Sunday, April 25, 2010

doing it in public

I don't always have the best memory.

Images, voices, and emotions mix in my mind – scenes are kneaded by time until the individual ingredients meld into one.

Sometimes, my mind blocks out specific unpleasantries. [Perhaps this is why much of the 9th grade is lost to me?]

So I don't remember exactly how it all went that evening, but I can still cup embarrassment in my hands, hot cheeks between cold, sweaty palms.

Our good friends were getting married and we were honored to stand up with them. It was the night of the rehearsal dinner. Claire was three months old. [Read: I was just barely making it.]

I was comfortable enough with breastfeeding that I could finally do it clothed and not loose my groove in the folds of my shirt. But I certainly couldn't gracefully unsnap and refasten all the moving parts on my nursing bra. I hadn't even heard of nursing pads. And a blanket over my shoulder? That was a symphony I knew I couldn't conduct.

Needless to say, I had never nursed in public.

But she had to come along: it was a Friday night and we had to leave right after John got home from work. We were driving from Madison to Milwaukee and there wasn't time to stop at Grandma's.

Everyone at the dinner smiled at my big-eyed baby. She was held and bounced and nothing but a joy.

But then she got hungry.

And I got frantic.

We were eating in a private room, but there were still a lot of people. They would all be staring. No way was I going to whip it out right there.

My heart hammered in my ears. I could feel sweat spots spreading under my arms.

My eyes roved the room for a safe spot – there, around the corner, a hallway to the kitchen. A waitress walked by.

Can I drag over a chair and feed my baby here?

This is where my memory skips. Somehow, through some tripped-over speech I explained that I meant breast –no, not bottle, not spoon. The waitress seemed confused, out of her element, put on the spot – I don't remember what she said exactly, but there were flames in my cheeks as I marched my baby to the bathroom – maybe I could do it there.

Again, my memory trips as I try to recreate the indignation John and our friends expressed when they learned what happened. Somehow, someone explained to whoever asked that the waitress was just concerned that the hallway was too trafficked with hot food—what if someone spilled something on the baby?

Oh, right, that explains it.

My cheeks did cool off eventually—when we finally walked out into the December night air. And we enjoyed a beautiful wedding the next day – I distinctly remember the smiles on our friends' faces as they spoke their vows.

Today, five years and five kids later (three ours, two theirs), we met those same friends at the Milwaukee Public Museum.

It was one of those days I'll file in the good times folder.

We walked around for several hours, and Ruthie graciously napped in the carrier. Eventually, she needed to nurse.

I looked around for a quiet spot to sit down.

All the benches seemed situated under spotlights in otherwise dimly lit rooms. People streamed by.

Oh well.

I chose the next empty sitting place and fed my baby.

Soon, a woman walked near, newborn babe in arms, eyes roving.

Can I join you?

I scooted my backpack over and smiled.

We exchanged some small talk as we fed our babies.

Yes, my nursing cover sure is handy—a friend made it for me. I know, the bathroom just isn't where I want to nurse, either. Yep, those are my other two kids. Ha, I guess you could say that – I'm experienced.

Ruthie didn't nurse very long [7 month olds are so distractible] and shortly I got up to leave.

I will remember this moment, this brief connection.

My cheeks were cool. My hands were warm.

I hope hers were, too.