Pay Attention!

There I was in a crowded bowling alley in Alabama nursing my 15 month old when…nothing happened. No one said anything to me. No one suggested I carry on in the bathroom. No one even noticed I was breastfeeding!

The family with three young boys bowling next to my family didn’t glance my way, not one single time. I had given them plenty of things to be offended by: Baby girl was not covered by a blanket. In fact she kept pulling up my shirt exposing me more than I cared for!

But like I said, no one would pay any attention to me.

Once I was nursing my youngest at a store known to have “issues” with breastfeeding mothers. I sat down on a chair outside the changing area while my oldest daughter was trying on clothes and began nursing the baby. The worker asked if I wanted to go in to a dressing room. I declined. That was it.

And this scene repeats itself over and over for me the entire 13 years I’ve been a breastfeeding mother. No one ever notices even though I never wear a blanket, cover, or any other thing that is supposed to disguise what I’m doing.  (I believe those covers are more like giant neon signs that scream “BABY NURSING UNDER HERE!”

Women have been nursing in public for a very long time. The vast majority of women do it so discretely you never even know it’s happening. And most people really don’t care. Every day women all over the country nurse in public without incident. They are completely and totally ignored.

Confidence goes a long way. If a mother looks like she’s where she’s supposed to be and doing what she’s supposed to be doing, people are less likely to take notice. People notice things that are out of the ordinary. The more breastfeeding because ordinary, the less people will notice. And that really is a good thing.

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Just Try

I never intended to breatfeed. The thought of it really grossed me out. As a survivor of childhood abuse, I had always been incredibly uncomfortable with my body and breastfeeding…no way.

My husband asked me to just try nursing. I am not sure what his motivation was to suggest I just try it. His mother only breastfed her last two children. I’m sure DH must have remembered. My mother-in-law said the healthiest of her children were the ones she breastfed.

Still, I was completely on the fence about breastfeeding right up until I went in to labor…at 31 weeks.

I was hospitalized for two weeks trying to prevent my son from being born. In the end, he was born at 33 weeks gestation weighing 4 lbs 1 oz. He was so tiny. His head fit in the palm of my hand. We were incredibly blessed. My son was a fighter. He was what is referred to as a “feeder-grower.” He didn’t need any help breathing. He was there just to grow. At the time, babies had to be 5 lbs to go home.

As I looked at my tiny newborn son, I felt as if my body had failed to protect him.  He was still supposed to be inside growing, not outside confined to a box with IVs running in to him. There was really nothing I could do to help him..Until my biological father came for a visit when the baby was 2 days old.

My bio-dad is a NICU nurse at a Baby Friendly Hospital. He looked at me and said there was no reason that my 33 week gestation baby should not be nursing.  I gave it a try and sure enough, he latched on! And he nursed.

I was given a breast pump by the hospital and started pumping. Other mothers would bring in full bottles of milk. I was lucky to bring in an ounce. The nurses at the hospital told me I didn’t have any milk because I wasn’t pumping much. But I’m stubborn. If you tell me I can’t do something, I will. I was determined to nurse my baby, regardless of what the nursing staff was telling me!

Each feeding session, I’d put the baby to breast and then the nurses would tube feed him.  And, then he’s promptly throw up every ounce of formula they fed him! There was a bit of the nurses being confused as to how this baby who wasn’t “keeping any feeds down” was gaining 4 ounces a day!

We came home from the NICU when he was 21 days old. Once we were home, I kept on nursing. I didn’t seek out support from La Leche League, nor did I have any support from the family. There were no negative comments from the family either. My husband was happy I was trying to nurse.

The lack of support wasn’t harmful, but I have to say, the lack of negative comments was very helpful. I didn’t have anyone telling me I was doing anything wrong. I didn’t have anyone telling me I didn’t have enough milk. I existed in a vacuum. Nursing my baby based on what I felt I needed to do in my heart. I brought my baby in to my bed because it was easier. And I rolled my eyes at the stories on the internet of people having a “Family Bed.” I had no idea! I carried my baby everywhere and wore him in a front pack because it felt right. It was amazing that left to my own devices, I grew confident in my ability to mother. By just trying and not having those other voices whispering in my ears, I learned to find my own mothering voice.

And this is the advice I give to all new moms:  Listen to your own heart. If it doesn’t feel right in your heart, then don’t do it. But above all, just try.

It wasn’t funny at the time

There’s a certain restaurant in Oregon I can’t visit any more, aside from no longer living in Oregon. I’m sure the workers have all since moved on to other better jobs over the 13 years since this happened. I can’t go because my husband launches in to this story and I am all at once mortified and amused.

As a new mother, I wasn’t very adept at breastfeeding my preemie so I nursed him in the car before going in. While waiting for our food, he got fussy, so I fed him again. Our food arrived and he was fussy. So I fed him again. We were eating and I’m still trying to manage to feed both of us. It’s going pretty well. The Boy had always been a very slow eater. Looking back, I realize we had some issues with poor suck and nipple confusion.

I didn’t have a lot of support of information at my disposal for nursing, so my basic strategy was every time the baby fussed, he nursed.

I can’t really say how long he was nursing before I realized he hadn’t burped. It was long enough that I had nearly finished my food. The waitress, bless her heart, had stepped up to the table to ask if we needed anything just as The Boy burped. And refluxed. Projectile. It covered our table, the rest of our food, and the poor waitress.

I was completely mortified. No one said anything. The waitress got some towels. We paid for our food. Never to return again.

Thirteen years later, this story is hilarious.

A Blog is Born

Welcome to the opening of the new blog!

This blog was born in the summer. It was a long gestation…I’ve been either growing a tiny human inside my womb or at my breasts for 14 years. Every single day for 14 years. As I met with other women, we’d discuss the challenges of breastfeeding  and the horrible, intrusive and rude things complete strangers and family members would say. Very little attention has been given to the happy stories: moms overcoming obstacles, nurses and doctors giving good advice, the funny things that happen when you’re nursing. And so, this blog was born.

This is not a place to complain. This is a place to rejoice and celebrate the milestones, big and small.

Since I’ve been nursing for so long, I have an arsenal of stories. Crazy things happen to me. My other blog is a testament to the insanity that is my life. This blog will be open for you to share your stories, as well. You may submit them by emailing me at hippydippymama@gmail.com.

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