On Saturday, my family and I trekked about 45 miles south of the city to visit the pumpkin patch we’ve visited every year since our son was born.  It’s perfectly, wonderfully kitschy.  Pneumatic corn guns that shoot at targets with SEC and ACC team logos on them.  A gigantic corn maze.  Inflatable bounce houses in the shape of a cow.  Lots and lots of pumpkins.  Kiddos toddling around everywhere clad in picture-perfect fall clothes, sweating because it’s Georgia and usually 80+ degrees outside.  We love it.

My parents met us there, which was a real treat.  My father, however, is wheelchair-bound.  The wonderful staff helped us find a spot for him in the huge pavilion.  We all checked in with him from time to time as we enjoyed the various activities.

Although I had nursed Baby A before I left the house, the air was hot and the wind was dusty, and the sweet little thing got thirsty.  Or hungry.  Whatever.  She wanted to nurse.

So I found a rocking chair next to where my dad was parked, and I nursed her.

Ga. Code An. § 31-1-9

The breast-feeding of a baby is an important and basic act of nurture which should be encouraged in the interests of maternal and child health. A mother may breast-feed her baby in any location where the mother and baby are otherwise authorized to be.

What this means is that if I have a right to be somewhere in the state of Georgia, then my baby has the right to nurse there.  Evidently, women in Georgia were previously required to nurse their babies “modestly,” but that requirement has been removed.

Now, Baby A is my third child.  I tandem nursed my first two kids, but if you count those tandem months separately, I have a total of seventy-five months of breastfeeding under my belt.  I am no newbie.

That being said, I don’t particularly enjoy nursing in public.  My babies have all been very distracted nursers which means a lot of popping off.  Popping off hurts and also extends the time we need to fill the little tummies.

I also don’t enjoy sitting in an uncomfortable chair, having to rearrange my wardrobe, and worrying that someone may say something rude or hurtful to me.

You see, my nursing relationships with my children have been sacred to me.  Breastfeeding my babies has been one of the most life-affirming experiences I will ever enjoy.   I don’t avoid nursing in public because I am embarrassed or modest.  I avoid it because the ugly looks, stares, averted eyes and attitudes I invariably encounter sully what to me is precious and pure.

On Saturday, I was wearing a camisole topped by a button-down shirt.  I managed to unbutton and hike up the cami, and get my baby latched in a way that no one could have possibly seen any part of my flesh.  Between my clothes and my long hair hanging down, I’m not sure my baby could even see my breast.

She made quick work of her business and I readjusted, shifted, and rose from the rocker.

That’s when it happened.

The people next to me started making the unmistakable comments about how appalled they were that I would do that.  Right there.

They were talking amongst themselves – loudly – but still, they didn’t directly address me.  I knew I didn’t have the emotional bandwidth or energy to confront them.  I also knew a confrontation would only frustrate me and couldn’t possibly change their minds.

There is no possibility that they could have “seen” anything.  

They were disgusted at the mere knowledge that I was breastfeeding a child.  

I turned to talk to my dad and tell him I was off to find the others.

I am so glad I stayed for a moment.  Because just then, one of the women reached behind the rockers and grabbed a wooden yard decoration.  It was painted pink and shaped like a ribbon.

The women “oohed” and “aahed.”  Evidently, they had taken part in a run that morning benefitting breast cancer awareness.  They loved this little ribbon and all wanted to know how much it cost.

So, these women will lace up and run five kilometers for breast cancer awareness.  They will shell out some money for a pink ribbon tchotchke.  Yet they malign and openly judge a woman for breastfeeding a baby, an act which has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer for both me and for my daughter.

I wasn’t angry anymore.  Instead, I was sad to live in a part of the world where an act with profound positive consequences for individual and public health could be maligned, but a twelve dollar piece of wood painted pink was praised.

It makes my heart hurt for us all.

* * * * * * *

I want to be clear that although I prefer nursing at home with my babies, I will fight tooth and nail for a baby’s right to nurse wherever and whenever s/he wants to nurse.  And I fully support a mother who opts to use a cover, to nurse without a cover … whatever works for her.  Nursing in public requires more courage than people realize but can make a world of difference in the quality of a breastfeeding mom’s life.

For more information:

Best for Babes – One of the founders is a breast cancer survivor and they work to support nursing moms and share the message of breast cancer prevention.

Kellymom – My favorite online breastfeeding resource.  If you have a question or concern about breastfeeding, chances are you will find it addressed here.

This post is featured in the Sunday School Blog Carnival for 10/28/2012 from ButterBeliever.

 

9 Responses to “Pink Ribbons, Pumpkins, My Boobs and My Baby”

  1. on 23 Oct 2012 at 10:35 amKathy

    Wow, I am so sorry that happened to you. That makes me sad!

  2. on 23 Oct 2012 at 11:03 amKristine Rudolph

    Thanks, Kathy. I probably could have been angry but at this point in the game it just all makes me sad about our culture.

  3. on 23 Oct 2012 at 10:56 amKristi

    Kristine, I am sorry you had to experience such a thing. We too went to a pumpkin patch this past weekend, and I had to nurse little E there. I feel the same way you expressed about nursing in public. He gets distracted easily also, so I tried to find a secluded spot. Being probably the busiest day of the year at this farm, I had a hard time finding privacy. I did have a hooter hider though, so I just tried to get comfortable on a wooden picnic bench away from the crowd. I didn’t hear any ignorant remarks this time, but I did receive several stares and curious glances. I just smiled back. It is sad that in our country we have to fear that type of judgement and plain ignorance when it comes to the completely natural act of nursing a baby.
    Oh, and I was proud to be at this pumpkin patch,
    nursing my baby, sitting right beside my mom, who is a breast cancer survivor!!!

  4. on 23 Oct 2012 at 11:02 amKristine Rudolph

    Let’s live in parallel universes then, shall we? We can pretend that that was MY experience, too!

    How do you enjoy your nursing cover? In my experience, it has not worked well. My babies tend to fling it around, and I have ended up more exposed than if I hadn’t had it. Recalling one very difficult airplane ride right now …

  5. on 03 Nov 2012 at 2:16 pmNirvana

    Would you like to join our movement? bfgeorgia.org

  6. on 03 Nov 2012 at 8:26 pmKristine Rudolph

    I just subbed to the email newsletter. Thanks.

  7. on 31 Jan 2013 at 9:11 amNirvana

    Some information about the law – are you aware of the loopholes in Georgia and how mothers can still get in trouble for breastfeeding in public AND there is no way to enforce the law? So say you the owner of the pumpkin patch kicked you out for breastfeeding, there would be nothing you could even though there is that law. http://www.facebook.com/bfgeorgia for more information.

    I am glad you wrote this and are helping bring awareness to this issue! Out of something bad, something good came from it. *hugs* ~Nirvana

  8. on 31 Jan 2013 at 9:28 amKristine Rudolph

    I do know there is no enforcement mechanism. And some localities have code that can make nursing even more difficult. It’s just all so sad, to me.

    Thanks for popping by and sharing the FB page.

  9. […] a nursing mother.  I nurse when we are out and about.  I blogged about one bad experience I had here.  I wish I had had the courage to write this.  I do, however, have the courage to add my refrain, […]

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