I’ve never shared this with anyone before, not even Nick so I hope all of you readers know how very special you are to me! It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, with the impending birth of my second child.
As you may remember from a few previous posts, I breastfed Ben. Breastfeeding, while extremely difficult in the beginning, was a very wonderful and rewarding experience for me and I am so looking forward to doing it again. Ben stopped breastfeeding on his own shortly after I became pregnant, I suspect because there was a change in my milk. I had actually hoped that he would continue on until his brother is born so it won’t be such a shock to the nipples again but at least I know what to expect this time!
In the early days of breastfeeding the first time around, I was very nervous about offending anyone or making people uncomfortable. Ben hated being covered while he ate and would pull at whatever I was using to cover myself, usually exposing more than I would have shown had I just discretely sat there breastfeeding! Instead of struggling to keep things covered, I would often leave the room or go to the car to feed Ben. Why not just give him a bottle, you ask? Because the little bugger wouldn’t take one! Turns out, he’s a boob man through and through and still sticks his hands down my shirt.
It wasn’t always a problem to go off into another room by myself. But it was extremely lonely and when I was struggling with sleep deprivation, new mom hormones and some postpartum depression and anxiety thrown in there for good measure, it sucked! It usually took about half and hour to 40 minutes to feed, burp and get us situated again, during which time I could hear the happy chatter of the people I was aching to spend time with. Every so often someone would peek their head in to say hi, but other than that I sort of felt like I had the plague and was in quarantine or something.
I will never forget the day that it hurt the most, to be isolated and alone while feeding my son in private so as not to disturb anyone. My heart still stings because of it. Shortly before my beloved Grampy passed away, our whole family got together for dinner to celebrate his 80th birthday. As usual, I found myself in another room nursing Ben who was only 10 weeks old. As I sat there listening to everyone laughing and talking, my heart sank as I heard them bring out the cake and sing Happy Birthday to him. I sobbed all the way through the song because I knew what I was missing out on. It was his last birthday with us, the last birthday song, the last cake, the last time he blew out the candles and I could hear it all going on while I was stuck on the other side of the wall with my heart absolutely breaking because I knew it. His health had been steadily declining (I just need to give a big FUCK YOU to Cancer right here and I don’t even care to censor it) over the previous weeks and he went to the hospital a few days later only to pass away not long after that. That day of his birthday supper was actually the last time that he and I ever spoke to one another. It was one of the only times he was able to hold Ben, the last hug he gave me, and the last time we said “I love you” to each other. I was honored and privileged to have spent his last few moments on earth by his bedside which I am forever grateful for, but I’ll never get back that Happy Birthday, and all because I was afraid.
I really have to add that my family never asked me to go into another room or made me feel like I had to. No one every asked me to. I guess I just felt like it was expected because there were men in the room or something. It’s not like anyone was every able to see anything obscene either. I wore nursing bras and clothing so I was mostly covered while breastfeeding.
That day changed things for me. Sometimes I’d still go off to another room if I felt like I wanted a little quiet time, but never if there was fun to be had or memories to be made. I gave up caring what others might think of me breastfeeding in front of them and just let them deal with that, because I had already missed too much. Not every situation will be as important as that one. I’m glad that I live in a time and place that allows women to breastfeed in public because it gives me a chance to be part of conversations and not feel like a leper. It makes me really upset when I see people complaining on Facebook or other social media channels about seeing women breastfeeding in public as if it’s some detriment to society and a danger to children. Maybe that woman is tired of hiding and being alone. Maybe she just craves social interaction. Or maybe she just doesn’t want to miss something important.