I have nursed in the mall, at numerous restaurants, while shopping, in my car on the side of the road, in the homes of friends, and now at Disney. Not once did anyone ever say anything to me, though I have noticed that most men try to avoid looking at me at all. I try to nurse modestly, but sometimes Charlotte pulls off and there are moments that reveal more than most people are expecting to see in public. When this happens I try to cover up quickly, but I am not terribly bothered; I know Charlotte can be distractable in public so I try to coax her back to the breast or we end the nursing session.
My most recent nursing in pubic (NIP) experience that I want to share with you happened last weekend at EPCOT. I was having a drink at the Electric Umbrella while nursing Charlotte. I specifically chose a table in a corner so I could be discreet. About 10 minutes into Charlotte's meal, I began to focus in on the conversation at the table next to me. Suddenly, I heard the women clearly say that it is "totally inappropriate" to breastfeed in public.
While I was being discreet, I also wasn't hiding what Charlotte and I were doing and I just KNEW she meant for me to hear that comment. And if you know me, you know it got my blood boiling! This unenlightened woman went on to recount times she had been in the grocery store and saw not one, but gasp! two women breastfeeding their babies in slings as they did their shopping. I was so enraged at her attitude towards something that is completely natural. I started rehearsing all of the things I was going to say to her once I was done nursing Charlotte. It irked me that she kept uttering the phrase totally inappropriate.
"Excuse me? Why should my daughter have to hide while she eats? Do you wear a blanket over your head while you slurp your meal?"
"It is not my fault that people in this country can't handle seeing a little breast doing what it was designed to do."
And maybe a couple more that aren't safe for little ears... all of these retorts though, were in my head.
After switching sides (and being slightly less modest than I might normally be about it), I continued to script the reaming I was going to give this uninformed, prude of a woman. While doing that, a restaurant employee came over and asked to wipe up some water on my table. As she came closer and realized what Charlotte was doing, she expressed excitement about how wonderful it was that I was breastfeeding Charlotte. She had nursed her own children and thought it was one of the most wonderful things that a mother could do.
Now let me reiterate that I have never had anyone say anything negative to me about NIP. On the other hand, I have never had a complete stranger say anything positive to me about NIP either. This employee completely made my day when she engaged me in a conversation about the benefits of breastfeeding and how perfectly natural it is.
I could not have been more thrilled because I KNOW the woman at the next table was listening to us. It was such a perfect moment.
When Charlotte and I did finally finish nursing and she was snugly back into her stroller, I walked up to the group at the table next to me. In my sweetest voice, I said, "Excuse me. I couldn't help but overhear your conversation about breastfeeding. One of you mentioned not knowing where to look when you saw a woman breastfeeding. Well, as a breastfeeding mother, I want you to know it is just fine to look us in the eye, and even say hello. It is totally appropriate." (Notice I tried to use the word breastfeeding as much as possible and to turn her own phrase back onto her?)
It wasn't until a little while later when I was recounting the story to Bruce and Carolyn, trying to slow down my adrenaline, that he pointed out something very important to me.
God had sent the restaurant worker to me to save me from my own self. He knew that I needed the encouragement to temper my enthusiasm for lambasting the strange woman at the table next to me. It is amazing to me how to brings just what we need, just when we need it.
"My God will supply all my needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."