public can seem intimidating, even for those who are experienced with it. Every time that we are out and Evelyn begins to fuss, I get a little nervous. It isn't the "terrified deer caught in the headlights" feeling that I got the first time I nursed Jonah in public, but it is still a little jolt of adrenaline as I unfasten my nursing bra. While I have no problem telling any nosy body to shove off, I really don't want to offend anyone- I just want to feed my baby. And so that overtone of "will I offend?" is always there. Lately I have seen a lot of women, on various blogs and websites, posting about their negative experiences with people over nursing their babies. I think that this makes the tinge of anxiety a little more dominant, and so I wanted to share two lovely, wonderful experiences I've had while nursing Eve while in public places.

A little over two months ago, I decided to buy myself some running shoes. This was a big deal. I was pregnant with Jonah the last time I bought myself a pair of shoes. And purchasing these shoes also meant that I was committing myself to spend at least a half hour every other day focusing on my health and well being. Also a big deal was that I was going to the mall to purchase these new running shoes. No internet shopping, no ten dollar deals from Payless; I was going to take my time and enjoy shopping for these shoes!

While we were in the sporting goods store, Eve started to fuss. There was nowhere to sit down, and Jonah was also getting restless in the double stroller. I made my purchase and headed out into the mall to find a place to feed Evie. There were plenty of benches and seats, and there was a food court, but Evie is easily distracted and I knew Jonah would get bored and start raising his antics. Then I spotted the Borders Books. I feel very comfortable in book stores, and I knew that Borders typically has comfy chairs in out-of-the-way quiet places throughout the store. And, Jonah could look at a book to keep busy! We went in, I found our quiet nook with a comfy chair, and got Jonah set up with a book and a few non-messy snacks. I sat down and started to nurse Evie. While I was nursing, Jonah wanted me to read the book to him.

I could tell at this point that there was a woman hovering near us. She kept glancing at us and then quickly flipped through a couple of CD's that were on the rack next to our chair. She did this for about ten minutes. Finally she came over to us and said "I'm sorry... that's just the most precious thing I've seen! Can I look at your baby?" I warned her that I was nursing, but she's welcome to look at the baby if she doesn't mind that. "That's why I want to look! Nursing is the most precious..." She was smiling ear to ear. She sat down and we talked for a little while about the joys of being a mother. She has three boys, all of them grown now. She told me she misses breastfeeding the most, out of all the wonderful things about having babies. This was probably one of the most intimate and meaningful conversations I've ever had with a perfect stranger. And all because I happened to be nursing my baby.

This past weekend, I took the kids to the library. Our library has a large play area for kids with a train table, duplo blocks, and a puppet theater. On the far end, near the duplo blocks, there is a big bench with pillows and cushions. Jonah went to play with the blocks and I noticed a woman with a baby crying under a blanket. The mom's face was flushed and red as she tugged and struggled between keeping the blanket on her shoulder (while the baby was kicking and pulling at it) and keeping the baby latched on. Evie was in the Ergo, and she started to fuss. Jonah was occupied with the blocks. I took Evie out of the carrier and she immediately started rooting. She cracks me up when she does this, because she will literally latch onto anything that comes into contact with her mouth- my arm, the ruffles on my shirt, etc. I sat down on the other end of the bench, keeping my eyes on what Jonah was up to, opened up my shirt, and fed Evie. I heard the other nursing mother exhale, as if she had been holding her breath the entire time. I glanced over at her and saw her looking at me and pulling the blanket off of her shoulder. Her baby stopped crying and latched on, and her face resumed it's natural color. We sat for a while, nursing our babies side by side. Then she let out a small laugh and said "thank you! I'm so glad to not be the only one nursing here."

I'm really glad to have had these experiences. It makes me feel not so alien when I have to feed Eve in a public area. It makes me feel as if I'm part of a larger sorority of breastfeeding moms. And today when we went to the zoo with our neighbor, and Eve started to fuss I caught myself wondering "will it offend my friend if I start nursing???" but I reminded myself of these two wonderful women that I met through breastfeeding and immediately I felt supported. My friend of course, did not mind a bit and I was able to confidently feed Evie throughout our playdate.

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