See this picture? It was taken on my walk from the gate to baggage claim at LAX the other day. I'd just taken my first cross-country trip alone with my two kids - an unexpected and rather fortuitous business trip - and I totally rocked it. So I was feeling proud - like a badass. I knew that as soon as my big girl saw her grandparents, she'd be off and running, and this moment would be gone. So, since our little crew was a bit too big for a selfie, I looked around for someone to take a picture. The person in front of me had his hands full. I turned around, where I knew a mom was walking with her daughter. Turns out, she'd already approached me from behind. So I asked her, and she snapped a few photos. She was kind and attentive, taking the time to ensure that my big girl's dress covered her underwear in the stroller. After she handed me back my phone, we walked and chatted. I told her that I felt a sense of pride that we'd done so well; that I was excited to have some help from my in-laws; that everyone had been so helpful to us the whole time. I then listened to her. I complimented her on her daughter's gymnastics accomplishments, which were the reason for their trip; I turned to her daughter and gave her a big smile, telling her how amazing it was that she was doing so well. I felt like we were doing that thing that moms and women should do - connecting, supporting each other. And then.
And then she shamed me.
She described seeing me nursing my toddler while she and her family were boarding the plane. She said it was "a bit much" for her 9- and 11-year-olds. She said I'd done it "without discretion." She claimed that "back in New York, you'd at least see someone using a cover." (I live in New York. I told her that.) She said that they "didn't have a choice" but to see me nursing my child - and let's just say it - my breast.
As her words sank in - as I understood her true purpose for approaching me in that hallway - a totally new feeling came over me. In my head, I was in shock, but I was also trying to sort through my complex thoughts quickly and mindfully. I felt so many things, and I wanted to make sure that my words were, more than anything, authentic. I pursed my lips. I looked away from her, down, and then back up at her. I recognized this feeling creeping over me as SHAME. But I looked right at her. She could tell I was NOT happy. She said, "Just another point of view" and dashed away toward her family. I then passed her a few feet down the hall, and I said, carefully and firmly, "I really don't think I needed to hear that right now." She said, "Well, you know, we all have different points of view, and I think it's important that we hear each other's."
And you know - she's right. We all have different points of view. It's important to hear each other's.
SO. Here's mine.
1. Women should NOT shame each other.
2. Women should empower each other. It is what we are meant to do. When we do this, the entire world is a better place for EVERYONE to live in.
3. A 15-month-old who's nursing CANNOT be covered. It's not possible. Had I even attempted such a thing, it would have become a game of "let's throw the cover on the floor and giggle uncontrollably each time Mommy has to lean down to get it." Which, let me tell you, would have slowed down the boarding process and created an even bigger scene than my boob, which was mostly covered up by her head, would.
4a. I chose to nurse my kid during boarding for everyone's sake (Part 1). My other options were for her to walk up and down the aisle (which I think would be "a bit much" for everyone trying to board), or for her to scream and flail and cry. Nonstop.
4b. I chose to nurse my kid during boarding for everyone's sake (Part 2). I knew that if she nursed first, had a bit of time to engage with the people and things in her new environment, chilled in my lap during take-off, and then got all cozy in our best carrier with the cover, she'd sleep. Which, for anyone who's encountered a fussy toddler, is The Goal. For babe, for mom, for everyone around them.
5. A mama traveling by herself - hell, a human being going anywhere, ever - needs support. Not shame. This particular mama needed a cab driver who would manage our luggage in and out on the cab so that I could focus on the kids. I needed a staff member at curbside check-in to ignore the fact that my suitcase weighed slightly more than the 50-pound limit. I needed an airline that would allow me to preboard so that I could get us all settled before the masses arrived. I needed a flight attendant who would come by and ask what we needed, who'd take my kids' water bottles to the back and fill them with water, who'd check on us periodically throughout the flight. I needed a woman in the bathroom to hop out quickly so that my 4-year-old didn't have an accident when she suddenly announced her urgent need to pee. I needed a mama to offer to hold my baby so I could get said 4-year-old on the toilet in time to prevent her *own* shame. I needed people sitting around us who were compassionate and patient. I needed the only other person in our aisle to pack up all our toys and supplies, without even asking, before it was time to deplane. I needed the flight crew to be AWESOME. And guess what? I GOT all of those things - thank you Delta; thank you amazing individuals who showed up for us, before and during our flight.
And I also got you.
You, mama from New York (my own City!), who worried about how your kids were affected by my uncovered nursing breast. (Was this *really* about your kids?) You, who felt it was important to share your point of view with me. You, who thought I lacked discretion, lacked compassion. You brought me down, when I was up. Did I let it get to me? If I hadn't, I wouldn't be writing this. I did. Because my point of view is, unless you have the same conversation with every person showing too much cleavage, and you reach out directly to every single company, in this country and others, that uses women's bodies to market their products, you should have kept your point of view to yourself. What you said was hurtful, and that's not what we're here to do.
I'm mindful about when, where, and how I nurse my kids. Always have been. I nursed my kid while you were boarding, and you didn't like it, and you didn't have to say so. If your hope was that I'd use a cover next time, you did not succeed. If your hope was to make change in the world, I'd like to suggest you direct your energy elsewhere. And if your hope was to make me feel bad - well, you did. And now I don't. Now I feel empowered - that's what happens when we allow ourselves to fully dig through our feelings about tough experiences. I know that the work I'm doing in this world will bring other women more power, more freedom, and less stress. I can only hope the same for you, and your children. We all deserve that.
And if I see you again, I will show you my birth photo. The one that's been seen around the world. The one that's been "a bit much" for some. I will show you what we women can do. And I hope THAT will render you speechless.