A few weeks ago I was asked to move to a private room while nursing my baby. I've been breastfeeding for much of the past seven years, and while I've known this moment may come, I had no idea of the impact it would have on me.
I've breastfed just about everywhere a mother might find herself. Museums, playgroups, restaurants, stores, festivals, parks, planes, trains, automobiles. I remember the terror of realizing I was going to have to get my newborn first son latched on in the waiting room at the doctor's office where it seemed that everyone was staring at me and my crying child. And I clearly recall, once, worrying that I might raise an eyebrow at a playgroup when that newborn started walking. But aside from those two specific experiences, my discomfort over nursing in public has been rare and fleeting.
But ever since September 5th, every time my baby starts to fuss in a public place, I feel anxious. Me. Three-time breastfeeding pro. Anxious, because someone treated me like feeding my child was shameful, even when I know it's the best way I can feed him.
I guess I'm a little gun shy.
I'm now in what feels like an excruciatingly long process of education and diplomacy to ensure that no other mothers are confronted as I was in this place. To maintain credibility, I am going through proper channels on my own. If a policy that is in accordance with the law is not adopted, then I will contact legislators and breastfeeding coalitions for support, and ultimately I may begin a letter-writing campaign, et cetera, et cetera. But first, mind-numbing patience...
Today I went to the Quintessence Global Breastfeeding Challenge in downtown Austin. I wanted to connect with mothers who may be interested in writing letters, if it comes to that. I wasn't sure how to go about it, and I hadn't given it much thought - this past week I've tried to take a break from my whole "situation." But either drifting off last night or waking up this morning, "Keep Austin Nursing in Public" popped into my head and I decided to start a facebook page & pass out slips of paper to moms at the Challenge.
I'm in the back hiding from the news camera, in the red shirt on the left.
Once I was there, I wasn't sure the world needed another breastfeeding facebook page. I mean, here I was at an event with media coverage, hosted by the Central Texas Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition and Mothers' Milk Bank at Austin - and these are real organizations, with lots of longtime lactivists. I started to doubt myself. And I realized suddenly, "Hey, wait - I'm an introvert. I can't just go up to people and start talking to them." But I knew I'd be ticked at myself if I just gave up without seeing if it was worthwhile, so I handed my little flyer scraps to my boys and sent them off to find me some potential letter writers. They rocked it.
Later we had lunch at Applebees, because there was an national nurse-in at 1pm. I was the only one there. So maybe there's nothing wrong with another "Yay! Breastfeeding!!" page. Maybe it'll only ever be an occasional funny meme posted. But hey, I like funny memes. And maybe sometimes it'll be one more way to share information when there's a mom who needs to feel supported in her choice to nurture her baby in public.