Recently, kind friends invited us to a progressive nonprofit’s fancy annual awards dinner. We initially said thanks but no, we have nowhere to put the children, but the kind friends arranged for free childcare for Noah and said of course we could just bring the baby (see: kind friends). So we got to go, and it was fun.
I certainly represented for the breastfeeding progressives. Simon ate a ton at the party. I got several friendly nods about this, the biggest and friendliest from a man in a motorized wheelchair who probably knows a thing or two about people acting like you’re an inconvenience or an oddity in public spaces.
But I also got a weird comment! This was by far the most negative comment I’ve ever received about breastfeeding in public. Which is pretty darned good, given that I have breastfed in the following places without using a cover or retreating to a private room:
- restaurants of every description
- at a professional meeting, which I was leading
- the crowded steps of a farmers’ market, with my elbow and part of the baby touching the stranger next to us
- a school bus full of kindergarteners
- sitting on benches and while walking through an aquarium, a zoo, and many many museums
- airports and airplanes
- grocery stores (again, both sitting and walking, with the baby in a sling)
- college campuses
- outdoor locations of all kinds
- countless coffee shops and tea shops
- sofas full of extended family members
- hotel lobbies at academic conferences
- public libraries
- the state capitol
- oh, yeah, and anywhere I’ve ever been during my years of nursing
So anyway, we were bundled up, taking off to get Noah and head home. Someone else on the escalator asked how old Simon was. Then she said:
I felt so sorry for this one woman, she was nursing her baby at the back of the hall, and I wondered if she didn’t know about the ladies’ lounge.
I was tired and taken aback and just didn’t respond at all. But … I’m pretty sure that was me? (We live in Minnesota: this could have been a flagrantly passive-aggressive communication. Or maybe she had seen someone else breastfeeding and missed us, or didn’t recognize me in my coat. Who knows.)
Unless various grassroots activists and political luminaries were giving speeches in the bathroom too, I’m not sure why I would have been hanging out in there all evening?
And let’s face it: the offending breastfeeding person (whether it was me or someone else) probably knew about the bathroom. In what universe can a person at a five-hour event remain unaware of the setup of the restroom? Especially a person who is caring for a baby in diapers?
Also, who says “ladies’ lounge”? I mean really.
I’m so grateful that she said that to me–me, for whom this is an amusing anecdote to share on my blog–and not to someone who might have felt shamed.