Last week, I was kicked out of a Mommy and Me dance class for nursing my daughter. The instructor told me I would have to go elsewhere due to my “nakedness.”
I realize that only half the population is outfitted with the equipment to breastfeed. A much smaller percentage will ever nurse a baby, and a much, much smaller percentage will ever be admonished for nursing.
While most people can’t relate to my experience, the one thing we can all understand the human condition. If we are ever going to evolve past a culture of forcing breastfeeding moms to hide behind closed doors, we first need to acknowledge the emotions associated with the activity.
Here is how a woman feels when you tell her that breastfeeding is wrong and she will have to leave:
“If you want to nurse, you have to get out of here.”
Have you ever received news that your brain rejects? Have you ever looked at something that seemingly defies nature that you can’t even acknowledge its existence?
“Wait, this can’t be real. What is going on? Is this happening?”
Oh, yes, it is happening, and it’s happening to you in front of a lot of strangers. Your cheeks burn the way they would in middle school when the teacher would bust you for passing a note. You know that what you were doing wasn’t bad, but your stomach flip-flops and you feel like you might vomit.
But wait, did you do something wrong and not realize it? You start gathering your things to leave, thinking that maybe you didn’t see a sign prohibiting the behavior. Hold on, isn’t breastfeeding allowed everywhere? It is, right? Or is it? Is this like the time that you thought it was OK to bring your son into a restaurant only to have other patrons glare at you and the staff politely tell you that no kids are allowed?
By now, you are crying on your way to the car. The baby in your arms doesn’t understand why she no longer gets to run around with her little friends. It hits you in the gut that the activity you were always told is good, natural and healthy has been twisted into something perverted. You cry because you were only doing what was best for your child, and someone made it seem lewd.
Have you ever shown someone a cute picture of your kids in the bathtub and he or she told you that naked pictures of children are inappropriate? You did something innocent, and some jerk misinterprets and ruins it.
Who the heck does she think she is? You absolutely have a right to nurse wherever you want, just like you have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is a simple rule that should never be questioned. Violators deserve to be punished, not those abiding by the rules. So why the heck are you the one leaving the class instead of that close-minded instructor?
Because she doesn’t know any better. That’s why. Yes, as a middle-aged woman who leads a Mommy and Me class, she should know better, but she doesn’t. And the only way to resolve that is to make this a teachable moment.
And that’s why you place a phone call and write a letter. That’s why you share your experience in a constructive, meaningful way that could actually prompt change.
That’s why you tell people what it actually feels like: Because if everyone knew how terrible it is to be shamed for nursing, no one would ever be shamed for nursing.