Today Phil, the kids and I went to Oz Comic Con, which had arrived in our city. It took place over the weekend. Phil went both days and was even lucky enough to meet and have a few drinks with William Shatner...yes, the real William Shatner.
So the kids and I tagged along on the second day. It was absolutely packed and lots of people had dressed up. Some people had gone to huge lengths to have absolutely amazing costumes and it was fantastic seeing them. Felix was especially impressed to see Batman, Princess Leia and a Stormtrooper, Spiderman and the Ghostbusters. Felix wore a Batman t-shirt with a cape and Victor wore his yellow Star Trek onesie...a perfect baby Captain Kirk.
Around 9am Phil went to watch a Klingon panel and I sat down with the boys in the café area. Felix got some chips and I nursed Victor, as I always do at around that time of day. The café area was fairly quiet with lots of empty tables so we sat at a table in the back corner. I chose this location so I could have some privacy and in the hope that Victor wouldn't be too distracted by anything to actually nurse.
A few minutes in, I noticed that the man sitting at the table diagonally in front of us was giving me a disapproving stare. To me, that look said "Seriously? You're going to do that?" I am almost certain that's exactly what he was thinking.
I just pretended I hadn't seen him, and occupied myself by talking to Felix and eating a few chips myself. I couldn't help but notice that the man had shot a few more frowns in my direction though.
He must have said something to his partner because she started shooting me dirty looks as well...and since she originally had her back to me, she had to completely turn around in her seat to do so. I started feeling really uncomfortable and self-conscious. She must have turned around no less than five times to get a good look at what I was doing and give me a very condescending stare. I wish they actually had the guts to just say something to me, because the passive-aggressive way they were trying to intimidate me was actually working. I was extremely tired and not in the most social mood that morning: I was happy to be there, but I didn't want to interact too much. I just wanted to wander around quietly and look at things. I was not feeling totally myself and the thought of confrontation or conflict made me feel nervous and shaky.
If they had simply come up and said whatever it was they were thinking (I can imagine), I could have politely yet firmly set them straight. I know there is nothing wrong with breastfeeding. I am very comfortable with the choice I have made to breastfeed. I also know that the law is supportive of me and that I am within my legal right to breastfeed wherever I want to and no one has the right to tell me to stop or move somewhere else. If I had the chance to just say that, I would have felt better. I would have been able to stand up for myself. But they never did say anything to me, and I was not going to start it myself. Perhaps on a different day I would have, but not this day.
After the woman swiveled around for about the fifth time to stare me down, I caught her eye and smiled. As is the case when you're caught staring, she was sufficiently embarrassed and turned back around in her seat and didn't turn back again. It was probably the best response given the situation.
Eventually they finished their coffee and moved away, and we did too. I saw them a few times whilst walking around the stalls, and for some reason the nervousness came back and I felt my heart beat faster again. I have no idea why they had such a hold over me, this isn't like me at all. I can only put this response down to a huge lack of sleep the night before; went to bed late and woke up very early, and then we were out the door before 8am.
I really don't understand why anyone would react this way to someone breastfeeding their child. It's a natural, normal thing. Many studies have shown how beneficial it is for both the mother and baby, and the health benefits last until adulthood. But most importantly, it is no one else's business. How a mother feeds her child is really of no concern to anyone aside from the family and the baby's doctors, and certainly does not involve input from friends, extended family or strangers. When I was sitting in that corner quietly and discretely feeding Victor, I was not intruding upon anyone. I was not involving anyone. I was not hurting or inconveniencing anyone. I wasn't even speaking to anyone except Felix, and I doubt they could even hear that given the volume of the room we were in. A good option for these people would be to simply look in another direction. For this couple, that other direction could have been the direction they were actually facing to begin with.
It makes me sad for other mothers out there who are also facing judgement for something as simple as feeding their baby. Although I felt uncomfortable at the time, I am fine now and that incident certainly won't change my mind about breastfeeding, whether it occurs in public or private. But the same event happening to someone else could change their outlook entirely. It could cause someone to give up on breastfeeding. Nursing may be natural and normal, but it certainly isn't always easy, either physically or mentally. It could cause a new mother to question her choices and give up on breastfeeding against her better judgement.
I hope I never see those people or run into the same situation again, but at the same time I hope they do realise that what they were doing was bullying. It was immature, rude and just plain ignorant on their part. Here's a tip for people who find themselves awkwardly trapped by a rouge breastfeeding mother sitting in the back of a café: turn your neck and look the other way. And have a nice day.