I was given advice to meet with my principal one more time and try to have a conversation about breastfeeding at school. Since this has moved to the district level, I considered instead requesting a meeting with district administration. But my gut has told me all along that I won't get this done alone. I didn't want to be put off for weeks, waiting for a meeting, at which I would surely become emotional and feel vulnerable in front of the most powerful people in AISD. I decided to instead call the person who has been in contact with me. We have only emailed. Her replies have always been curt. I felt like I should give verbal communication a shot.
I procrastinated until the end of the day. I'm an introvert. I prefer to write rather than talk in many situations. Finally at 4:30, I called. She answered. That was unexpected. I didn't even realize I had her direct line. I wasn't sure exactly what to say. Somehow I introduced myself and said I wanted to know if the new policy was being reconsidered. Which is weird, because that's not really what I wanted to know. What I really want to know is whether the new policy was ever given any consideration. Or rather, if my letter and the law were given any consideration before formalizing the policy. But I digress.
Here's the gist of our conversation.
I was told that they followed the pattern set by the legislation that requires a private room to be provided for pumping mothers. She said that they are not prohibiting mothers from breastfeeding. For one bright, shiny moment, I thought perhaps I'd misunderstood the policy. It does not actually state where a mom cannot feed her child. I thought she was telling me that the private room was just an option. But no.
I said, "So I can nurse my baby in the lobby while I wait for my son to finish speech?"
No. I must go to the principal and ask her to be let into the private room.
"But that IS prohibiting my right to breastfeed wherever I'm authorized to be. It violates my right."
But they don't think they are prohibiting me from breastfeeding - they are merely offering me a private place to do it.
The question is not whether or not they are prohibiting me from breastfeeding. It is whether or not
they prohibit women from breastfeeding publicly. But I didn't say that. She asked if it was a problem to nurse in private.
"Yes. If I'm stuffing Thursday folders in an empty classroom, I don't want to stop what I'm doing to go nurse my baby in a private conference room. If I'm sitting at the back of the room, out of the way, during a holiday party that I planned as the room mom, I don't want to have to make my crying baby wait while I walk to a private room..." At this point I'm squeezing my husband's hand as hard as I did when I was in labor, trying to ward off the tears that are threatening to overtake my voice (darn breastfeeding hormones!), so it was fine when she interrupted me to assure me that no one wants my baby left crying. She asserted support for breastfeeding.
She explained that when the legislature passed the law that employees must be provided a private room, that indicated that it's okay to breastfeed in a private room - or something to that effect. I said "I see a big difference between discretely breastfeeding and attaching clear plastic cups to my exposed breasts to pump milk." Apparently the volume on my phone is quite high; my husband could hear both ends of the conversation and started writing me a note, "You're not an employee..." And he's right, of course. Other than the topic of breastfeeding, the Fair Labor Standards Act has naught to do with Health and Safety Code 165.002, which says that a woman is entitled to breastfeed in any location where she is authorized to be.
I think I was over my verklempt moment by this point, and a bit cranky. When she said it was a balancing of many perspectives, I got halfway to saying if this were a more backward town and this was a different civil right we were talking about - but then I looked at Adam shaking his head and remembered message discipline.
I went with a different comparison. I said that Target cannot tell me that I can't nurse my baby pushing my
shopping cart through the toy aisle (where there are children) or
sitting in the cafe. Target can't provide a private room to justify
telling me I can't nurse publicly there. I believe what she said was,
"I don't know about that."
She said that I'd started the conversation asking if the policy was being reconsidered, and that, having just been enacted by the superintendent, it was not. That was my cue to end the conversation. I said I thought, having only communicated by email, that I felt I should try verbal communication. I said I wasn't sure where I could go from here. And we hung up.
Alone, there is nowhere to go from here. We need to work together now.
I'm not a blogger. I tried to blog about my boys but never really found much time for it. I dislike posts on Facebook that tell you to "Like" and "Share," and to me, when blog posts end with a question designed to encourage people to comment, it feels like that. But I do need your support. This is much bigger than just my story now. So please, like, share, comment. Or more importantly, contact AISD. Tell friends who support the right to breastfeed about this blog and the facebook page. Show AISD that there are more people who support the natural feeding of babies than oppose it.