Thursday, April 22, 2010

Nursing my boy!

We moved to Richmond when my son was 4 weeks old.  When my mother came to Ohio to meet her grandson, she happened to mention that if we wanted to live with her while my husband went back to school, that would be OK.  I guess that planted a seed, and we moved in with her the day before Richmond's biggest snowfall of the year (16 inches) and a couple of days before VCU's semester started.  I immediately reached out to try to find friends and community.  I was blessed to find La Leche League, a support group for breastfeeding women and their babies.  I had become an ardent nurser and would pull out my breast whenever and wherever my son needed to nurse.  I think that might have been uncomfortable at times for others, but I was not atuned to their discomfort.  I was atuned to my baby and his needs.  I was also a bit strident about a woman's right to feed her baby in public the way nature intended him to be fed.

My favorite nursing story occurred at the National Gallery in Washington, DC.  My husband and I had driven up there with Andrew to see the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit shortly after she died.  I love her sumptuous paintings of flowers especially.  Her colors and forms are exquisite.  As I was slowly perusing the exhibit, Andrew, who was about a year old at the time, became restless and started indicating that he wanted to nurse.  I cradled him in my arms, pulled up my shirt, began to nurse him, and went on looking at the art.  When I was in front of her gigantic cloud painting, I heard a couple of women beside me speaking in German.  Since I speak fluent German, I perked up - I always love talking to people in other languages!  What they said made my stomach leap - "Schau das mal an, was die Frau da macht!  So eine Frechheit!"  (Look at what that woman is doing!  It's so rude!)  I looked over at them and saw they meant me, so I said, in German, of course, "Naja, dafuer koennen wir alle die Kunst in Ruhe anschauen."  (Yes, well, and because of that we can all look at the art in peace.)  They gawked at me then turned away quickly and made their way out of the gallery as fast as they could.  I felt happy that I'd been able to defend my right to nurse in public. 

It wasn't all that common to nurse in 1987, and there certainly weren't provisions made for it in public places.  There weren't even changing tables in the bathrooms.  I remember changing Andrew's diaper at the table at a restaurant once.  The woman I was with, who had not yet had children, was a bit appalled, but I think it was better than using the bathroom floor - gross! 

Being in La Leche League was one of the best things that could have happened to me.  The women in the group were very conscious parents and thought a lot about the best way to bring up their kids.  It was so helpful to have people to talk to about issues I was having and to find out whether it was something to worry about or not.  It was also quite empowering to learn more about birthing alternatives.  The next time I was pregnant, I made quite a different choice from the one I'd made the first time around...

1 comment:

  1. I also have an art musuem nursing story:
    While visiting VMFA with my infant son, my friend and her infant daughter, we took a break to nurse the babies, sitting side by side on a couch in a discreet location near the old TheatreVA. A woman stopped to ask us if the babies were twins!