Wednesday, December 31, 2008

When your family doesn't support nursing

I hesitate to write this, but if I don't I will feel like a big hypocrite, so here it is.

Christmas Day festivities were underway. We had opened piles of presents, and yet piles and piles remained. Jordan's family opens one gift at a time. It was about 1:00 and we were due at my uncle's house, 45 minutes away, around 3:00. Suzi had already opened gifts from Santa at our house, sat in the car for a two-hour ride, and then opened a bunch more gifts. Jordan's parents had just hauled in a giant pile of gifts for Suzi, as well as for me, Jordan, Jordan's brother, his wife, and their soon-to-be-born baby boy. The coffee table had to be removed for the gifts to fit and they completely filled the room. All day Suzi had been handed one gift after another to unwrap and enjoy for ten seconds before it was whisked away and she was expected to refocus on opening a new gift. She was so ridiculously overwhelmed that, naturally, all she wanted to do was breastfeed. Which she made known.

I had been sneaking around trying to breastfeed her all day long, as any attempts to put her off until later were met with shrieking the likes of which no toy could assuage. My child had been made so disoriented and irritable by the season's rituals that she was searching for some source of quiet comfort, and it is my job to provide her with that.

So, amidst the generous piles of gifts we had yet to open, Suzi ran to my knees and asked to breastfeed yet again. I was fully prepared to leave the room, not because I am ashamed of breastfeeding her but because also sitting in the room were two of the most confrontational people I have ever met and I did not want to start a big hairy argument on Christmas. The only reason I did not get up and leave with Suzi was because my sweet husband said "Jenny, there's no reason for you to leave. I'll get a blanket and you can do that right here." I figured he knew his family better than I did. That's when his mom said, ever so transparently, "Oh, but if you take her in the bedroom she might go to sleep." Jordan did not acknowledge this, and when he couldn't find a free blanket I decided to leave the room. He followed me, and I heard his mom whispering to him, "Jordan, she needs to do that back here (meaning in the bedroom, where there is no comfortable place to sit) because it makes ______ and ______ (two narrow-minded individuals) uncomfortable."

Ouch. I never thought I would be banished from a family gathering.

I have been mentally prepared for months to deal with these sorts of people in malls, restaurants, stores--anywhere but in the home of a close family member. And as I sat there in the back bedroom staring at the hardwood floor, I thought, what just happened here? If this had happened anywhere else I would've known exactly what to do. But what do you do when it's your family?

Present them with the card in my purse stating that by South Carolina law, breastfeeding must not be considered indecent exposure? Notify the state Breastfeeding Coalition? Organize a nurse-in on the front lawn?

I would have told them the World Health Organization recommends that I breastfeed Suzi for at least another five months and by doing so I am being a good mother, but the offended parties never would have listened to reason. This I know from experience.

I consider this to be judgmental rejection, and it hurts. And there's really nothing I can do.


Schatz said...

Take heart in the fact that at least you know that you are being a good mother to your daughter. As a guest in someone else's home, I guess I would do much the same, just to keep the peace, but it is sad to see that ignorance and selfishness are alive and well in the world. It is a bit ironic that at a time when love and caring are emphasized, and people shower each other with gifts - the most important act of giving is banished to a back bedroom. Shame.

MaryAnne said...

How frustrating...

Kacie said...

I'm really sorry that happened.

My baby boy is 11 days old, and I've been exclusively breastfeeding from the beginning. It's not easy, that's for sure!

My parents showed up a few days ago and they've been supportive. I'm still trying to figure out how to nurse while keeping covered.

I definitely need more practice at home before I'll be brave enough to nurse in public.

I know that I'm likely to receive dirty looks and stares, but I don't care what strangers think. Hopefully, all of my family will continue to be supportive (or at least keep their opinions to themselves, if not).

I hope that you don't have any more trouble nursing your child.

Theresa said...

arggghhh, spit, hit, cuss, hit again, stomp feet, beat on floor. sigh. I still don't feel any better. Sorry you had to endure that, and kudos to you for being such a good mother. Keep it up.
btw, Jesse nursed with a blanket over Grace during Christmas (okay, most everyone who doesn't count was already gone) and I was so proud of her!

mhgood said...

Wow. That's hard. I used to cater to everyone else's sensibilities when nursing, but my 14-month old hates being covered with a blanket, and I see no reason why I should remove him from the room just to eat, so now I just "whip it out" wherever we are. Even if others may feel uncomfortable, at least I feel good about myself (thereby ensuring an easier letdown!) and I know I'm doing the right thing for my baby.

[[HUGS]] I'm sorry you had to go through that at Christmas! I had some uncomfortable times with my in-laws over Thanksgiving--not enjoyable!

Tania said...

I am so sorry you had to go through this. I remember with my first how many people from our own families would comment "what do you mean no bottle" and even with the fourth coming I know by 6 months that I will get the " you mean you are STILL nursing". Just focus on the fact that you are doing what you know is best for YOUR child.

What a great mom you are and what a great husband you have!

Vicky said...

Yeah...that is a hard situation. I know it hurts. I would have done and felt the same thing in your shoes. As Schatz said
"Take heart in the fact that at least you know that you are being a good mother to your daughter".

Adventures In Babywearing said...

Sometimes the best thing to do is just be the nice person in this situation. I'd say if you're up for the fight sometime and up for the confrontation, go for it. Otherwise, it's not worth it. I mean, THEY'RE not worth it.


So In Love said...

Jenny....bless your heart! We'll have to nurse together at the birthday for grandparents in February(if we're able to make it). Are you all planning on coming?

Wendy aka CalvaryGirl said...

I'm so sorry you had to deal with that. My first instinct is, the next time there's a family gathering, it must be done at our house or it might pose a conflict for me and the baby. Ya know? Or, be sure to take my own blanket next time and make it known there wont be a bedroom incident the next time!

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Beth said...

Jenny- you are doing what is best for Suzi...if they have a problem with it then that is their problem.

I've been with you at babywearing meetings and didn't even notice that you were breastfeeding Suzi...because you can't see anything.

Maybe tell them if they have a problem with it that you can't come to the gatherings....or like someone else said...if you're up for the confrontation...go for it.

I wasn't able to breastfeed Elaina past 6 months...but I have a deep admiration for those that are able to continue...You just keep doing what is best for Suzi and don't listen to what anyone else says.

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

Argh, that is so frustrating. Thanks for pointing me to this post. I wonder if this same sort of thing will happen w/ some of my louder relatives. Bizarre I can feel OK breastfeeding in front of strangers but not loved ones. Sigh. I hate that feeling of being left out of what the group is doing; that image of you staring at the hardwood floor — it's so isolating to be banished, and for something so normal.