If a baby needs to eat, feed it

I have breastfed all of my children, typically in length from four months to two years. The last four were all around two years. Over the years I have encountered numerous reactions and opinions about my choice to breastfeed. I have always tried to be respectful of people around me while nursing, especially strangers, but definitely became more comfortable nursing everywhere during my 23-year nursing career. Hey, it’s a job- a full-time job. I mean, you are using your body to literally grow another person.

Over the years I became adept at nursing just about anywhere. Sitting on the toilet in a restaurant’s bathroom. I did that once, never again. Walking on a trail following my daughter’s preschool class on a hike. Playing the card game Hand and Foot while a colicky baby could only be soothed laying flat across the dining room table while nursing. In the middle of the wedding reception for the vow renewal on my 19th anniversary – yes, I was the bride. In the middle of the night on a marathon roadtrip home from Florida leaning over the car seat to nurse because I was determined not to stop and wake anyone else – no, I was not driving.

My daughter Phoebe was born in early November 1998. She was not quite a month old when my dear friend Donette and I went on our annual Christmas shopping day. It was one of those unseasonably warm, December Virginia days when the outside temperature reached a balmy 75. Seriously, I looked it up in the Old Farmer’s Almanac to make sure I wasn’t exaggerating. Someone forgot to give the memo to the mall management and the heat was on and it was uncomfortable and draining.

We were just about finished with our shopping when we entered Sears for one last thing. Donette was in line and I was looking for a comfortable chair to nurse baby Phoebe. I spotted it right behind the cashier. I raced to the chair with visions of needing to get there first before an elderly person beat me to it. I know, desperate and deranged. I settled myself down into my prize of a cushioned chair with metal arms to snuggle and nurse. Just as I was placing my light baby blanket over her head and she had attached and let-down had begun, the cashier turned to look at me.

Her mouth dropped open, she stuttered, she stammered and finally said, “You can’t do that here. I mean, are you feeding a baby under there?”

Resisting the urge to say, “No, we are playing hide and seek and the baby is it, ” I held my tongue and said, “Yes, I am nursing my baby. I am hot and tired, she’s hungry and this chair is great.”

“Oh, you can’t do that here. Um, um, you can go sit in the dressing room and nurse her,” she suggested hesitantly.

“Oh, no, I don’t want to go in the dressing room. I really like this chair. Plus she is already latched on.”

“Well, you can’t feed her here. We can carry the chair into the dressing room for you. But you can’t feed the baby out here in public, for everyone to see.”

Frustrated, I replied, “That is really kind of you to offer to take the chair for me, but I don’t want to go sit in the dressing room with the hot lights shining down on me. I am comfortable right here.” She stared. She looked panicked. She was frustrated.

“Well ma’am, you are not able to sit…” were the words she began to say as I interrupted her and said, “You know what, forget it. Just forget it. I will go out to the mall and find a hard, backless bench and finish nursing the baby. You know, out in the middle where everyone can see me.” I stood, baby still attached and covered, told Donette where to look for me and began to make my way out of the store.

The cashier must have noticed I spoke to Donette because when Donette reached her turn at the front, the cashier leaned in and whispered, “Was she going to cover?”

Puzzled, Donette answered, “She was already covered.”

“Yes, yes, I guess you are right. But can a woman do that? I mean is it legal?”

Without hesitation, Donette replied, “A baby has gotta eat, if a baby has gotta eat.”

I know nursing in public and the various ways women choose to express breastfeeding has been a hot-button topic for all of my 45 years and longer. But seriously, Donette’s response is priceless and simple. For me, the bottom line is if a baby needs to eat, feed it.

I love this Luv’s ad that supports breastfeeding. Click the link if you would like a giggle- I think it is hysterical!

Tuna to Go

I entered into motherhood at the relatively young age of 20. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we had a lot of love. The love was for one another of course, but when baby Philip was born, with adoration in our eyes, he became our little prince.

David and I are both the babies of our families and so we really had limited hands-on experience. We both had great role models in our parents, but until we married and began our family we gave little thought to the hows and whys of parenting. We started out making a lot of it up as we went along and added in extreme caution for good measure. I am sure if Philip could have lived in bubble wrap as a baby and still breathed we would have insulated him in it.

One morning, while David was at work, my new wee one and I had visitors. My dad, my sister Diane and my niece Samantha came for a day visit. Philip was only a few months old and my niece was three. We had a lovely morning chatting and playing with the children.

I was in the kitchen making lunch, tuna fish sandwiches and chips. My sister began to murmur that she didn’t feel well. “What do you mean you don’t feel well? Where do you feel bad?” is how I began my inquisition.

“I don’t know, just all over the place. I ache. My throat hurts. Check and see if I feel warm,” she moaned, as she began to feel worse minute by minute. With one quick hand swipe of her forehead, I could tell she was feverish. I began to frantically search for a thermometer. A quick shakedown of the mercury, an alcohol swabbing of the end and my sister found me shoving her mouth open, clenching her jaw shut for the tell-all reading of her fever that raged within.

“103.8, 103.8, your temperature is 103.8!” I exclaimed.

“Yes, I guess so. I really don’t feel good at all,” she wearily stated.

At this point, the sympathy and loving, nursing care she expected and needed did not happen. I stepped back from her with trembling fear as if the bubonic plague had entered my home. I looked at my sweet, tiny, baby boy and had visions of grave illness in his future. “You need to go. You can’t be here. You must leave right now,” I said as I began to gather up her daughter’s belongings.

“Can’t we at least stay for lunch before we leave? I’ m hungry,” my dad asked as he watched with bewilderment as I sprinted for the kitchen.

I returned with their sandwiches and chips on plates, a glass of water and Tylenol. “Here, I packed up your lunch for you. You can’t stay. Get out, but you can take your tuna sandwiches with you,” I responded, at that moment in my life feeling both generous and protective. Quicker than you can say influenza, my company was up, wrapped in their coats, lunch-filled paper plates in hand, looking confused and in shock as their wide eyes watched me usher them out the door and quickly shut it.

My sister was really sick and stayed in bed for days with the flu. Needless to say, over the years, there has been quite a bit of rehashing of my behavior that day, fortunately usually ending in fits of giggles and laughter. This was twenty-five years ago and for at least the first ten years of the story’s retelling, I defended myself by reminding everyone, I at least gave her pain-relieving medication and sent them with lunch.

Who knows what got into me that day? The irrational panic and over-protectiveness of a new momma, I suppose. Eight more children later, I am still cautious. I am one of those who keeps the baby home for eight weeks as much as possible and avoids crowds during the height of cold and flu season. I would like to think though, if the same situation was to occur again, I would at least remember to send them with a drink too. 🙂

Guess who is coming for cake…( Part Two)

This is the direction the duck posse first approached

This is the direction the duck posse first approached

The moment my body slid across the hard ground bulging with the tree’s exposed roots, I remembered I was pregnant. My hand reached down to cradle my sweet girl growing inside my now very bruised and contraction-riddled belly. I hopped up, adrenaline coursing through my body and my brain racing a mile a minute. All I could think about, the question recirculating in my mind, was what had I done to the baby?

The boys and I went into the house, along with Phoebe who had ventured outside when she heard the screaming and squawking. I took a shower secretly hoping this would calm down the growing irritability I could feel from my uterus as it protested indignantly against the assault it had just endured. Accepting the reality of the fall, I called the obstetrician and found myself quickly checking in to the Triage Maternity Unit at the local hospital. I was nervous with David out of the country, but relieved to have the help of my seventeen -year -old James with the littles ones.

David, along with my daughters, Grace and Lilly, made their nightly check-in call from Argentina. Any hopes of hiding that I was sitting in a hospital bed were thwarted by David hearing pages, buzzers and bells carried across the phone lines. I was sent home with orders to rest and wait for an appointment scheduled for Thursday. David was left to finish his work in Argentina and contemplate his revenge against the ducks.

The next day, as I sat on the sunroom couch and watched the boys play in the backyard, the ducks returned for round two. They chased Joshua and Caleb inside and staked their claim to the backyard, right in the spot of our crumb-riddled first battle. I called animal control and the nice man tried to no avail to catch the perpetrators. The next morning, as soon as the boys went out to play we had an exact repeat of the day before, right down to the failed attempt by the now frustrated animal control man.

David came home several hours later. After taking one look at my bruised body and hearing the children’s tales of how the ducks had seized our yard, he flew down the steps and out the door with the speed of Superman. To this day, because he was faster than a speeding bullet, I am still not sure how he accomplished in five minutes what no one else could – he had captured a duck. He had captured my foe with the recycling bin.

Animal Control was no longer messing around and sent four officers armed with dart sleeping guns to round up the rest of the posse. After a lot of drama involving neighbors, guns, ducks and cages, a plan was hatched. The captured duck was released to help lure his mates back to a humane trap. They were taken the next day to live at a children’s farm petting zoo in a neighboring city.

Weeks later a friend of mine asked Joshua, ” What did the duck do after your mom fell?”

I had never thought to ask and so I listened with great curiosity as he said, ” The duck stopped running, stared down at my mom for a few seconds and then turned and waddled away to join his friends eating the cake.”

Another friend said, ” I don’t know which I would have rather seen….you running from the duck or David running to catch the duck .”

A few years later with the story a distant memory we visited Bluebird Gap Farm for an afternoon tour and family picnic. We rambled along the path until we came to a section that housed different types of animals that live on the water. Slowly, our eyes met; within seconds, a recognition occurred between us both. There was no respect; there was only challenge. I stood confidently staring into the eyes of my white, feathery nemesis. I was confident with the fence between us, until he began to make a move for the dreaded crane position. Quickly, I began to contemplate whether this duck could fly. One look at sweet Lydia, no longer in my womb, healthy and joyfully ignorant of the stand-off occurring, and my decision was made. I tipped my head to my bird-brained friend and announced to the kids, “Why don’t we go eat our lunch at the park.”

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David and I enjoying our sweet Lydia and our backyard!