Saturday, August 9, 2014
A Story to Close Out World Breastfeeding Week
In my last post, I talked about how I've been interning with some awesome lactation consultants in my area. Part of the services they offer is a monthly support group for past and current clients. I've had the pleasure of joining the group for the last several months, but I've never led one by myself. Until yesterday.
All of my mentors were attending a seminar, so I offered to host the group by myself. I was nervous because I am an awkward jerk, and when I get uncomfortable I tend to say stupid shit that doesn't make any sense and usually makes me look like a total creepy moron. And I usually get uncomfortable when I'm responsible for offering some kind of good experience to everyone in a room. I figured the odds were pretty good that at the very least I would sweat through my shirt, and at worst, I would kick off a chain of uncomfortable moments that I wouldn't be able to stop once I got going. It's kinda my thing.
I got there early, set up the room, and moms started showing up. Things were going really well, I was surprised that I wasn't making everyone in the room want to crawl out the door! One of my goals was to make everyone feel comfortable enough to feed their babies in the group. I remember being a new mom and not wanting to whip it out in public. Even in "safe" places, like my own house sometimes. I made my dad leave the hospital room when I first had Kid A because I was embarrassed about it. I get it. We do have rooms where moms can go to nurse if they're not comfortable, but in this group, everyone was really cool about it and got right down to business. I was pretty proud of them, and myself.
No sooner had everyone gotten comfortable than the door busted open. There was the mailman, standing there holding his one single stupid piece of junk mail, gawking at our circle. He laughed nervously. I stared. He said, "Whoooooooa, sorry ladies! My wife's gonna be mad! Heh, heh." I just said, "BYYYYYYYE dude, happy world breastfeeding week!" I cracked a joke to the moms as he backed out the door nervously. Thankfully, the moms laughed it off and we moved on from the incident.
This might not seem like a big deal if you've never been a new mom, nervously navigating the challenges of breastfeeding for the first time. It can be a very fragile balance - for some moms, a bad experience or something that makes them feel ashamed about it can be enough to damage the whole relationship. I did not want to be any part of that happening!
I started out writing this trying to give it a funny spin, because it was funny. It was funny because I am in that office all the time and NOT ONCE has the mailman come inside. Every single time I'm there, he shoves the mail through a slot in the door. I've never even seen his face. So of course on the day that I was sitting there trying to hide my nervous sweaty armpits, the guy comes in and acts like he walked in on something weird. Of course. Because that's how my life goes, all the time. I've come to expect it.
There's the obvious underlying issue that makes it kind of not funny - the fact that the guy clearly felt very uncomfortable about the whole thing, when he would not have acted like that had he walked into a room of women giving their babies bottles. It's not his fault, I don't think he's an asshole or anything. I don't blame him for feeling nervous or uncomfortable. I used to wonder why we had to shove breastfeeding in people's faces. Why we had to post pictures of ourselves nursing our babies on social media and hashtag them and why we had to do things like "nurse-ins" where a bunch of moms get together in a public place and all nurse at the same to time as a form of protest. I honestly thought it was obnoxious. But I get it now. It's unfortunate that we have to have hashtags to #normalize something that IS normal.
Feeding babies is normal, however you choose to do it. Don't let any mailman tell you differently.