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Should you breastfeed until your baby gets a restraining order?

March 23, 2012
Logo design by Christine Hepner

Most of my high school and college friends had their babies at “normal” ages, in their 20s and 30s, which is to say in the 1980s and 1990s. No one was breastfeeding in the 80s and 90s as far as I know. In fact, one of my girlfriends who has 4 lovely kids told me the only baby she tried to breastfeed ended up having all sorts of issues. She bottle fed the other 3, and they did great. Another friend of mine tried, but her son never took to it, so he was bottle fed from almost the beginning.

I decided I would at least try to breastfeed while I was on maternity leave. I think a woman should, if she is feeling it, breastfeed for as long as it works for her and her baby, and I also believe that she should breastfeed wherever and whenever it works for her and her baby. Or not–it’s totally up to each mother to decide for herself. I’ve seen women breastfeed on the subway. I think that’s yucky, but only because I wouldn’t want to eat on the subway myself. But as far as objectionable things I’ve seen on the subway, breastfeeding doesn’t even rank. For example, there’s this:

So, it came as a big shock to me when I ran afoul of a breastfeeding vigilante on the Upper West Side. It happened while I was at a Quest Lab in Manhattan having a 3-hour glucose tolerance test done. At 24 weeks I was tested for gestational diabetes, my numbers came back slightly high, so I had to go for the 3-hour version of the test. It’s pretty dreadful. You fast overnight and as soon as you get to the lab, they draw blood. Then, you are given a super sweet horrible orange drink that tastes like soda with about a cup of sugar added to it. It’s almost like drinking syrup. Then, you have to sit and wait for 3 hours. At the end of each hour, you have more blood drawn for a total of 4 sticks in 3 hours. The quicker you get back to normal blood glucose levels the better; if your reading stays high, you are diagnosed as having diabetes, in this case, gestational diabetes. I did this test once before and I remember being so nauseated by the drink, and I wasn’t pregnant, then.

I got to Quest at 8 am and had the first blood drawn. I drank the drink as fast as I could and felt immediately like I was going to vomit it up. But if I did, I knew I would just have to come back the next morning and start over, so I was determined to hold it down. I sat there in the most uncomfortable waiting room ever desperately trying to distract myself. I couldn’t read, because my head was spinning. I couldn’t go out for fresh air, because the lab technicians are supposed to observe you to make sure you don’t go outside and vomit. The time was crawling by, but somehow I made it to the last hour without vomiting. Almost there.

Then, a young mother came in with her toddler girl. I overheard her check in with reception. Her daughter was 18-months old and needed blood drawn. Oh lawdie lawdie lawdie, this is all I needed! I thought I’d go crazy if I heard this poor little baby start screaming as they stuck her. I seriously considered getting up and running out instead of witnessing it, and I would be forced to witness it. The technician told the mother that it would be easier if she just brought the needles and tubes out to the baby and drew her blood in the waiting room. Please don’t please don’t please don’t….

On top of that, I was now so nauseated that my mouth was watering. I started breathing in short, rapid breaths through my mouth, which helped a little. There was no place for me to hide, so I did the next best thing. I twisted in my seat as far as I could and tried to curl up into a ball with my knees under my chin, not an easy feat at 24-weeks pregnant. I heard the technician setting up, and I held my breath, and then, the shriek! The poor little baby. There was nothing for about a minute while the poor thing drew in her breath and then she screamed and started crying so loudly that tears just started pouring out of my eyes. I heard the tech say to the mom, “OK, it’s over now, feed her, that might calm her down.” I thought, fat fucking chance, and yet, within seconds, the baby stopped crying! I was so relieved, but I still couldn’t open my eyes to look, so I didn’t even know that the mom was breastfeeding, not bottle feeding. And if I did, who cares. I mean, maybe I would have thought to myself, “oh, at 18 months, ok…” and gone right back to trying desperately not to vomit.

Then, I heard the door open and another patient walked in. I’m assuming she was there for some sort of blood work, too, or maybe whenever a woman breastfeeds a slightly older child in public an alert goes out, and the breastfeeding vigilantes swarm in to help. Like Batman, except maybe instead of a bat projected from City Hall, a giant breast is projected above the building where help is needed.

At first, I really wasn’t paying the slightest attention. I did hear the vigilante woman start to chat with the mom. It was all white noise to me, I was still balled up in the chair doing my deep-breathing exercises. Then slowly, the chatter started to break through, and I realized that the V was telling the mom how proud she was to see her breastfeeding her child. So, that’s nice, I guess, she’s trying to be encouraging, as if her encouragement should mean anything to this mom. Then, slowly, I started to focus on her words, and I realized that she had entered the waiting room, witnessed the mom breastfeeding and me curled up in a ball desperately trying to ignore everything, and decided that I was in some way objecting the the mom’s breastfeeding a toddler in public.

So, she decided to harangue me indirectly. She told the mom that she should continue to breastfeed her daughter “no matter HOW IGNORANT strangers behaved.” And further, she, herself  “was still breastfeeding her 4-year-old son, even though her husband hated it! That was JUST TOO BAD and HIS PROBLEM.” She really had built up quite a head of steam at this point and was getting louder and more strident as she overshared her personal breastfeeding manifesto (and yes, I do get the irony of my calling someone else an oversharer).

I considered standing up and showing her my pregnant belly in case she had missed it. Would she realize then that she was criticizing a very old, nauseated, soon-to-be breastfeeding mom? Doubtful, she was too high up on her soapbox. So I decided that sometimes you just can’t fight crazy, and I closed my eyes again. But not before I noticed the poor breastfeeding mom. She looked like she wanted the crazy lady to disappear. She didn’t need her help or encouragement any more than she needed anyone’s disapproval. She just wanted to be left alone to comfort her child.

Finally crazy was called in to have her blood drawn. I hope it hurt. I can’t help but think about her poor son, and I sincerely hope he’s weaned now and crazy isn’t going to try to get the dorm room next to him at Harvard one day so that she can keep trying to breastfeed him.

Oh, I managed not to vomit, and my test came back normal. No gestational diabetes!

Next time: Shopping at the Upper Breast Side. No, really, it’s a place. Click the link, you’ll see.

Thanks for following and reading! I’d love to hear your story of IVF. Please leave your comments below.

© 2012

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From → Pregnancy

  1. grayhairedmom permalink

    Reblogged this on grayhairedmom and commented:

    Time magazine’s cover is causing lots of commotion. Thought I’d repost this!


  2. Loved this blog!


  3. sarahbram permalink

    that rat clip was hilarious! That is seriously my biggest fear in life.

    I love your stories! Keep em coming!


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