Welcome to the July 2010 Carnival of Nursing in Public
This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Nursing in Public hosted by Dionna and Paige at NursingFreedom.org. All week, July 5-9, we will be featuring articles and posts about nursing in public ("NIP"). See the bottom of this post for more information.
***It was in my third trimester that I fell in love with my daughter. Her tiny self nestled inside my womb, she would roil and tumble, acrobatics in the safest place we can ever be. I began feeling connected to her, the realization that she would soon be my girl as I sat in an English class in sweltering summer heat at a rectangular table with my sweet (and radiantly beautiful) friend Jessy, who was sometimes there and sometimes not. I began finally talking to her, singing to her and dreaming of her. I would imagine her at two, at three, at ten. I imagined her smiles and her kisses, her little knees and her sweet curls, fluttering eyelids and precious baby kisses. I read about breastfeeding and mama blogs about natural birth in beat up dog eared copies of Mothering while munching on fiber bars as the other students in my classes read the newest Cosmo articles and IM’d their girlfriends and sipped on latte’s. She would twist and turn and at times I had to leave the class simply because the tumbling was so funny to me that I couldn’t keep from laughing in the middle of our section on grizzly Vietnam poetry.
In my 37th week I made a switch from the University’s Women’s hospital to a midwifery practice five minute’s walk from our then apartment. They loaned me books and encouraged me to attend La Leche League meetings held in their tiny spare room. Meanwhile, my partner stared at me in awe and signed us up for cases of free formula samples and bought huge bottles of ready-made Enfamil for “just in case," and loaded our cabinets with plastic bottles, nipples, and sterilizing microwave bags to clean them all with.
When she was born he held her first. She gnawed on his shoulders searching for sustenance while I received stitches for tearing and cried that I wasn’t pregnant anymore. I was terrified of latching her on that first time and did it while no one else was in the room to hide what I anticipated to be inevitable failure. The midwives had mentioned that they would be there in a few minutes to help us nurse, and so I asked my partner to find me some food. When he left, I curled her against my chest and let her feed as she would. In the coming days, breastfeeding was hard.
We found out later that we had thrush and together we fought that nasty yeast and spun me through phases of depression. The second night of her life, my partner fed her a bottle of formula because when I started feeding her, blood gushed from her umbilical cord. It was old blood from it beginning to dry up, but he convinced me somehow that I must have hurt her while breastfeeding, that I was squishing her stomach, and gave her a bottle. After we realized she was fine, I contacted a La Leche League member who was in our area and she gave me the emotional support via emails that I needed to continue feeding on demand. I began to nurse at the University when she was two weeks old, for my last semester in college. I would feed her in the hallways between classes while young ladies streamed around me and young men gawked, and surely I was awkward still but in my mind those moments were full of elegance. I nursed in the car while he drummed his fingers impatiently at my anxiety about feeding her, because she had a bottle of expressed milk at home and if that wasn’t enough, he could always just give her formula.
I took her with me to a job fair one evening at the University and sat feeding her in a corner when I was approached by the organizer of the event. She told me “this was inappropriate and I needed to leave.” It happened again when I tried to feed her at the gym before heading to a class: “you’re not allowed to do that here.” Both of those times I simply left. It is hard to nurse a squirming baby who wants to know why a stranger is leaning over their mama and making angry faces, so I would leave, hungry babe in arms and try to find a place that wouldn’t disturb anyone, embarrassed. But then one day I finally realized how ridiculous that was. Restrooms are nothing if not filthy and loud, stairwells are terribly uncomfortable and sitting here in this comfortable chair where I was before I started nursing is actually pretty great!
I was literally shocked to learn that I had breastfeeding rights. In most states (my own included) it is legal to breastfeed when and wherever you are as long as you the mother have the legal right to occupy that space. And so I began feeding her wherever I needed to. I nursed her in Target and at the restaurant, at Starbucks and on benches at the park and eventually I found the blessed ERGObaby Carrier that allowed me to breastfeed while walking, while shopping at Old Navy, while traveling abroad on trains and planes and many, many times, sitting in the parked car in the middle of a trip somewhere. It made me feel more justified somehow, to not have to sit down to feed her, to be able to nurse AND pick out tomatoes or breastfeed and walk the dog. She will be two in August and we have nursed across many states and several countries, with obvious results: I have a healthy, thriving, happy, easily comforted, blissful toddler.
I support the rights of breastfeeding mamas because I know how hard it can be to be alone in a room of people who are horrified and offended at your audacity to feed a baby. I have come a long way since I started breastfeeding, but the best sights I’ve seen were not those moments I spent huddled on lidless toilets in uncomfortable and dirty restrooms trying to feed my girl before someone disturbed us with the roar of a toilet in the next stall over-but were the peaceful perfect moments I was able to relax and enjoy her beautiful face as she filled up with breast milk and fell asleep to mama smiling sweetly at her, knowing I had given her everything I possibly could.
Welcome to the Carnival of Nursing in Public
Please join us all week, July 5-9, as we celebrate and support breastfeeding mothers. And visit NursingFreedom.org any time to connect with other breastfeeding supporters, learn more about your legal right to nurse in public, and read (and contribute!) articles about breastfeeding and N.I.P.
Do you support breastfeeding in public? Grab this badge for your blog or website to show your support and encourage others to educate themselves about the benefits of breastfeeding and the rights of breastfeeding mothers and children.
This post is just one of many being featured as part of the Carnival of Nursing in Public. Please visit our other writers each day of the Carnival. Click on the links below to see each day’s posts - new articles will be posted on the following days:
July 5 - Making Breastfeeding the Norm: Creating a Culture of Breastfeeding in a Hyper-Sexualized World
July 6 – Supporting Breastfeeding Mothers: the New, the Experienced, and the Mothers of More Than One Nursing Child
July 7 – Creating a Supportive Network: Your Stories and Celebrations of N.I.P.
July 8 – Breastfeeding: International and Religious Perspectives
July 9 – Your Legal Right to Nurse in Public, and How to Respond to Anyone Who Questions It