Annabel was about a month old when I arranged with my girlfriends to have breakfast together in the centre of Mechelen. My husband went too. Although an outing with a newborn did require some preparation, I felt like it. Some outdoor air, nice breakfast, social contact. The only downside: I was breastfeeding.
Since Annabel’s birth, breastfeeding went smoothly. Annabel took a good bite and recovered well. But my breastfeeding adventure mainly took place at home, between closed walls. In my own cocoon, without potters. But if I wanted to get outside it was time to get over that issue and surrender to breastfeeding in public.
First time breastfeeding in public
So that morning was the day. With a full bag of diapers, bibs and my cloths that would give me some privacy during breastfeeding, I went to the breakfast shop. It was Saturday, the day the weekly market was held in Mechelen. The breakfast shop was full. My friends could have gotten a table at the back, but the buggy had to stay at the front.
I had my back against the wall and had an overview of the whole restaurant. Annabel was quiet and asleep. As if she smelled my upcoming breakfast she woke up and I recognized the nagging tone; someone was hungry. Time for the moment I looked up to.
I gathered my courage and addressed myself harshly: you can do this, you are a good mother.
So I took my daughter in my arms, as I had practiced enough at home, and covered her under the canvas. The only thing visible were two little legs kicking with satisfaction. She easily took a bite and started her meal. As she ate, I tried to focus on the conversation at the table. But the man leaning over me caught my attention.
Because from the moment he saw me put Annabel under the cloth, he dropped his cutlery in his plate. Not loudly, but loud enough that I would hear it. He looked at me in contempt and told his wife that he was losing his appetite because of the scene that was taking place with us.
For some bizarre reason those two little legs that were teetering with satisfaction were enough for you to stop eating your breakfast. Those two legs, I always wondered what you found so distasteful about them. Because that’s all you could see? Or was it the thought? The idea that a baby got natural food from her mother that made you feel demeaned? Was it my facial expression that gave you the satisfaction of describing what I did as something terrible?
What did I do wrong?
I’ll never know because I didn’t have the guts to talk to you about it at the time. My husband and girlfriends had no idea, they hadn’t heard your comments, they didn’t cross your eye. I’ll never know what your purpose of the moment was. But I do know what effect your attitude had on the rest of my mother’s life.
Thanks to you and your terrible remark, I’ve never had the guts to feed in public. Because of you and your terrible attitude, I never dared to go outside between feeding moments. Thanks to you, I always made sure I stayed close to the car during trips, before my daughter had to get hungry.
So I’m sorry sir who lost his appetite on that Saturday morning because of me. But thanks to you, I lost more than my appetite at that time. Thanks to you, I lost my dignity as a new mother. My faith that I could and my guts that I fed my daughter when she needed it. So we’re even then?