I wrote a post for the Carnival of Nursing in Public about how I've become more and more comfortable with nursing in public. As I wrote the article, I felt a little fake. I felt fake because I was careful to state that I didn't cover up IN PUBLIC. That has been on my mind since then.
You see...I still do cover up around family.
My mother and mother-in-law both breastfed their children. As I said in my other post, my mom was quick to give advice about the environment of breastfeeding. She had no advice about the actual act of breastfeeding, but rather how to make sure I had the remote control and to have a comfortable set up in the bedroom for when company came over (assuming that I would relegate myself to the bedroom as she had). She wasn't particularly comfortable with the idea that I had no plans to leave the room to feed. But I knew she'd get over it...or at least I hoped. My mother-in-law seemed more supportive. She told tales of how she breastfed her 6 children. She said that she, too, had hidden in a bedroom to feed her children...which ultimately led to her nurse for decreasingly less time each child. Despite the fact that none of her 3 daughters breastfed, I hoped she'd be a good source of support for me.
The pattern of my comfort began in the hospital. My husband still jokes that not a person entered our suite without checking out my boobs, my nipples, and Squirmy's latch...every nurse, aid, LC, doctor, EVERYONE. Somehow, that was okay. I didn't know these people and they were trying to help. But the moment it was time to feed Squirmy with visitors in the room...I'd ask our visitors to clear out. Between my own modesty for my body and my insecurity over breastfeeding, I just couldn't chance the audience.
Once home I was not about to hike my happy, recovering arse up the stairs to hide away and nurse. Quite frankly, it was a week or two before I could even carry Squirmy up the stairs myself. No, no...I was going to keep myself plopped on the couch. So the covering up started. At first it was no big deal...it made me comfortable. The first signs of trouble began fairly quickly. My mom refused to listen when I asked her for the baby back to feed him. She insisted she knew better and he didn't need to eat nearly as often as I thought he did. That's her, though. When I did feed him, she politely gave me space...She'd take care of some chore, get me a snack or drink, and sit and talk to me. I was surprised she was okay with it all. Several weeks later my grandparents came to town and she sat them down to explain this "bizarre" behavior to them. I was shocked, hurt, and offended by her little sit down. You might say she was trying to be helpful, given my VERY proper grandmother whom bottle fed all 6 of her children...but you'd have to know her. That was her way of telling me she was awkwardly uncomfortable with what I was doing. :(
And what of my perceived ally? My mother-in-law? She expressed and early and overwhelmingly painful discomfort with me feeding around her. After leaving the hospital, I've never once asked her to leave the room or turn her back or avert her eyes. She offered to bring us dinner one night shortly after we came home. My brother-in-law came over, as well. She ran out to pick up our order and got back just as Squirmy was settling in to eat. I choked back tears as she turned her back on me and refused to talk to me when she realized I was feeding. My BIL followed suit. They made themselves comfortable at the kitchen table as my loving husband fixed my plate and brought it to me. Confused, he looked to me to tell him where to eat dinner. I told him to join his mom and brother at the table. I ate my dinner alone (well, with my sweet baby hidden on my lap), in silence, abandoned and ashamed.
I can ignore my mom. She's my mom...I've spent 26 years dealing with her. Screw her if she thinks I should hide in a bedroom like she did. I owe my son more than that. I owe this and the next generation more than that. Through my husband's insistence and speeches, my brothers- and sisters-in-law have gotten over themselves and used to me feeding around them...still covered. My MIL...she's still painfully awkward and avoids contact with me at all costs when I'm feeding. It's gotten to the point where I want to cry because she acts so uncomfortable and put out when I start to feed. I know it's bad, but often I find myself letting Squirmy get enough to calm him for a little while until she leaves. Doesn't help that she constantly asks why he always wants to eat or sleep when she's over and why he always fusses when she holds him. Um, he's not even 4 months old...if you hold him for more than 10 minutes he'll fuss...we're not talking crying, just your general talking/fussing/making noise. Oh and he's A BABY...eat, sleep, shit...that's ALL they do. She had 6 of her own and this is her 10th grandchild.
So last night we were out to dinner with our housemate when Squirmy did his "I'm a baby and I wanna eat" thing. In the middle of eating, in the middle of Macaroni Grill, I discreetly freed my boob from my nursing tank and pulled my shirt up just enough for him to sneak his head in and latch. No one would ever have known what I was doing. I thought about how I can be completely comfortable taking care of business in such a setting, yet cannot manage to feel comfortable in my own home WITH a cover :(
I'm not sure what I hoped to accomplish with this post. I wanted to admit my "failings" with nursing comfort, vent my frustrations, perhaps get some understanding/support, and hopefully get some ideas on how to deal with this. So...what do you think?!